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British National Championships
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British National Championships: Witmer Style

Next up: The British National Championships!

Brian Witmer has been all over Europe during the last couple of weeks, and his trip to took him to Poland, then through Europe via bus to Prague. He played in the Ales Hrebesky Memorial, and then made his way to England for the BNCs! Here is Brian’s final report from abroad!

British National Championships – Witmer Style

One more flight left in this month’s amazing European Lacrosse excursion…

My body, mind, and wallet have all finally admitted to the fact that it’s time for a rest, and there are no more games to be played for the moment. I’m presently sitting in the basement of Dublin International where they keep all the Americans after pre-screening us on our way back home.

My first thought was “Oh that’s nice now we don’t have to do it when we land…” but I think we can both just laugh that idea off right here and right now.

I spent the week following the Radotin/Prague/Czech Republic based Ales Hrebesky tournament in the UK. I really haven’t ever figured out whether to call it England or the UK or Great Britain or when each is
appropriate. Regardless, I was over there this past week, and like the rest of my trip, it was excellent.

The attraction was a visit to the British National Championships up in Manchester. The games were compacted into just Saturday and Sunday, so I had a couple days to kill beforehand. I mentioned it briefly in my previous article that I was fortunate enough to be able to use that spare time to visit my
high school buddy in London.

We did the tourist kinda stuff, which I usually avoid like the plague, but I figure now I’ve seen the bridges and clocks and stuff so now I’ve got my bases covered as far as London is concerned. I’ll be back over in 2018 for the World Games in Manchester, so now I’ve got those bases covered so I can park my behind at the fields next time and not feel the need to go pretty much anywhere else.

england big ben

Uluc showed me the wonder of “the tube” which has reaffirmed my soul cannot survive in a city-type environment. When I asked if it was always this crowded, he looked at his watch and smiled and pretty much dismissed the idea that what I was experiencing was anywhere close to as bad as it gets. We met up with Ben and Tanner, two of my Clydesider teammates from the previous weekend. We drank beer and watched a 1-0 soccer game.

I liked the beer… I really just don’t like soccer. I need stuff to happen.

image1 (2)

I took a bus up from London to Manchester the following day. It cost me four pounds to ride the tube
for roughly twenty five minutes, meanwhile the MegaBus ticket I had purchased for the five hour ride
only came to five pounds. I just think that’s worth mention. Busses kinda suck, but then again, they

In Manchester I was able to stay with friends of a friend. I stayed with Tom via Dom via Jarod via my
Woodville experience in Australia. The wonderfully simplistic power of the human network, aided by the
Facebook thing, has proven quite helpful when used for the right purposes. Funny dog videos and everyone I went to high school with trying to sell me on the hot new pyramid scam is great and all, but
the connection to the network of likeminded individuals is truly excellent.

Anyways I was able to bum rides back and forth to the Wilmslow Phoenix Athletic Complex, which was a twenty or so minute drive from where I was staying in Didsbury. The complex got the name of ‘Phoenix’ because apparently someone burned the original Victorian pavilion to the ground, and what Wilmslow has now is nothing short of exemplary.

The tournament hosted twelve teams, representing different parts of England such as the South East, North West, Yorkshire, as well as a University team, as well as two squads from Scotland, the Irish, Welsh, and even a cameo from the freshly reassembled Danish “Dansk” National Program. It was truly awesome for Denmark to send a team. Due to the British National Championships operating on the key word “British”, the Danish only played exhibition games outside of the tournament brackets, but that was no real issue for the boys. If anything, they got full length games as opposed to the much shorter games that the tournament had to abide by in order to get 12 teams to a championship in 30 hours.

Through my connection with the Glasgow Clydesiders, I had originally talked to someone about running with the Scottish guys during the BNCs when I was planning my trip back in February. It was never really confirmed nor denied that I would be able to play, (again, operating words being “British” and “Scotish”) but when I arrived I was quite kindly allowed to play with the Scottish developmental team. In addition to some older players, the team I ran with was primarily made up of the U-19 team that will travel to Vancouver this summer. I was very fortunate enough to run with a squad so bent on improvement and refining their skills in hopes of achieving to the standards set by the Scottish National team in Denver a few years back.


