How To Start A National Lacrosse Program

BDA Lax Four Fathers

How do you start a national lacrosse program? Step 1: Invite Andy Soucie, Ernie Theriault, Kirk Bridgewater, and Evan Schemenauer to live in your country for a few years.  Step 2: Follow their lead.


Within an hour of your invite Evan will already know every single law your government has enacted concerning the formation of a national sports governing body; Andy will already know of three potential locations to begin playing lacrosse and the best hardware store to find PVC pipe in order to build custom homemade goals; Ernie will already have thought of 1,500 different color combinations and logo’s for your potential team uniforms and schwag; and Kirk will have taken those ideas and put them into digital artwork.


Basically that’s how Bermuda Lacrosse got to where it is today.  Without the above Bermudians and Ex-pats lacrosse in Bermuda would not exist as we now know it.


Andy, Ernie, and Kirk all met while living in Bermuda.  The local, Kirk, befriended the Canadian, Ernie, who was introduced to the American, Andy.  Andy also happened to be married to a Bermudian; Maggie.   They started throwing around at Bernard Park using nothing more than 20-year old sticks from their high school playing days and a beat up trashcan as a goal. 


Eventually Andy built a goal out of PVC pipe and fishnets while more people continued to join.  The trio placed ads in the papers and through their connections enough people started to play where they thought they should import some actual, bona fide lacrosse equipment.


Enter stage left: Evan.  Mr. Schemenauer was a well-respected official in the local ball hockey league and, being the faithful Canadian that he is, he felt a national sense of duty to join the local lacrosse club.  The club was starting to take on an official look, eh? Where would lacrosse be without guys like this; North America has Gary, we have Evan. Right…


Anyway Evan was pretty good with rules and making sure they are followed. He went about filing paperwork with Bermuda’s government to form a local charity so the club would look more official when they went asking for donations.  He applied to the ILF and got that ball rolling, and it was his idea to try to compete in the 2006 World Championships.


“But Evan, we’re just a bunch of weekend warriors playing for bragging rights on a 21 square mile rock in the middle of the ocean. Why would anyone let us play in the world championships? Not to mention our average age is 36, those teams are 22” was the cry.


“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it” was the reply from Evan. And sure enough, a short time later the club was making plans to travel to Ontario to play against college kids and pros alike at the world championships. 


I almost feel guilty that I sort of stole my way into that lacrosse experience. 


It was March 2006 and I had just beat the crap out of my French friend Mustapha at the local charitable sporting event known to all in Bermuda as ‘Fight Night.’  The local Teachers Rugby Club puts it on each year as a means for players in the league to have it out with their rivals, all in the name of fun and good causes.  Anyone can sign up, and it’s often more good laughs than good fights. 


It’s the best-run event I’ve experienced in Bermuda and I signed up to take on Mus after he was talking smack on New Years Eve about the French bailing out the good ole U S of A and how soccer is more fun to watch than baseball (I’m from Boston, and the sweet nectar contributed by Mr. Sam Adams that night just told me that my friend had just spoken blasphemy).  Like any good Bostonian, I needed to defend the honor of my life’s love: The US and the BoSox.


After the event I was searching the papers for any press from my fight (the ref had called it, TKO in the 2nd, because Mus couldn’t hack it any longer) and I came across an article about the local lacrosse club having been accepted into the Ontario games.  Having played some club lax in college (Stonehill to be exact, better known for it’s women’s lax than men’s) I went to the next practice. 


A guy named ‘Dog’ welcomed me in and let me use an extra D-pole for that days scrimmage.  At the end of the day good ole Ernie broached the subject “Ok I gotta ask since no one else has, how’d you get that black eye? Did it come to fistacuffs last Friday on Front Street or something?” (The local bar scene).


I explained the Fight Night scenario and he said “Welcome to Bermuda Lacrosse, have a beer. Would you like to play with us in Canada?”


So I went, it was an amazing lacrosse experience I could have never imagined, and it justified in my mind the decision to move to Bermuda.  (The decision to move to Bermuda came when I felt I needed a completely fresh start after I’d quit my job and been dumped by some chic who didn’t think I liked spending time at the beach with her.


Funny – I now live on the beach and work in sports (sorta); every guys dream.


That covers the history up to 2006. Next time: 2008 and beyond!


