Singapore Spectacular: 10,000 miles, 10,000 smiles

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Team M Malaysian Lacrosse Singapore Spectacular

I don’t know what day it is, which way is up, or why the sun hasn’t risen. The distance traveled for this weekend’s Singapore Spectacular tournament has effectively fried my brain, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Flying for a day each way, a disappearing Thursday, and a plethora of airline headaches couldn’t possibly skew the impression this awesome little gathering left forever in my mind.

There’s a pretty important rewind needed to start this one out. My adventures came full circle this weekend, and there’s really no realistic way to convey the levity of this trip without setting the scene.

Starting in Denver

The World Championships were in Denver in 2014. Leading into July, I had been having a turbulent little summer, living in the back of a yellow ’81 pickup truck. That’s not relevant directly, but I was living via circumstance at this particular time, and circumstance will always present new opportunity.

I had missed Manchester, citing the financial issues of a college student, so the most recent games I had attended were the games in London, Ontario in ’06 when I was 16 years old. The transformation from ’06 to ’14 was overwhelming. Just the size and scope of the tournament was astonishing. I guess that’s my number one objection to Olympic lacrosse; you can’t have that family atmosphere that was pumping out of everyone in attendance in the lacrosse-only festival in one central location.

I wanted to play, as well as watch. One way or another I got hooked up with Elliott Couch. He got me onto an Asian-American heritage club team by the name of Team Enigma. I’m about as Asian-American as I am anything else, but my brother and I were still welcomed on to fill a couple spots on the roster. The team was put together by a gentleman who goes by the name of Payu.

Thailand lacrosse vs. Scotland 2014 World lacrosse Championship Credit: Nok Nokkie
Thailand, Denver 2014

Payu was orchestrating Thailand’s national team in their first-ever World Games appearance. As if facilitating a fledgling program to the world stage wasn’t enough, Payu had also put this Enigma team together in hopes of inspiring American players with family origins in Asian countries to going over to help develop the game in the Orient.

We won some games, lost some games. It was a fun time. On Saturday night, I headed into the stadium with my brother and my father to watch the undefeated Americans take on Canada for the second time in the gold medal game. The stands were occupied, I wouldn’t say packed. There was a pretty cool atmosphere where all the national teams were sitting in their groups, and the clusters of color dotted the stadium. Flags waived, songs were sang. People yelled stuff in their own native languages. The peer responses frustrated me. More curious than anything. The “FIFA” chants from all the players hailing from soccer-dominated nations when an American player took a dive really got my goat. I loved the atmosphere. All smiles.

Something happened on the field. Maybe it was a push, maybe it was something else. Either way, the Australian gentleman and I conferred as total strangers to try to help each other understand what had just happened. After the topic had become irrelevant, I introduced myself, and he introduced himself as Charles Manning. We talked to the rest of the game about lacrosse and everything associated with it. Charles ended up giving me his card, and invited me to go play in Australia for a year.

Back to the Point

Fast forward to what this article is actually about; the Singapore Spectacular. I got a group email sent out to all the Enigma guys from two and a half years ago. It was a Happy Thanksgiving type email. We haven’t been active as a team since ’14, but groups like these stay active years after the fact. I must be part of a dozen or so, and it’s always nice to hear back from teammates. Also included in the email, or one sent shortly thereafter, was a last minute callout saying that Payu was looking for one or two players to fly over to Singapore to help out a Malaysian based club team to help them stay competitive against talented squads from Singapore, Hong Kong, and a club team out of Japan.

Correlated with the snow, work has been painfully slow, and despite the brainwashing of public education, I don’t live to work. I jumped on that email, figuring the sooner I replied the better the chance I had at getting a roster spot.

Payu got back to me a day later and said I was in. We caught up a bit and talked about Thailand Lacrosse and the game in the region. Payu is refocusing on lacrosse and looking to build programs in areas like Malaysia. I told him I could fly out for the weekend, he said he’d see me in a couple of days and that was that. I had to finagle a couple of shift changes at work, and make all the necessary arrangements one must make when flying out in two days for a weekend in Malaysia.

