I’ve come across a lot of stories that I expected to hear while here in Budapest. By that, I mean that I expected to find tales of extraordinary journeys and personal endeavors in pursuit of a game that quite literally changes lives.
I can say that with some authority, as I AM here, in Budapest, for lacrosse. I don’t think I ever really saw myself saying “hey, I’m in Budapest” much less “hey, I’m in Budapest for LACROSSE.”
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If You’re From North America
The narrative is pretty straight forward in the US, where I’m from: It’s a pretty common tale of growing up in the States, playing youth ball with the local high schools, and maybe if you’re good – and you really want it bad enough – a few of us pursue a collegiate career. A fraction of a percentage even go on to play professionally.
A different contingent of us, a very small and lucky few, even get to go on to play lacrosse internationally. Through coaching opportunities, non-profit charities, and even club-level opportunities to play in leagues and tournaments, a growing number of North Americans are able to play lacrosse abroad after college.
If You’re Not
What’s even more rare, is the international player who imports TO North America to play.
There have been examples in the past. Adelphi has had a long running pipeline of Australian imports, as well as Stevenson’s acquisition of “The Big Koala”, Callum Robinson. In the past few years Czech players have gone to Canada to play box lacrosse, and a few Finnish players have even played Junior A box up for the Coquitlam Adanacs and the Okotoks Raiders.
Kyle Baker, a Vermont Voyageur teammate of mine from this season, is playing with the Belgian national team this week. I’d been looking forward to their arrival so we could catch up over a couple sodas at the soda shop next to the hotel. Well, we had a few, and I was talking about how I thought I had found the youngest player in the tournament: a 17 year old goalie playing for Russia.
The Belgian coach was sitting there with us, properly enjoying his soda as well, and he said he had one better. His son is 16 and on the roster. He’s interested in playing college ball in the States.
Right there, a couple different lights went off in my head.
A) Here’s a 16 year old playing on the world stage with grown men
B) He wants to play college lacrosse in the States!
To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t too very many European born-and-raised lacrosse players who’ve gone on to play in the NCAA!
Meet Tim de Ceuster
Tim de Ceuster is a 2018, and he’s serious about playing college ball. In addition to playing on the Belgian national team, he’s an active member of the International School of Brussels (ISB) lacrosse program.
In addition to playing in the league that consists of roughly four other international schools, as well as a fluctuating number of club teams, Tim plays in a league all around Europe. There are a total of five ISB lacrosse players on the Belgian national team, as well as four coaches and the trainer is also of the program. France has a rostered player who hails from the ISB as well.
Obviously his age, in conjunction with the scarce opportunities to play lacrosse, Tim has to play up in age groups, as well as travel constantly in order to keep playing regularly and improve. His latest travels for lacrosse cemented his desires to play NCAA ball. He’s coming to the Euros fresh off a Blue Chip recruiting tournament in the US, and says that he’s in conversations with a number of schools across the country who are not only interested in his talents as a lacrosse player, but in the prestige of having a foreign player come to play on their team.
Turns out Tim won’t be the first Belgian to go overseas to play in the NCAA. His Belgian national teammate Julian Cook is headed to Bates in the fall as a freshman and can’t wait to play college lacrosse. For kids who’ve grown up with the limited lacrosse opportunities that Europe offers, especially for young players, this is just the next step in manifesting the dream for Tim and Julian.
Belgium To Budapest To Bates & Beyond
Most of us grew up playing lacrosse with the understanding that if we worked hard enough, we could go on to play in college. Maybe you and I have a different stance on this, but I’m of the opinion that this is a great concept.
Players like Tim and Julian are setting the precedent not only for Belgium, but for all of Europe and beyond, that if you work hard enough and you can play your connections right, you too can come to North America to play high level lacrosse.
While his teammate is off to Bates in the Fall, Tim still has much to look forward to: A friendly between a team in Tel-Aviv and his school team is in the planning stage with details still to come.
I’m excited for Tim and Julian. I’m excited for all the athletes here this weekend, and I’m excited for all the new players that don’t know what lacrosse is about to do for their lives. The people you’ll meet, the places you’ll go, and the opportunities you’ll have to go and do what you love are just incredibly special.
How many of us really get to live out our dreams? I know a couple Belgians, as well as players from 24 teams here in Budapest do this week.
If someone had told me when I was younger that I could travel the world playing lacrosse, as well as coaching and writing about it, I would’ve assumed that it could only happen if I was good enough. Turns out that’s not always the case. I still can’t pass and catch left handed. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to love it more than anyone else has ever loved it.
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