Kids Lacrosse the World

Guest article by Kelly Case
State University of New York New Paltz

At midnight on August 24th, Cori Fain and I anxiously stood at the airport awaiting the arrival of Elliott Couch and Samson Tan, two lacrosse coaches from America, in anticipation for a week of well, we had no idea.
ETA Kelly Case with her students and Lacrosse the World representatives Elliott Couch and Samson Tan

Around 1:00 am, after 40 hours of travel, the coaches stumbled through immigration carrying four duffle bags filled with metal rods, funny looking plastic nets and a slew of hard, rubber balls. As we strategically piled the equipment and coaches into our car, we dropped the bomb that we had another 3 hours of travel to our tiny town in the mountains. It was in that moment that I knew it was going to be a sensational week. They didn’t complain or ask to sleep in, and their energy was something only comparable to a five-year-old at a birthday party; in fact, they were the ones knocking on my door before I was ready to go to school the next morning.

In the weeks prior to their arrival I was terrified, assuming that all that could go wrong inevitably would go wrong.

My students will hate lacrosse—”Miss, too hot lah, miss, this game too hard”or they just wont come.

Elliott and Samson are going to be culturally insensitive and offend my students and teachers.

The luggage will get lost and we will have no equipment and then Miss Kelly will have just brought two random men from America to hang out in Ranau for a week.

My mentor will tell me that school is cancelled August 24th – September 4th for the sultans wifes birthday. I dont know, literally anything could ruin this project.

Well, thanks to more people than I can count in ways that I can never repay, the morning of August 25th made clear that the lacrosse program would survive and thrive at SMK Mat Salleh. We started practice that afternoon, and the teachers and students at my school were enthralled. We gathered such an audience, and the kids on the team were beyond excited to be part of something brand new. The week Elliott and Samson spent at my school was more successful than I could have imagined. By the end of the week, we had created a team bond so strong that we were calling each other family.

The SMK Mat Salleh lacrosse team

Bringing lacrosse to my students was important to me for reasons that extend way beyond the game itself. Being a part of teams throughout my elementary, middle and high school years played a major role in making me who I am today and contributed tremendously to my academic and social success, preparing me for college and life outside of my hometown. In my experience, having a team to support you on the field naturally translates to other aspects of life, and that level of support is hard to duplicate through other types of relationships. Watching these bonds form for my students has made me feel like I have given them something monumental, lasting and irreplaceable. Even though they cannot tangibly hold it or see it, I could not be more satisfied with this gift.

At the end of the coaches time in Ranau, Elliott and Samson both gave lovely and inspiring speeches to my students about all they had accomplished throughout the week, but the most inspiring words for me came from one of my students. At the end of Elliotts speech, he expressed the importance of being a team, supporting each other on and off the field and continuing to practice to encourage this bond and of course improve as lacrosse players. In response to this, one of my students shouted We are family. Ohanameans family and family means nobody gets left behind. Yes, she quoted Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and yes it was corny, but it was mostly beautiful because I knew she meant it, and fostering that bond between students was a major reason for bringing lacrosse to Mat Salleh.
Lacrosse practice at SMK Mat Salleh

Not only has lacrosse embedded a team culture in my school, but it has also given my students an opportunity to challenge themselves. It took a great amount of courage for students to come out with their peers to try this funny looking game with new English speaking people, but they did it and they excelled at it. Lacrosse is a fundamentally and physically challenging game and by the end of the week they were playing full field scrimmages. They got it and they love it. Since the coaches have left Ranau, we have continued practicing and certainly not by force. I have at least two students everyday that make me confirm lacrosse practice for the week. I have students message me about how lacrosse has changed their life, inspired them to want to travel to America to become a coach and has given them big dreams. I am ecstatic that the game of lacrosse has instilled a sense of motivation and commitment in my students that I had not seen in them all year.

Needless to say, inviting Kids Lacrosse the World to my school has been a tremendous success in multiple aspects and has helped me achieve the year-long goals I had for my students. It was worth every worry, every email, every written proposal and every headache along the way. I cannot find the words to express how happy I am with the turnout of this program and what it has done for my teachers, myself and of course my students, the SMK Mat Salleh lacrosse team.


One thought on “Kids Lacrosse the World

  1. How do you say thank you when there are so many people to thank?.Firstly,thank you Fulbright Malaysia for choosing our school,SMK Mat Salleh as part of your program.It's been an amazing year with our ETA,Miss Kelly. I'm going to sound like a baby because at this very moment,I'm crying real hard because Miss Kelly just left a few minutes ago.I don't want her to leave and if it's possible I want a plane ticket to NY as well 😦 Yeah,time goes by even faster with your love ones . Miss Kelly, thank you for helping me with my exchange-student form to America.I was hoping to get it but I didn't. I was pretty disappointed but I am still extremely happy to be with you all these months together with Miss Cori and Miss Katelyn.Thank you too for introducing Coach Matt,Coach James ,Coach Samson and of course, lacrosse.I still have thousands of things to say and believe me,this is not the end to the things I want to say.I had a real good time with all of you .If you're reading this Miss Kelly,I want you to know that I love you terribly and I'm going to miss you terribly.Thank you very much for the memory ❤ Oh and, it's not goodbye,its see you again (: ILY miss.

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