Editor’s Note: Check out Tom Garvey’s first post from his international man of mystery and lacrosse tour! He’s rocking a solid mustache, traveling the world, coaching lacrosse, and sharing his thoughts with you. It’s well worth a read! Check out his first post on the camps on Tokyo, Japan!
The Japanese players I have met on my trip have a saying, “Lacrosse Makes Friends.”
While somewhat grammatically suspect, the true meaning of this short and simple phrase is easily understood by all who play this wonderful game. As a professional lacrosse player and coach, I’ve realized immense benefits from the game of lacrosse, it has opened academic doors, and even enabled me to travel the world, literally. But through my latest adventure running camps in Tokyo, Japan, and now Melbourne, Australia, I’m reminded of lacrosse’s strongest gift – friendship.
Setting up an event in a foreign country, particularly where they speak another language, can be challenging. Peter LeSueur and I both worked closely with our friend, Kosuke Mitsumoto, to plan the Tokyo event. Our friendship with Kosuke extends back to 2002 when we traveled to Japan as members of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team. The bonds of friendship formed 12 years ago and our mutual passion to teach the game of lacrosse helped us achieve our goal of running the first American-led lacrosse camp in Tokyo.
The experience of coaching a game you love in another country is quite powerful. My friend, Ken Ikegawa, whom I met in 2012 through lacrosse in Australia, was instrumental in translating our instructions to the more than 85 players that attended. Sport provides a level playing field and commands mutual respect, amongst teammates, adversaries as well as between player and coach.
While many of the Japanese players were initially reserved (a cultural norm), we found that they warmed up to us through the game of lacrosse. The Seikei University team even presented us with honorary school flags and chopsticks, which we are very grateful for. We left Japan with heaps of new friends (and not just in the Facebook sense, although we got some of that too!).
As I prepare for the upcoming camp here in Australia, I’m reminded of how many friends lacrosse has created for me here. My mate (that’s what they call a “buddy” Down Under), Ben Stevens, was instrumental in promoting the camp – we met in 2012 when I coached his brother. This afternoon I had coffee with Melbourne lacrosse legend Graeme Fox – winner of Australian Lacrosse Men’s Best and Fairest in 1979. Fellow American and former Marine Corps Lieutenant Jon Chin will help me coach this weekend. I’m proud to call all of these men friends, and all through lacrosse.
The game of lacrosse has been slightly stagnant in Australia with ~5,000 active participants over the last numbers of years. Players likely won’t receive college scholarships and most will hang up their cleats by the time they reach 20 years old. Youth athletes in Victoria favor Aussie-rules football (footie), cricket, soccer and basketball, which are all good games with tremendous extrinsic benefits. Lacrosse is unique though.
When we meet a fellow lacrosse enthusiast, young or old, there’s a common bond and sense of respect. It’s something I can’t quite put words around so I’ll defer back to the Japanese: “Lacrosse Makes Friends.”