Really, a Weekend in Malaysia

First of all, had no clue where Malaysia was. Actually didn’t find that out until I boarded the flight and there was that progress map on the screen showing where Singapore in fact is located. Definitely wouldn’t have labeled that map correctly for 500 points.

singapore
This is the answer…

So I was on a plane four or so days after talking to Payu. You lose a day due to some sort of wizardry, so I had to leave on Wednesday night to arrive Friday morning for a Saturday/Sunday tournament. In theory I could’ve left a day later, but I wanted a day to let my head stop spinning and wander around Singapore.

A flight from San Francisco to Singapore is a magical journey spanning 16 hours. I did a little research on the flight (to find out if there was free booze) and found that this is actually the third longest flight in the world and apparently it’s a big deal of a flight.

I’ve done some beefy travels. Just last month I drove all over the country with the old man. I once had a 19 hour layover in Istanbul before an 8 hour flight to JFK (and wasn’t permitted to leave the airport because of a wonderful little trip to the American embassy in the Czech Republic. I’ve taken the 10 hour PolskiBus from Warsaw to Prague. I flew 10 hours to Dubai before climbing on a 12 hour doozie direct to Adelaide, South Australia. I drove 10 hours from Chicago to Rochester in a rental car with a stranger named Chuck because American Airlines sucks and cancelled my last leg flight on my way home from Australia/Hawaii to surprise my family for Thanksgiving.

Getting There

I can play ball, so I figured this would suck, but it was doable. I was right, per usual, but it was definitely not a cake walk. There was in fact free booze, which definitely aided my ability to nod off a couple times.

I was in the very back row. The 40th row. To boot, I had the other two seats in row 40 all to myself. I was originally elated to have the whole bench to myself, then I was almost disappointed I couldn’t talk to a stranger for a while. That thought was quickly defeated by logic. Empty row > the chance someone actually wants to talk to me.

My row wasn’t empty the whole flight. We hit turbulence almost immediately, and I was mortified. Despite having done it quite a bit, I hate flying. The Dreamliner was getting thrown like a rag doll, and I wasn’t digging it. Being in the back row, I could see the flight attendants in the back quite easily. I looked back, and one of the girls was quite frantic waving her hand at me. I figured she was telling me to turn back around, which was unnerving. Next thing I knew she was clutching my shoulder and commanding me “GET IN!”

Naturally I figured this was the end and we were all about to perish. I was moved all the way in so the flight attendants could sit down and buckle up. On such a long haul flight, they bring essentially two sets of cabin crew. Half rests while half works, but when there’s turbulence and the pilot orders “jump seats” (which is an awfully misleading oxymoron) there aren’t enough seats for all of them.

The stewardesses laughed at my displeasure once I admitted that I thought their sitting next to me meant we were going for a swim in the Pacific.

The remaining 14 hours of the flight was as pleasant as sitting in a tin can could be. I even won a game of solitaire on the screen thing. Taking that to the bank. Didn’t go 0-fer.

Thom Wong had also played on the Enigma Team back in ’14 with me, and he also had answered Payu’s call to come play in Singapore. He arrived six hours before me, and I was supposed to meet him at the world-famous (not world-famous at all) Seacare Hotel in the heart of downtown Singapore. Wong had played with my hometown buddy Andrew Stein, so the small world keeps getting smaller.

The Eagle Has Landed

After a bizarrely-informative and visually stimulating taxi ride from the airport, I met up with Thom at the hotel. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when I walked in, but maybe thirty seconds later, a room was available. Solid omen for the weekend… or was it?

