10,800 miles and almost 40 hours after leaving Boston, two Americans landed in Adelaide, Australia. My friend and lacrosse teammate Christian Cook and I are those Americans and we are here to play lacrosse for the Woodville Warriors of South Australia.
The fastest growing sport in the United States has altered the course of my life in so many wonderful ways; it introduced me to some of my closest friends, it taught me about hard work and motivation and it provided me the opportunity to attend St. Michael's College in Burlington, Vt. And now, only days after graduating from college, a time in which most players' careers come to a close, lacrosse has brought me halfway across the world to an area where awareness needs to be brought to this outstanding sport.
I have to admit I half expected to land in a desert with countless kangaroos and koalas roaming around the plane. To the rest of America who believes this is what Australia is all about, you are incorrect. The truth is Adelaide and its outskirts are very much like Boston. In fact, if it weren't for driving on the left side of the road, eveybody's Australian accent and of course the outrageously high prices of beer, I'd think I were still in the States. I've spend almost a week here and I am still yet to see my first kangaroo (although word is it there is a park nearby where there is a plethera of kangaroos and koalas).
The most noticeable thing about this part of the world is the attitude of the people who occupy it. Everyone is unbelievably welcoming; our new head coach, the coordinator who got us here and three of our teammates left work to meet us at the airport last Friday. Living with one of the captains, Steven Fisher (Fish), has been great. He and his wife have gone very out of their way to make our stay comfortable. The team as a whole has been extremely gracious to us as well. I think of the movie Miracle when the player from Minnesota is invited to join the USA team and the players react by telling Coach Brooks they want him gone. Playing for the Warriors couldn't be more different than that- on Saturday when we went to Adelaide as a team I had my dinner bought for me and players were handing me beers (which was nice because, again, they're very expensive).
Now to the lacrosse! Our Woodville team lost on Saturday to West Torrens, 12-9. It was a tough loss because we know we could have played better. We didn't come alive until the last five minutes but it will only motivate us to play better next week. It's amazing playing with these guys as they're all about having a fun time off the field, but when that first whistle blows they turn on a switch and all they want to do is win.
It is very interesting playing in this league. After coming from St. Mike's, a NCAA Division II school in the Northeast-10 conference (the most competitive conference? I think so), I was looking forward to a different type of play. The teams here don't have 6 practices a week and the youth programs aren't what they are in America so the skill level is certainly different, but its still very competitive. The most similar thing between Australian and American lacrosse is the desire to win.
Only 15 players are allowed to suit up for each game, which is nice because it makes for a lot of playing time. It is also tough because there is a lot of running as possessions are much shorter. In this league, working the ball around isn't quite as prevelant, which is both good and bad. Teams rely on good one-on-one dodgers who usually look to score more than anything else. One of my goals is to help the Warriors realize that dodging to score is great, but sometimes the best thing to do when you get past your defender is to keep your head up and look for that open lay-up on the crease. Other things an American should know if they ever decide to come down under for some lax is that there is a longer pause before face-offs and that the referees call EVERYTHING! It seemed as though there was a penalty every other possession. Overall, however the lacrosse is a great experience- its fun, competitive and the teammates are extremely close with each other.
As my trip advances I will blog more and more about the lacrosse experience. The Woodville Warriors are expecting another St. Mike's Purple Knight any day now and I'm sure we'll all welcome Tyler Violette with the same open arms Christian and I received not long ago.