Editor’s Note: Help us to welcome back Lacrosse the Pond ! This time, we follow Ravi Sitlani, also known as Baggie, one of LTP’s mentors and non executive directors, along with founder Sam Russell as they travel across the Eastern United States. Through their journey, they spread the word of LTP and how it allows students to play lacrosse again while obtaining a master’s degree. Let’s hear about their experiences!
For those of you who don’t remember, Lacrosse the Pond is an organization that encourages Americans to travel to the UK so they may keep playing lacrosse as they attempt to earn a Master’s Degree.
In order to spread the word about Lacrosse the Pond, Ravi and Sam traveled to the Eastern coast of the United States and shared their experiences with us, which included strictly scheduled Chipotle stops and heartfelt reunions.
Day 1 – English Charm
After an early start, and some help from LTP’s Student Coordinator Tim Blower and British Airways, Sam and I found ourselves walking through immigration and discussing football scores with the immigration officer at JFK airport in New York.
We were greeted by a rental car that was slightly smaller than our luggage could handle, so fortunately, Sam used some of his English charm and talked us up a few sizes. The upgrade really helped since we planned on journeying over a thousand miles and had many meetings to attend. This car was about to become our home for the next week!
A brief drive across town, and some more flexing of the Queens’ finest to get through a toll booth, led us to a quick check in at our hotel in New Jersey. We decided to have dinner in the room in order to properly map out the next few days. Before we knew it, Day 1 was complete.
Day 2 – Begin the Presentations
The first morning felt extremely early, as we were still on our UK body clocks. But, it started with a much needed Sam Russell coffee delivery, which may have made up for a groggy morning. We slowly gathered our LTP things together and headed for our first presentation at the Rutgers Men’s Lacrosse Team.
It was great to see where one of our current students Jack Matthews graduated from. Once we were settled in, we met with LTP’s good friend and USA team member, Jesse Bernhardt, who coaches at Rutgers. Jesse arranged for us to come in to their fantastic facilities and present after their lifting session.
After a great talk with the Scarlet Knights, we wrapped up and were back on the road again. It was at this point that I was introduced to what is best described as “LTP TCS” or Lacrosse the Pond’s tactical Chipotle stop. I soon learned these were a daily occurrence as well as a necessary component for fueling Sam.
Our next presentation was at Montclair State University which was organized by our former student, Tom Ring. Tom played at Montclair from 2000 to 2014, and was an LTP student last year. Tom said acquiring his masters through the LTP program really helped him with his career path. He also claimed his experience with playing lacrosse in England was an amazing one. So, accompanied by Tom, we met with Coach Schambachand and the Montclair team to talk about the many benefits and opportunities LTP can offer students.
For our last two presentations of the day we headed over to Long Island, home of the Division 2 lacrosse powerhouse, Adelphi University. At this point, we had been in touch with a few old friends from the World of International Lacrosse: Coaches Pat McCabe of Syracuse and USA Lacrosse Fame, along with Gordon Purdie of Adelphi and Australia.
We presented to the women’s team in full, as well as a few seniors from the men’s team who had already been in touch with LTP and wanted to know more about us.
Following the end of the presentations, we had a great LTP reunion dinner in Brooklyn at a small pizza place. It was great to see Mike, Richard, and Tom who were once students with LTP in 2013 and 2014.
Mike is now working in advertising in Manhattan, Richard is a commercial property broker on Long Island, and Tom is working for Post foods in New Jersey. It was amazing to see our former students in high spirits and doing really well in their careers.
Day 3 – Spreading the Word
After our early morning coffee addictions were taken care of, we realized we were faced with a WiFi issue. Unable to connect, we had no choice but to hit the road early in search of Wifi and a printer for our flyers!
Crisis averted, we headed to our first presentation of the day, which was a revisit back to Long Island University. This was one of the first colleges we ever presented to about four years ago, back when it was still called CW Post. We met up with our USA Lacrosse and LIU friend John Jez who invited us to present to the team at the end of their practice.
LIU exhibited interest in the Lacrosse the Pond program right away and we couldn’t wait to discuss it with them. At the end of the presentation, Coach Jez took the time to speak about the benefits of traveling with lacrosse and how these work together to create priceless relationships along the way.
Once our visit at LIU was over, it was time to drive back to New Jersey and give a presentation at Kean University. It was great catching up with Coach Sheiner and Coach Grosz, who Sam had competed against in the 2014 World Games within the blue division play between Israel and England.
We met with the women’s team accompanied by Coach Trautman and things went very well. We were surprised and ecstatic to hear numerous questions and significant interest about our program. Maybe it was Sam’s winning charm and intoxicating accent that prompted a few extra questions from our audience.