We spent the day walking over to Chinatown (which I ignorantly thought was ironic at the time), and then ventured out to the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which as of 2015 are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The gardens were pretty sweet, in all honesty. I was pretty impressed with the sheer size of the site. In the middle of a bustling modern city, this massive park sits pretty right in the middle of everything. Singapore is famous for being immaculately clean, and while I was expecting the streets and sidewalks to live up to that lore, I wasn’t really expecting the gardens to follow suit. Everything was in it’s own symmetrical row. The lawns were mowed to perfection. It was sweet. Thom and I brought sticks, but the fact this was a UNESCO site, the national orchid garden, and the fact they still cane people, we opted not to play catch on the lawns, despite being tempted by the lush lawns and the wide open tropic spaces.

We met up with Payu in the late afternoon back at the hotel. We caught up over dinner at a restaurant called Brewerkz, one of the venues sponsoring the weekend’s tournament. Between the jet lag and the monstrous portion of fish I had been served, my eyes were getting pretty heavy by the time we finished eating, and Thom was feeling the same way. 9,000 miles of flying and a day walking around Singapore in the humidity will take it right out of you.

Catching as regular a night of sleep as possible was the plan. Jet lag will have it’s way, sure, but we wanted to rack up as many hours as possible in hopes of not playing like we had just flown from the other side of the world.

I woke up at three am local time or so, but it had more to do with the sound of the tremendous rains outside our window than anything else. It was dumping absolute buckets outside, and I wasn’t really looking forward to playing lacrosse in an actual monsoon.

To the Singapore Spectacular

Team M Malaysian Lacrosse Singapore SpectacularThe skies cleared a few hours later as we met Payu in the lobby to catch our ride out to the field. Everything was wet, but it wasn’t actively raining. I figured that in such a tight city, we’d be playing on some sort of artificial surface like a turf, but per usual, I was wrong.

We arrived at the field in the Dempsey Hill region of Singapore. We passed by monstrous mansions that each touted their own collections of Ferrarris, Mazzeratis, and Lamborghinis out front. It was a wealthier neighborhood to say the very least, and thus a little more spread out than the tight quarters of the city. We pulled up to the field, a big stretch that spanned a couple acres between a church and a wedding venue/restaurant.

The field looked beautiful. It was so tropical and green and flat. It was as if the rain had been paid off by the local billionaires to leave their neighborhood alone for the weekend. However, upon setting foot off the pavement of the parking lot, it was quite obvious the rain had, in fact, been heavy-handed overnight.

Let the Games Begin

Four teams were participating this weekend. The home team being Singapore, a Japanese club team by the name of FOGO lacrosse, the Hong Kong lacrosse association had brought their top product, and our predominantly Malaysian team with a healthy dose of misfits from all over the world.

Our game was slated for 10am, and we were already sweating pretty profusely. While clouds hadn’t yet submitted to the sun, it was the relative humidity that was ever apparent and proving quite formidable.

I put on some cleats and walked around a bit on the field when we got there, just trying to get the feel for the soggy pitch and remind my legs that the sitting time was over and the running time was about to start. Two of our Japanese additions came out and had a catch with me, getting our sticks a little wet and our hands used to our sticks being a little wet.

No sooner am I punching in my pocket (I’m not sure that actually has ever improved anything for any player anywhere at any time, but we all do it) than I look up and there’s Charles Manning walking over from the parking lot with a bag in one hand and a goalie stick in the other.

The first reaction was a turned-head type confused dog look, but then I considered the situation. This was more his side of the world than mine, so it was actually more bizarre that he would be seeing me than I him. Secondly, Payu had said we would be joined by a couple of Western Australian guys and I know Charles has played all over with those boys.

I called from the field “What are you doing here?”, which has become a common opening joke anytime I run into old lacrosse friends anywhere unexpectedly across the country/planet.

I think he replied with a pretty similar question, and we both laughed and the excitement of getting to play together was pretty contagious as the rest of the guys geared up and got ready to play our first game against Singapore. Charles is a spry 51 years old, and so we hadn’t actually played together at Woodville, so this would actually be our first time running together.

