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Scotland’s Finest

Meet Mark Hodkin from Scotland, the first European to play NCAA lacrosse in the United States.

Lacrosse is a fun game. I bet you’re oh so happy you took the time out of your day to click a link just to read that first sentence. Real mind bending stuff, right? Lacrosse is a fun game, but it isn’t enough to get me to travel the world strictly for the games. It’s the people. The people like my dear friend from Scotland, Mark Hodkin.

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The people you meet and playing the game with people you care about and watching friends play, that’s what keeps me from living in an RV, working odd jobs and living the lifestyle I do. I’ll realistically dodge signing a lease or a well-paying job for as long as I can, because instead of nice things like living in a house or electricity, I’d rather spend my pennies spinning round this globe seeing the good people who love the game I love.

Mark Hodkin A.K.A. “Hoddie”

Mark Hodkin, Scotland Lacrosse
Mark Hodkin, Scotland Lacrosse

I ran into Mark Hodkin in Manchester this past spring for the British National Championships at the Wilmslow Lacrosse Club. I was able to play on Scottish Developmental squad thanks to a couple of connections with the Clydesiders in Prague. “Hoddie” was serving as a team organizer/GM/assistant coach/everything guy. I’m not sure the best title, but just recognize: Mark Hodkin guy is in the Scotland Hall of Fame!

Now I see Hoddie just about every couple hours here in Budapest. The Scottish guys are always hanging out in the lobby and are always good for a talk about the day and the games coming up or just past. Hoddie and I hang out and have a couple sodas every night at “The Office” next door. It’s a bar, but I’m getting stories to write about, so if it’s a place of work, I’d say that for the time being, a weird Chinese-disco-esque hole in the ground bar is my office.

Hoddie got talking to me, and he told me that in his lifetime, he’s seen Scotland lacrosse from it’s birth, grow into a program that is enjoying success at home, as well as all over the world.
Mark actually grew up in Wilmslow, playing all sorts of sports until he was 11 or so years old. His brother came home one day with two lacrosse sticks from school, and his brother told him he was going to love this, due to their warring nature as boys.

A year later, he went to Wilmslow Grammar School, where all the boys had to play a sport. Mark chose to play lacrosse. All the boys in high school loved lacrosse, as it offered something faster than soccer and something that rewarded creativity as well as strength and smarts. Not to mention it’s just plain fun.

Wilmslow High School - Manchester
I imagine Wilmslow would be similar to an IMG Academy in the States.

In 1978 Hoddie went on tour in the states with his team, and they learned the game all over again from all the talented players in Annapolis. Hoddie asked someone how they got to be so good, and the response was pretty simple. You go to practice every day.

Back in England, there wasn’t practice every day. There was a training once a week and games on the weekend. That was it. When Hoddie and the boys returned to the UK after their tour, Hoddie started practicing for hours every day, because he wanted to improve to the level of the American players. A lot of time was spent practicing on his own, and other times he was able to drag some of the boys out for a throw around. The girlfriends would come out and watch, someone would snag a bottle of wine from their parent’s cellar. Grand ole time. Like it should be.

In 1982 Hoddie had gotten good enough to try out for the UK national team. Back then all the Scots and Welsh played for a combined national team, as there weren’t enough players for another national team to be fielded.

UK to Baltimore
UK to Baltimore

So as a 19 year-old, Mark Hodkin made his second trip across the pond to play lacrosse in the World Games in Baltimore in 1982. After having an impressive tournament, England found themselves in the bronze medal game against Canada, while the US and Australia would play for gold in the championship game.

Hoddie went on to go 4-1 in a heartbreaking 19-18 loss to Canada. I can only imagine what sort of game that must have looked like, because we simply don’t get high scoring affairs like that anymore. Looking at you, rules committee.

To have 5 points in a World Championship game, while representing the UK and being a very green 19 years-old to boot, I can’t imagine it. It must’ve been the greatest day. Even with the loss, the greatest day got even better, as Dick Watts had been in the stands. The head coach for UMBC at the time came caught Mark on his way to the locker room, and asked if he’d like to have a chat about coming to America to play Division 1 collegiate lacrosse.

Mark was blown away. His father came down out of the stands to say good game, tough luck, and to see who he was talking to… Hoddie introduced his dad to coach Watts and then rushed off to hit the shower. A few minutes later he returned with a six-pack of beer on ice wrapped in a towel and ready to share.

umbc lacrosseThey talked lacrosse and grades and about all things under the sun. Then after seeing the campus the following day, Mark was offered a full ride scholarship to attend UMBC the following year. To the best of our knowledge, Mark Hodkin was the first European to come play college lacrosse in the United States.

His four year career with UMBC not only improved his level of play, but immensely augmented his appreciation for the sport and Mark was eager to bring his once in a lifetime experience back home to further the sport.

Mark played in a total of 5 World Championships, and in his fourth, he was actually the captain of both the English and the Scottish teams, as Scotland was just a developmental team, while England would be competing with the top tier blue group teams.

In 1998, back in Baltimore where it all started, Mark took the field in Scotland’s first ever official World Games appearance. The Scots had taken the field, and they’ve been making waves ever since.

From 1998 until 2007, there really wasn’t much lacrosse in Scotland. There was just a national team every two years that competed in the Euro/World games. It wasn’t until after 2007 that real proper training and player development program became standard in Scotland.

2016 European Lacrosse Championships - Day 2From the ground up, Scotland has built an impressive program. Following the “Lacrosse Development Officer” program that has helped England become the powerhouse it is today, Scotland started introducing kids to lacrosse in schools and universities. It now has a growing youth program across the country.

While it hasn’t enjoyed the same level of participation and thus player pools to select from as England, Scotland benefits from having a lot of its kids playing in English leagues and tournaments due to proximity.

Moving forward, Hoddie sees what lacrosse has done for him, and his role with Scotland has gone from player, to coach, and now he serves in effect as a man on a mission to try to give the gift to as many kids as possible. Not only is there the brilliant gift of the game in itself, but the opportunities to travel the world to play it. Add in the honor and privilege of playing for your country and having Scotland on your chest, and there’s a big draw for young boys and girls of Scotland.

When I asked Mark Hodkin why he does what he does, he spoke with humility. He said it isn’t about him. He’s adamant that it’s never been about him and it never was. It’s about the opportunity and the future. To give the gift of this game and this lifestyle to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to get out and see the world while representing their families and friends, it’s just something you really can’t match.

Love the game. Love the people that play the game. They’ll love you right back.

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#EC16 Scotland Lacrosse Photos:

2016 European Lacrosse Championships - Day 2

Scotland Lacrosse - 2016 European Championships

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2016 European Lacrosse Championships

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