We were able to pull off wins against two Welsh teams, as well as the developmental team for North West, but came up short against very talented squads from South East and North West, as well as a very
hard fought contest against the Irish National Team. We were also fortunate enough to be one of the teams able to scrimmage the Danish boys, and we were able to put the ball in the net more times than
they were, though I have no clue what a score would’ve been, nor do I care.

While the lacrosse was fun, the weather was less than desirable. While I was assured that on some weekends in past years people have gotten sunburnt, I felt like I was right back in upstate New York with all the miserable rain and intermittent hail. The beautiful grass fields became bogs of standing water and six inch sinkholes.

British National Championships

The main ‘pitch’ (hate this word for field) was a field hockey astro turf with a sand base. I’ve always hated astro, but this one was by far the biggest maneater I’ve come across. The one saving grace was that it was so insanely short and coarse, that rain did very little to effect the surface. If given the choice between the sopping bog or the skin shredding turf, I’ll see you in the mud any day.

In the first insurmountable obstacle of the trip, my leg finally became too painful to bear on Saturday
afternoon, leading to the most adult decision I’ve ever had to make, benching myself and assuming a pseudo-coaching role alongside coaches Dan and Iain for the two games on Sunday.

I’ve spoken to a number of people, Physios, athletic trainers, massage therapists and generally anyone who isn’t a doctor (screw em!) and asked for an opinion on my mutant purple thigh. I’ve heard hematoma, bursitis, a ‘cracked’ muscle, and I’m sure if I consult WebMD I’ll have a cancer/pregnancy diagnosis. The way that bump is developing and swelling… I honestly can’t rule out that my thigh might actually be pregnant come to think of it…

Despite not being able to play on Sunday, it was good to stand on the sideline and help run the box and
give some critiques to players that I think find their way to heart better when you aren’t playing alongside them. I did the player/coach thing in Italy, and there were a lot of times I wanted to speak to someone when they came off, but that meant it I had to go on, and by the time I got off, either they
went back on or I had forgotten.

North West went on to win the championship by one goal over Yorkshire, who edged out the Senior Scottish team by one goal in overtime in the semi-final. There was a definite gap between the top four
teams, the middle four, and the bottom four, but that’s any tournament. The level of play at the top was crisp, fast, and incredibly similar to some of the level of play indicative of American field lacrosse. North West was dotted with names that I don’t know that I probably should know, as some of them will be representing England in the Euros in Budapest this Summer.

All told, I’m ready to go home. I’ve got a new adventure lined up for the summer, and I’m looking
forward to my two weeks of relaxation before that ridiculous gong show gets on the road. I won’t get
into too many details, as my plans regularly go the way of the do-do in favor of different, more appealing spur of the moment type plans.

The world is always getting smaller. Your neighbor has walked a thousand miles that you’ll never walk.
To say that I have a vast understanding of the world after a couple trips around the world would be silly, but I can say that I don’t get panicked every time I see someone wearing a hijab, or a dude holding another dude’s hand in public. I’ve seen things that you can’t see from your bedroom window back home. Quite honestly, if America could see some of the things there are to be seen when you’re willing to see them, we’d realize we’re doing alright, and to stop sweating the small stuff.

I hate airplanes. I really do. But I’m willing to climb on this one, just as I’ve climbed on every airplane previous, because it’s going to take me somewhere I want to go, to see someone I want to see. This particular airplane is taking me home (kinda. JFK… take a bus up to cuse) to see my family, and equally importantly to see my dog, Reptar.

It’s a lot easier to stay home. You’ll never NEED to go to Europe or Asia or Australia… but at the same
time, you really do need to go. Hopefully, by now, that makes sense.