Team M Malaysian Lacrosse
Team M swag

We suited up, got a stretch in that we thought to be satisfactory at the time, and started throwing the ball around. Guys tried to learn each others’ names with mixed results, and we looked at our small number of uniformed players only to discover that the majority of our actual Malaysian guys were still missing.

Jake Marr is one of the lead guys heading up Malaysia’s development as a program. Originally from the UK, Jake’s living in Malaysia as an accountant. He informed us that the guys were hung up at the Malaysia/Singapore border with customs and were probably still a ways away. I figure this is the right time to add we also had Adra on our team. Adra is a student living in Malaysia from the African nation of Chad. To our (limited) knowledge we had the honor of playing with the first ever lacrosse player from Chad!

Taking the Field

The show must go on. We played Singapore with a short bench for the majority of the game, with Malaysian guys trickling in during the second half. The game was tight the entire time. I believe we might have gone up 2-0 to start, and I’m pretty sure we were down at one point late in the game, but a late goal with less than a minute to go from one of the guys out of Thaliand, Matt Walsh, tied it up and sent us into overtime.

The rules for overtime mimicked the small sided format the NHL follows, and I love it. Including goalies, it was a 4v4 format with sudden-death implications. Braveheart with buddies. We went down on offense that very first time after winning the faceoff (which might have been our first faceoff win of the game). Jumping one of our poles, Niles (our American-playing-in-Australia/traveling-the-world) proved to be helpful for faceoffs not necessarily for outright wins, but to counter talented faceoff guys from the other three teams so we could get our wings in on the play.

I was given the ball in overtime, with the hopes of scoring a goal. In all my games before me, middle school on through college and beyond, I’ve never been the guy with the ball, much less the goal, in overtime. True to history, this wouldn’t be the case either. I did dodge to the goal, and I did draw a double team. I think I could’ve shot, but it would’ve been saved. I found our attackman Matt again on the back door for the easy layup overtime goal. Scoring sounds fun, but all good goals have assists and I love being the guy to set up something pretty.

And so Team “M” based out of Malaysia had it’s very first win.

A Positive Experience

Each team played three games that first day in a round-robin format. Everybody played everybody, and then top would play bottom and the two middle seeds would play in a playoff format the following day.

We went on to win our other two games as well that day. Both would prove to be one-goal contests. Three barn-burners over three very impressive squads had taken a physical toll on our team. A lot of our guys were around thirty years old and some significantly older with a lot of experience. On the flip side, we had a lot of younger guys that didn’t have a lot of experience whatsoever. The experience was more vulnerable to injury and exhaustion, and the younger guys took a lot of knocks and had to do a lot more running to make up for their inexperience. This dynamic took everything we had to go 3-0 on day 1, but we got there.

I didn’t know much about lacrosse in Singapore before coming out. Not a thing, to be completely truthful. Payu had some great words regarding not only the tournament or the team, but the program and organization as a whole in Singapore:

“Singapore program had came a long way since the first time we brought duffle bags filled with equipments, and collapsable goal there in 2011. They have now become one of the promising and active program in Asia, playing all year round and actively hosting clinics. It would be a disservice to SLA to not give the credit to the uniqueness of the mix of large community expatriates mixing in with the local that had help contribute to the fast growth/higher competition level of the local teams within the area. Those member of SLA have brought experience, and talents from their respective homeland where they learn to play lacrosse and bringing it to Asia.

Since the birth of Thailand Lacrosse in 2010, I have seen level of competitiveness of Asia teams grew exponentially. As seen from the competition results/ranking of the Asian teams at the World game in 2010 compare to 2014. A lot has to do with development efforts, but also more tougher competitions, and I would say Singapore program play a huge role in that.

Thailand have always enjoyed hosting them, and glad to see that they also grew to host several great events in the last few years themselves without any outside assistance. As more Singaporean come out to play, I believe the future of the program as bright as these people have laid a good foundation which this weekend was a testament of it.”