I mention above that BDA Lax wouldn’t be where it is today without those 4 guys.  Obviously there are many more, and some that didn’t step up to the plate until after 2006 because they weren’t around until then or didn’t have the opportunity.


The club would have no idea about how to order equipment or get it to the island without the help of Steve Velotti.  His ideas and organizational skills are second to none. Many of my ideas and much of my drive comes from the support I’ve received from my new friend and teammate Ken Winford.  Pete ‘DB’ Rodday is an invaluable asset to this club and without him I don’t think we’d ever have such good socializing after games, nor the comic relief we’ve all come to enjoy.  He handles a pretty good stick too. Tony Sampson has access to people ‘in the know’ that we otherwise wouldn’t have. He keeps a full cooler too. Lindsay, Sarah, and Minta; the women’s club wouldn’t exist without them.  Jon Hecksher; we would have been lost in Ontario without him. Probably would have been sleeping on the streets too. How could we play on the beach without Dana’s tent? We wouldn’t receive half the press that we do without the hard work of Walter Brown at Mid Ocean News and Earl Basden at Island Stats.  Never would we be on TV without Alex Dill and Travis Caines of Onion TV Bermuda.  And our biggest sponsor this year Premier Dr. Ewart Brown and Bermuda Department of Tourism.





2 Responses to How To Start A National Lacrosse Program

  1. D Hillier says:

    Read the blog, love the story,keep it up, you guys are hot!

  2. Evan Schemenauer says:

    Gosh, the good old days… remember it well. Got an e-mail from another player on the ball hockey team stating a Canadian guy (Ernie) wanted some guys to start a lacrosse program, no experience necessary, and he had equipment, just bring your hockey gloves. That first day there were 5 of us, 4 of which would be ultimate mainstays, Ernie, myself, Kirk and Matt (Hartford) Clifford. We started at Bermard Park using either a garbage can or a parking gate as a net, whatever we could find in the lot.

    Eventually Andy built the fishnet/PVC net but we still had no goalie (let alone any equipment) so we started by putting the parking gate and a bunch of sticks in the net. Only problem was if you shot high, the ball was headed for he outfield of the ballpark. After a while Andy shipped in a real net and he must have spent about $3000 or more buying us equipment, but would never take a dime from anyone to help pay for it all. The games then became a game of clear the ball, turn around, and attack the same net. We would play 3 on 3, 4 on 4, 5 on 5 if we were lucky. I remember one day we went 7 on 7 and couldn’t believe our eyes.

    Finally after about 2 years, Andy got permission from the BFA to use gym field instead of Bermard Park. Not quite as visible of a spot but surely a much better place to play. Lots of good memories. All those guys drinking into the late night hours earshot from the police barracks. The backstop that Andy bought to stop balls from going into the jungle on the north end, that probably didn’t stop one ball the whole time we had it up. The delayed or cancelled games because the field was a parking lot when something was going on at national stadium, or the few gams we had where people didn’t move their vehicles so you had a few extra defenders on the field (or especially watching the embarrased look on a few ladies faces coming to pick up their vehicles at 4pm the day after rugby classic).

    I remember the discussion abut the worlds clearly. It was mid-October 2005 and the guys were having the custmoary beverages after a long game. The discussion that night got to the fact that we should look at going to a tournament in the next year. A few ideas were thrown around, Tampa, Aspen, Newport and then somehow the discussion moved towards going to watch the Worlds in London, Ontario. Knowing the story as to how our ball hockey team made it to the world championships about 4 years earlier, I made the comment “I bet I can get us into the Worlds.” Everyone started laughing. Bird even said, “Good luck with that.” But I told everyone “Give me a few weeks nad let’s see what I can do about that.” I still remember the look on everyone’s face when word came back from Tom Hayes of the ILF that they would love to have us. A big thanks has to go out to Tom for sticking up for us with the ILF brass to make sure we were involved in the worlds. It was a no brainer that we were going, you don’t get these chances every day.

    Even though I’ve left the island, my days at BDA lacrosse are my fondest memories of the island. You’ll never meet a better group of guys to not only get along with and get away from the stresses of life for a few hours each week, but a group of guys that work as hard as they do to get what little of a program we have on the island and make it huge. And it is great to see that guys like Mike Totman, Steve Velotti and Steve Michel have taken the lead in keepign the growth of the program going after guys like Andy and I left the island. Hopefully the program will only continue to grow so it is there for generations to come.

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