Right after the women’s team, we presented to the men’s seniors which also went exceedingly well.
Following the Kean presentation, we headed on to Drew University for a few presentations that were set up by Richard Parsons of LTP. We were given a great introduction at Drew, and Coach Leanos had us present to their team even though it was a very young group of players.
It’s always good to plant the Lacrosse the Pond seed at any stage of the college journey so students are aware of their options after graduation.
Following the presentation, Coach Leanos took us over to the stadium where the women’s team were practicing. After watching some very motivational coaching in the run up to their game, we had a very brief presentation with them.
We were done for the day and ready to start the four hour drive down to Maryland, but not before a Sam Russell LTP TCS!
The drive to Annapolis was a long and tough one. Much respect to Sam for sticking with it and observing every speed limit along the way whilst I studied the back of my eyelids. We eventually reached Annapolis at ten pm and spent the rest of the evening catching up with the Phipps family.
Day 4 – The Old Line State
No surprise, we got an early start on the day and drove up to Baltimore for our first presentation with coach Shawn Nadelen, of Team USA, and the men’s team at Towson University.
For me, this was the first time I had been back since the 2003 U19 World Championships which served up some great memories. This also was a great opportunity for Sam to see the new locker rooms and facilities at Towson.
We had an amazing experience with the men at Towson and felt privileged to be able to give a presentation for them all. We also heard some insightful words from Coach Nadelen on the value the duo of lacrosse and travel have together because of the many doors they open.
We had to make a quick trip to a Fed Ex/Kinko’s in order to make some extra flyers, and this also gave us the opportunity for another LTP TCS, in which this time I took the veggie option.
Back on the road, we made a quick pit stop at Hopkins to hand out flyers for their men’s team. We also grabbed some coffee before heading to Goucher College and meeting up with Coach Kelly. We met the Goucher team after a practice session and talked to them about their options for post graduation. It turns out some students had heard about Lacrosse the Pond and knew all about us!
Our evening plans included going back to Hopkins where we watched a big game: the Blue Jays women versus the Maryland Terps. The fast paced thrilling game ended with the Terps 17-9 victory and the chance to watch possibly two of the best teams in NCAA women’s lacrosse play together.
Day 5 – Feeling the Love
At this point, the LTP presentation roadshow was coming to an end, but not before a full day on the road. Our first presentation of the day was at American University with coaches Emma Wallace and Colleen McCaffrey.
The enthusiasm from American University was exponentially high, and we were inundated with positive feedback from the team. The women’s team had already heard of Lacrosse the Pond and the opportunities the UK could bring.
Next stop: Georgetown University. We wanted to meet up with the women’s team to drop off some flyers before having our last LTP TCS before our trip ended.
We then drove to the University of Maryland at College Park to see the Terps Women, which is also where my extended family member Caitlyn Phipps (McFadden) who plays for Team USA, coaches. A presentation was arranged to talk to the national champions about LTP and its benefits.
The meeting was splendid, and we witnessed a considerable amount of interest in the program. Before we left, we managed to get Sam a photograph with Testudo, the Terps mascot Testudo, which pleased him immensely.
The last leg of our trip included a drive to Delaware to see coach Bill Gorrow at Wesley College. Once again, Sam was in his zone behind the wheel and managed to get us there just in time to present to the Seniors. A few members of the team were very interested, so we can only hope to have some of them play with Lacrosse the Pond!
For us, this was turning into the end of the LTP Roadshow. The only thing left to do was to head back to Annapolis and catch up with the lacrosse community and families from Anne Arundel County Youth Lacrosse. I was ready to kick back, have a meal, and chat endlessly about the sport that I love.
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My main observation over the week was similar to my time in Boston and New England: its all about getting the word of LTP out there. We have a program that both men and women student athletes can benefit from if we just share what we do here with the world.
We want them to know they can go even farther. There are still opportunities available for them once they graduate to not only further their education and obtain a master’s degree, but to also continue playing lacrosse in England. What’s better than education, playing lacrosse, and traveling the world? You will be able to learn about different cultures while you network and create relationships with people from all over.
An experience with Lacrosse the Pond costs approximately half the price of what the same experiences might cost in the USA, but with LTP, you have cooler sounding affiliations to put on your resume/CV.
So if you’re reading this, please keep spreading knowledge of Lacrosse the Pond everywhere you can. We can definitely assist you and your friends to have a once in a lifetime experience that includes a master’s degree, and playing the sport that you love.
CHEERS from Lacrosse The Pond
On a more serious note, we wanted to raise awareness of Batten Disease. It is a debilitating disease that affects the cells of the body in both children and adults.
Please visit the Ollie’s Army website to learn more about the disease, and the ways you can help others, like Ollie.