Keeping It Rolling

The Hong Kong team was our second matchup, and they really made us work for it like no other. Head coach Scott Browning has an outrageously well-conditioned team of athletes, and they really forced us to play a different game because trying to run and gun on a team that’s significantly faster than you will not work out in your favor. We were down late in the game by one, but a Team M running on fumes was able to finagle two last runs down the field to create two broken play/transition type goals to edge Hong Kong by one with very little left on the clock.

FOGO Japan came in as the hands-down favorite on the day, and I don’t think I’ll catch any argument with that statement. I was told by someone on the sideline that this was a club program out of Japan, and most of these guys had never played outside the country before. I have seen a number of Japanese programs travel pretty far to get games, including the three teams we played against as Enigma in ’14 in Denver, but I had never seen this particular program before.

They were a textbook Japanese team, with super aggressive longsticks and quick doubles looking for turnovers, and a fundamental team-oriented game that made it difficult to point to any player as their most dangerous scorer.

I must take credit for the game-winner in our run against FOGO. We were up by one, and Charles was standing on his head in goal turning the Japanese scoring machine away. We got the ball, and the unanimous notion was that a one goal lead with seven minutes left will not be good enough to pull off the upset. We were stagnant on offense, with nobody having a drop left in the tank. When the legs get tired, so does the head, and that’s when stupid comes out to play. I threw a lazy, no-look pass to whoever the poor bastard was on the crease. All four longsticks came down on his hands and he didn’t have a chance at the ball. The ball traveled on past that attackman, past all the defense, and at a casual 30-40 mph, the ball snuck under the radar of FOGO’s goalie and rolled into the bottom right corner.

I looked at Payu as if to say “sorry” for throwing that pass. He shrugged. We had been right, the original score wasn’t good enough to beat FOGO, as they scored one late, but it was too late. We went on to win and take the first seed for the next day.

The Day is Done

Brian Witmer in SingaporeAfter the games on that first day, Thomas Wong and I were beat. We had ignored the trauma of flying from around the world for as long as we could, but we had to admit it was catching up. Payu put his arms around our shoulders on the walk back to the car. We didn’t say anything, but it was mutually understood he was glad to have us there and we were elated to be there. I really don’t like pumping myself up… at all, but Payu sent over this quote to be included in the article and it was quite kind, and reads:

“The two men are among the group of selfless global game growers who, love the sport. And want to help do their part of grow the sports in their own way, just as Connor and Jeff has with the LAS crew trail blazed for Thailand back in 2011. Since there isn’t a text book of ‘how to’ for lacrosse growth at the global scale.. it is really down to the initiative of experienced men like these (and those from Japan, Thailand, Australia) who came together and help young program like Malaysia learn to grow by play competitive game of lacrosse alongside these men.

And thankfully we have team from Japan, Hong Kong who shared the same passion joining the event, and a great host in Singapore who put event like this together and allowing the opportunity for us to end the year in high note for lacrosse in the South East Asia. I admired and respect the positive impact they made to the game. As well as what they have done over the weekend in Singapore, and look forward to host them again in the near future I know everyone here feels the same.”

I should mention the fifth team in the tournament, because they were arguably the most impressive compared to my expectation going in. The officiating was consistent, and for the most part competent. I still will hold a couple of disagreements, and I’ll say once again that the FIL is SO DAMN CLOSE TO HAVING THE PERFECT SET OF RULES… but they just have three of four antiquated and purist BS components that just make me shake my head (and cuss).

However much I disagree with the rules, the fact that they were applied by the referees cannot be disputed. Push here, slash there. Soft calls and murderers that walked free. These things happen in lacrosse, and mistakes are made, but as a whole, Kentaro and his band of merry referees were extremely competent.

Having been all over the world, sometimes it’s tough to find experienced and knowledgable refs, but these guys went above and beyond. I’d much rather have any of these guys than the lazy guy on Tuesday nights with a dip in back in Syracuse. Any day.

