Editor’s note: Please welcome lacrosse pro Evan Connell to LAS! Evan recently returned from traveling with Scott Ratliff and the Give & Go Foundation to Costa Rica to help grow the game of lacrosse. Today he tells shares his story!
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I want to start off by saying lacrosse has given me more opportunities in this world than I could have ever imagined. I have traveled throughout the continental United States to play and coach. I have played in four NFL Stadiums and multiple MLS stadiums. I have coached internationally in England, Nicaragua, Spain, Costa Rica and Panama. This sport is a godsend.
I met Scott in Amsterdam while I was backpacking through Europe with my girlfriend last fall. A mutual friend, Marcus Holman, put us in touch and we hit it off. When Scott asked if I would coach a clinic for him while I was passing through Barcelona, I said yes without hesitation. I owe it to lacrosse to give back any chance I can. I had a blast coaching those guys in Barcelona, and I’m still in touch with a few of them to this day after only a few hours of hanging out. This is what is so cool about lacrosse: the sport is currently so small that there is an instant feeling of community between those who play, regardless of language, race or nationality. It is unlike any other sport in the world in this aspect.
Scott reached out to me when I was back in the States with another opportunity to volunteer with Give & Go, but on a much larger scale than a single clinic in Spain. He was traveling to Costa Rica and Panama and needed someone to coach with him. I had worked with Lacrosse the Nations in Nicaragua in the past, and I know firsthand what a rewarding experience it is to teach lacrosse to children. I immediately jumped at the opportunity. If you ever have a chance to volunteer internationally, in any facet, do it. It will change your life.
For our first clinic in Costa Rica, we arrived at a dirt field and set up the goals with no idea how many kids would show up. Turns out, we had no reason to worry. Kids swarmed from the surrounding neighborhood to pick up a stick. We had two hours to teach these kids lacrosse and show them our beautiful game. We started simple — just groundballs, passing and catching before moving on to shooting. My favorite part of clinics like these is to get in the goal and let them shoot on me. I make sure the kids have to earn their goals, but when they score it’s awesome! Watching the joy on the kids’ faces while running around playing lacrosse for the first time was just unbelievable.
After a few days in Costa Rica, we headed Bocas Del Toro, Panama to link up with Lacrosse the Nations (LTN). Javier, the LTN director, helped coordinate with the schools to allow us to teach gym class. We were very fortunate to have three gym classes a day to coach lacrosse. We were able to impact so many children. It seemed like we would have at least eight kids fall in love with the sport each day; none of them wanted to put down their sticks at the end of the class. I wish we could have stayed there for a little longer and coached the kids up. They really loved lacrosse!
We also helped LTN at their weekly practices, which were held on a basketball court next to the Caribbean ocean. Pretty much the perfect lacrosse field in my opinion. I loved it. At the end of practice, Javi allowed us to give a stick to one of the hardest working players. Before we left Bocas Del Toro, that player’s mom found us to tell us he hadn’t put the stick down.
Watching how excited kids get when they learn a skill is powerful. The kids we had an opportunity to coach had a huge hunger to experience a new sport. It was refreshing. Lacrosse, and perhaps sports in general, can be taken for granted in the US due to their relative accessible nature. This trip served as a reminder that this sport is truly special, and that we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact.
This absolutely was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so grateful for Give & Go for giving me this opportunity.