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Fireside Chat With Sam Rusell – US and UK Lax Together At Last

I first met Sam Russell while I was the Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach at Whittier College and serving as a Volunteer Assistant with the Men’s program.

Sam was born in Stockport, England. He was an integral member of the Poynton Lacrosse Club. Following his success in the Northern Premier League, Sam moved to Hudson, Ohio to play high school lacrosse for the Western Reserve Academy.

Upon graduating from Western Reserve in Ohio, and then Cheadle & Marple Sixth Form College in the UK, Sam enrolled at Whittier College, California to play NCAA Division III lacrosse. While playing and studying at Whittier College, Sam also captained the England U19 National team during the 2009 U19 World Championships in Vancouver B.C. and most recently, represented the England Senior National team in the 2010 World Championships in Manchester.

Through those experiences, Sam has become increasingly familiar with the lacrosse communities on both sides of the Atlantic. The transition from the UK to US has provided him with expertise in obtaining visas, applying to schools, and ensuring a smooth, stress-free transition to another country.

Along with founding “Lacrosse the Pond”, Sam’s responsibilities within the organization will include being the main Coordinator between US applicants applying to universities in the UK, and the UK university teams.

On a recent visit back to Whittier I sat down with Sam and was able to get some more information on his new venture.

First and foremost, most of us don’t know what the college athletics landscape is like in the UK. Can you explain it to us?  What are the similarities and differences between the UK system and the NCAA?  Where does lacrosse fit in?

Sam Rusell: University athletics in the UK are run through the Student Union (SU), a body of student representatives selected by the student body and administration. University Lacrosse in currently the fastest growing sport in the UK and the standard is increasing rapidly. The officiating body is called British Universities & College Sports BUCS.

Lacrosse is usually played at the university level once a week and teams usually train for 3-4 days, it is much more relaxed than the NCAA environment and mainly run by the students. So with the influx of more players who know the game really well, it will have a drastic impact on the overall standard of lacrosse in the UK and keep it growing at its incredible rate.

Why is it beneficial for someone from the United States to study for his or her Masters in the UK?

Sam Rusell: Masters degrees in the UK only take one year to complete, unlike many of the the two year programs in America. So although the fees may be comparatively more expensive in the UK (when you add in flights and accommodation), it works out cheaper when the two US years are combined. It also gives you a chance to travel and explore a new country and culture all while playing lacrosse and continuing your education.

After one full year you will have gained your post graduate degree lived in another country for a year, and possibly travelled around Europe a bit!! All in all it adds a hell of a lot to your resume, and puts you in a great position for furthering your career, all through having the experience of a life time.

What are the living accommodations/situations like? Are there schools located in urban, suburban, and rural areas?

Sam Rusell: Accommodation all depends on what the individual would prefer. The majority of Institutions offer international students the option of a dorm room. We can also arrange to house students with members of the lacrosse team, or with other “Lacrosse The Pond” students attending the same institution depending on location.

Location is also entirely up to the individual we will work closely with them to find out their preferences i.e. city or rural and then advises them on what each school has to offer and what the lacrosse is like in the area. So all in all there are lots of different accommodation options available to the individual so they can choose what best suits them.

Is this exclusive to Men’s Lacrosse?

Sam Rusell: For this year, yes. Its our first year and we really want to just concentrate on making sure the process runs smoothly working within what we know really well. We are however going to be accepting female applications for the fall of 2012!!

What services do “Lacrosse the Pond” provide for the student-athlete?

Sam Rusell: We will tailor make a specific package to suit the student we are working with. We will advise them on what school and course best suits them, taking into account what they wish to study and what type of location they would prefer to reside in. Once we have established your preferences, we will apply to the school for you and take care of everything from gaining you a visa, to booking your flights and finding your desired accommodation arrangements.

Basically, we take all the stress and hassle away from the student. From going through, and experiencing the process myself, to watching multiple friends go through it, and witnessing the hassle.  I’ve seen it all.  We have managed to identify the pitfalls and struggles that occur and provide a stress free service that facilitates the student with an amazing experience while continuing to grow the fastest growing sport in the UK.

If someone is interested in attending school and playing lacrosse in the UK, what should his or her next step be?

Sam Rusell: I would recommend checking check out our website to see in detail what we offer and what we can provide. There also a section on the site to fill in an Initial Questionnaire which then allows us to start the process with the individual. I also welcome any queries to Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. We welcome any feedback or enquires about our programs and services with open arms.

This has been another Lax All Stars Fireside Chat. Check out our full list of interviews here.