All the teams met out for a dinner-and-drinks type social event in downtown Singapore at a place called Que Pasa. Thom and I were initially put off that one of our few meals in Singapore would be at a Mexican place, but the food was anything but Mexican. It wasn’t really decorated in a very Mexican manner, either. To be honest I have no idea why it was called Que Pasa.

There was an auction and guys from different programs got to hang out and talk to each other. The majority of the girls from the Singapore and Malaysian programs were of high school age and thus were not in attendance, but a few girls from each program did make it out. The organizers with Singapore lacrosse did a phenomenal job organizing not only the tournament, but a perfectly warm, friendly, SIMPLE party on Saturday for everyone to be social. Too many of these international gigs try too damn hard to have some crazy rave or some weird high school dance type party.

Going For Gold

Sunday is for champions. Team M was sitting pretty at 3-0, but that doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t win a playoff game. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. I could go on to talk about how we were banged up or allocate blame to one reason or another, but truth be told, Singapore came out fired up and outplayed us. They controlled the ground balls, they valued the ball and really made the most of possessions, and they were playing as a solid team unit.

Team M Malaysian Lacrosse Singapore Spectacular
The boys of M

In the other semi final, Hong Kong was bested by a couple goals by FOGO. Before the men’s final between FOGO and Singapore, the Singapore women’s team would play against Marlborough College for the hardware. Marlborough College wasn’t present on Saturday, as the girls were playing rugby elsewhere and couldn’t attend. Promising youth on both sides was very apparent and it was very enjoyable to watch the girls getting better with every single touch they got in their games.

Marlborough won by a handy score that I can’t recall, and so it would be up to the men to try to keep the trophy in Singapore. Despite an excellent effort, including a couple lead changes and tie scores, the upset never came to fruition. FOGO’s aggressive poles and well balanced offense proved to be too tough for the young Singapore program by a couple scores at final time.

All Said and Done

After an appropriately brief awards ceremony, we said our thanks and goodbyes to teammates, organizers, opponents, and officials, and headed back to the hotel. I made a stop at the Holliday Inn Express, where most of the tournament players were staying, for a dip in the rooftop pool overlooking the city of Singapore.

That night we went in search of the famous chili crab. Apparently they’re all the rage in Singapore, however I’d never heard of such a thing until I got to Singapore. Admittedly, I don’t know much about anything when it comes to most of Asia. However, I do know what is delicious, and chili crabs are delicious.

Brian Witmer in Singapore
FEAST!

A side of whitefish, some unreal seared venison with some green leafy stuff tossed in there. There was a bowl served with jellyfish in it… which I tried and I can say it’s similar to a spaghetti squash, but with way bigger flavor and a slightly more jellyfish-esque texture.

All of this was served with some egg-fried rice and a couple cold pints of Tiger to wash it all down. It took a while, but we eventually stood up from the table. It wasn’t easy, but it had to happen. I wasn’t busting at the buttons or overly full, but it was a perfectly satisfying meal and I don’t know if I can say I’ve had too many better feeds in my life. Tip of the hat to those guys at Jumbo.

We walked around a bit more. I was in a zombie type state. Beat up from playing and stuffed full of amazing crab. Moderately sunburnt and still totally afflicted by the jetlag, I was out of it. Niles and Mook went on a crazy slingshot ride thing that launched you way up in the air on a bungee. Fearing for my still-digesting crab, I opted out of being shot into the sky.

We called it a night shortly thereafter. We got a drink or two on the way home, nothing crazy. I envisioned having a little wilder night with no games in the morning, but I was totally content with a midnight bedtime and a chance for my body to rest…

Back to America

Well, until I had to spend a ridiculous amount of time getting home the next day. The amount of time it took me to get from Singapore to Salt Lake is a mystery number and I really have no clue what that number looks like. Jetlag, time changes, and intermittent naps for unknown amounts of time kept my brain scrambled for the entirety of 30+ hours.

