I’m in Spain. Alone. Bruce went home yesterday, and I miss my little travel buddy already. I’ll be going “home” soon enough as well, but only after a few more days on my expanded European vacation. Initially, this was supposed to be a twelve-day work trip with Lax All-Stars to cover the European Championships. That said, I’ve been in Europe for more than a month now, and I still have ten or so days remaining! How’d that happen?
I’m in Barcelona for seven more days, actually. Initially I had planned for 4-6 days total, but I’ll be racking up a double digit number of days by the time I catch my aluminum bird to Prague. There, I’ll spend the long weekend playing some good hard box lacrosse in the inaugural Frank Menschner Cup.
After that, I’ll somehow force myself to leave Europe and get on that one last flight back to New York.
Barcelona will be tough to leave as well.
When we arrived in the city, we were told that we had timed our trip perfectly, which infers that we planned anything at all, which is a comical statement in and of itself. We soon learned that we had (coincidentally) arrived during the Festa de Gracia, which is a local party for the very young and vibrant region of Gracia in Barcelona.
The apartment where we stayed was located right in the heart of the neighborhood, so all the festivities were a walk of five minutes or less. A local street teeming with food options was also only a one or two-minute walk from our door. The Kebab campaign remains strong. How long my body will last… that remains to be seen.
Bruce and I harangued contact with the Barcelona Lacrosse Club in advance of our arrival, and they have been amazing hosts in an amazing city. We were given instructions from the train station, which we eventually figured out without much delay. We were met by Aina at her apartment, out of which she was moving after the weekend. She let us in to the cozy little studio apartment, and left the two weary travelers to have a little siesta. That’s correct, the first thing we did when we got to Barcelona was sleep.
We woke up at seven or so, and were kindly invited over to Aina’s brother’s house. Pol was the only member of Barcelona’s club to make the Spanish national team for the European Championships. We had met briefly in Hungary, but remembering all of the two hundred people you met in Gödöllö was next to impossible. I’m not sure if Pol remembered us, and to be totally honest the reverse was true.
We got reacquainted watching the Olympic Basketball Semi-final. Oddly enough, it was the US versus Spain. How perfect.
We had a couple drinks and watched the game. Spain kept it interesting and I think the deficit was cut to five at one point, but the US is just too damn good at basketball. It wasn’t a terribly interesting game to me, but post-collegiate basketball never really is in my opinion. Pol talked with Bruce and I about lacrosse in Spain as a whole, as well as the difficulties associated with Barcelona’s lacrosse growing pains.
As it always is, Pol said it’s really an issue of coaching, numbers, and equipment.
If you have players, you need them to be equipped and to be coached. If you have a coach, you need enough players for a coach to run a practice, and they should probably be equipped. If you just have equipment, you need to spend your time finding new players, which isn’t always inviting to a new coach. It’s a vicious cycle being consumed by a three-headed snake.
I think that these are problems that can be tackled relatively easily, but of course that’s easier said than done. A coach shouldn’t be hard to attract to Barcelona. Pol mentioned that it would be difficult to pay a coach. I replied that the opportunity to coach lacrosse in one of the greatest cities in the world should be payment enough. We talked about how simply offering a place to stay is sufficient compensation in most cases. Once you’ve got a place to sleep, the rest is just details, and maybe some dishwashing.
Equipment is a bit tougher, but not insurmountable. If someone spammed every high school program, club programs, and anyone else who has a contact email listed asking for equipment donations to be sent to a residence in the US, I’m sure the demand would be met. Maybe you get ten helmets, five pairs of gloves, a box of old heads, and six shafts. Maybe you get nothing. Maybe you get fifty of everything.
You never know!
Once collected, it could either all be shipped internationally or someone could bring it over. With the correct documentation from the FIL, labeling the equipment as a donation, some airlines are good about letting the baggage fly free.
Players is the one thing I’m most undecided on. I guess it’s pretty arrogant, but I think this game really does sell itself, if you let it. Two days ago we went to the beach in Barcelona and just had a catch. Nothing crazy, just Bruce, myself, Aina, Pol and Aina’s boyfriend, Franzi, having a catch in the late afternoon as the sun set. The beach was alive with sunbathers, beach volleyball courts, and a sea of guys trying to sell you “Fresh mojito, water, water, mojito”. We walked up, threw the ball around, and instantly all eyes were on us. When you can compete with beach volleyball attire for attention, you know you’re onto something.
I told the Barcelona guys that if they just had business cards, flyers, and a sign saying come try lacrosse (in Spanish) that they could easily get five or more recruits fairly quickly. However, beyond bringing guys in, another big challenge for teams is travel cost to play games. If you had enough players in Barcelona to play a weekly game of 7v7 or even 10v10, you wouldn’t need to travel to play. Obviously the Barcelona team in the Spanish league would still travel, but you could really help develop a hometown club atmosphere to combat this issue.
In addition to talking lacrosse and having a ripper of a time at the Festa de Gracia, we also took
advantage of the fact that we were in fact in Barcelona. On the way back from the beach, Bruce and I explored the Gothic quarter, which had a very different feel from the rest of the city. While it was packed with tourists, it had a dark cool quiet feel to it, as if it preferred to exist in stoic silence without a soul about.
On Bruce’s last day, we ventured out to see the quasi-complete modern marvel, the Sagrada Familia. Construction began in 1882, but it hasn’t yet been completed. The marvel is scheduled to be completed in 10 or so years, but it’s already quite the wonder to gawk at. Dubbed “Gaudi’s masterpiece”, the church is being constructed on Antoni Gaudi’s original designs and is the living legacy of the architect who came before his time.
We tried to get in, but there wasn’t a ticket to be had. Not a single one. The church sells out the alloted tickets most every day, and advanced bookings are heavily recommended. Since Bruce has left, I’ve been to visit the interior, and its beauty and wonderment simply cannot be orchestrated into words. The sheer scale and height of the thing, not to mention the intricate details adorning every inch of the exterior, well, it’s just a lot to try to comprehend. I really am a terrible tourist, and I don’t often get to a lot of the museums and famous landmarks, but this one I’m glad I made it to. It really is something amazing to behold.
If I had to put the concept into scope, it would have to be the wonder I felt walking through The Narrows of Zion National Park for the first time. Size meets beauty meets color meets impossibility. I’m actually looking at the seven or so peaks from where I’m sitting right now writing this article. Yes, I moved on to a different apartment after Bruce left, this time to the gracious home and hospitality of Alicia, another one of the girls’ players.
Between paragraphs, I’m massaging my legs.
A month of literally wandering around Europe has definitely damaged the legs a little bit. Not to mention that I forgot my sneakers in the RV in Vermont and have been traveling exclusively on a pair of Vans. Not exactly the most comfortable for walking all day every day, but who am I to complain?I guess I could have purchased some new sneakers somewhere. Alas, hindsight. As long as these legs are in good working order for Prague next weekend, who cares, right? After that they can rest on a nice 8-hour flight home.
If you’ve read this far, or just skipped to the bottom for some reason, here comes the fun part. Barcelona wants YOU! Yes, in our discussions, Pol and Aina agree, that the biggest thing missing is a coach. If you want to come for the season, or even just part of it, they’d love to have you. If you’re even mildly curious, drop them a line. Their website is http://www.barcelonabandits.com or you can find them on Facebook, like I did, with the simple search of ‘Barcelona Lacrosse’.
Even if you don’t think you’d specifically want to come to Barcelona, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you’d be interested in coaching SOMEWHERE abroad. If you pick a country, chances are we can get you in touch with someone who would love to have you. Travel the world and do what you love.
Trust me, it really doesn’t get any better!