Wong and I survived the long haul from Singapore, albeit we both seemed to come down with the same bout of gut rot from the meal we had at the airport. 14 hours of chills and sweats wasn’t ideal, but at least we were in the US and things would go smoother from there, right?

Kinda. United Airlines messaged Wong and told him he was delayed. “Sucks to be you” I thought out loud. We parted ways and I headed for my gate, delirious as ever. I boarded the flight to Salt Lake City on time, with no hiccups. I sat down in my seat and passed out. I woke up about thirty minutes later, and our plane hadn’t moved. I was awoken to the announcement that some fan was broken and we had to disembark to climb on a new plane.

I swore, and then I stood up and trudged off the plane. They brought us a new plane, but this new plane had problems with the brakes, and those are important for a very specific part of the flight, so we were delayed.

Delay after delay came, totaling up to 17 individual delays and/or gate changes. Everyone I met from United was an absolutely genuinely nice person, but the airline as a whole was a total gongshow. We eventually got some food vouchers and a couple bucks off a future flight that’s never happening, which was nice, but I just wanted to go home.

And home we went, 13 hours late. My buddy Kevin happened to be down in Salt Lake coaching with True Lacrosse and he picked me up after his practice had ended. I was arguably more out of it than all of the doped up dentist kids on YouTube combined.

Sweet Reflections

Moral of the story; it’s all totally worth it. Flying for two days to get to Singapore, to spend three days in a haze, only to spend a day and a half getting home… I’ll do that anytime. The opportunities to keep playing lacrosse after college aren’t exactly bountiful. They’re actually quite pathetic if you think about it, as I’ve harped on many times before.

Team M Malaysian Lacrosse Singapore SpectacularSo when the call comes saying, “Hey, come play”, you don’t answer with anything other than “when and where?!” The fact that I was able to go see a totally wild and modern city in a region of the world I had never been to was even more reason to pack a bag and go. I had never been to any country in Asia, and now I’ve made some great contacts and already I’ve got two trips planned for this coming year back to the region.

Grow the Game. Everyone loves to say it. Everyone loves to see the game expanding to new horizons and seeing sticks in the hands of men, women, boys and girls who have never had the opportunity to enjoy it as we have. Saying “Grow the Game” and actually growing it organically on the ground are two very different things.

There are the dedicated few who are on the ground actually getting sticks in hands, and seeing their work in Singapore was a real treat. Don’t get me wrong, the “few” is a growing number, but they’re still a totally different class of character all their own. I can’t even come close to claiming to be one of their ranks.

Payu is one of these few. He’s on the ground making it happen in a number of different places and it’s been a real treat getting to know him better this past weekend. Payu had this to say about growth in general:

“There has been a spike in new emerging lacrosse nations in recent years, with member nations are in the upwards of 50+ countries. Which became much harder to consistently maintain, and oversees the existing nations’ development growth. While at the same time, assisting and/or policing the new nations.

There are a lot of challenges ahead for the sport, making sure that all the member nations succeed in maintaining their developmental mission (not just at the starts) should be a priority. Instead of competition driven or other focuses.”

More Game to Grow

And so we press on. There is still so much work to do. I don’t even want to hear the word “Olympics” until there is sustainable grassroots lacrosse in every country on Earth. It will take a lot of time, and even more effort and funding.

For me, it’s giving not just a game, but an opportunity to someone who hasn’t had many. The opportunities that come my way are innumerable and borderline unquantifiable and they all come from this game. Who knows what a stick might do for a kid growing up in Malaysia? Who knows what a set of gear might do for a neighborhood in Detroit or Kenya or Iceland or anywhere else in the world.

Going to Singapore was a gift. Gifts need to be paid forward. Lacrosse is poised to get real big real fast in Asia. It just needs some time and the efforts of the dedicated volunteers making it happen.