The Island is Stocked

April 24, 2009

saltusyouth-copy1Last year our friends from Inside Lacrosse Magazine came down to check out the first ever King of the Rock lacrosse tournament.  It was basically an exhibition even for our U19 squad to get some competition before heading off to the World Championships, and one of our men’s players had asked a friend from home to bring a team down.  They did, and it was a great time.

Prior to the weekend tournament the team was practicing at one of the local schools and the students were amazed to see what this sport was.  I won’t go into details as you can read Sean Burns article where he does it more justice than I could, here: http://www.insidelacrosse.com/page.cfm?pagerid=2&news=fdetail&storyid=191042&team=yes but basically we introduced the kids on the island to lacrosse that day.  (Search InsideLacrosse.tv for video from that day as well, just use “bermuda” as your search term).

So Sean had to get a story to justify the trip for the magazine, and he chose to focus on what he thought could be the future of lacrosse in Bermuda.  Well not even one year later I’m happy to report that while we have a large number of kids playing on the island, Saltus is our most successful program and counts 45 boys and girls as lacrosse players.  The school is amazed at how fast the sport has grown there, and they tell us we are the most successful club sport they have in terms of attendance. 

This success showed itself this past week when we had over 30 kids playing lacrosse for only the second time in many of their lives while the cricket team practiced next to us with 15 players; and cricket is the national sport!

We currently have over 75 kids playing in total in three different programs: Saltus, the Bermuda High School, and a weekend program.  Our weekend program was a bit of an improvisation on our part.  One local, very popular athlete, wanted her son to learn the game so she brought him down to one of the men’s practices.  He apparently enjoyed himself as next weekend he brought two of his friends.  They were all great athletes, and said some more of their friends were interested.  Then it got around to the local youth hockey league that kids were playing lacrosse, and before we knew what we were doing we had 20 kids coming out regularly.

We couldn’t have them play with the men’s program as they’d need more detailed instruction, so we began coaching after our own men’s practices.   We were borrowing equipment from any men’s player we could convince to stick around, and eventually we were able to get some good, inexpensive equipment from Harrow Sports.  Harrow have been great to us, and I reccommend everyone check out their growing line of lacrosse products. 

Along with some discounted helmets from Onyx and subscriptions to Inside Lacrosse Magazine, our youth program is developing nicely and Bermudians are learning about this game, ready to compete on the world stage and hopefully in the NCAA.   Along with our women’s program, we are reaching toward 150 lacrosse players in Bermuda!

Hopefully the momentum will continue, and please help us out by either by purchasing a tshirt, donating a small amount of money, or coming to our second annual men’s and women’s lacrosse tournament in September.  All the info you need can be found at http://www.bermudalacrosse.com/

You can also join our facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=5517693331

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2008 U19 World Games

June 25, 2008

Continuing to build our program, we have entered a team of Bermudian students in the 2008 ILF World Championships to be held in Coquitlam, BC, Canada from July 3-12.  I will make a good effort to update this blog daily with news and happenings from Vancouver.  I’ve got a lot to do up there, but I’ll at least update on game days with final scores and game summaries.

The game schedule is: (Pacific Standard Time; 4 hours behind Bermuda)

July 3 12:45pm vs. Finland
July 4 9:30am vs. Wales
July 5 10:45am vs. Germany
July 6 11:15am vs. Scotland
July 7 10:45am vs. South Korea
July 8-10 These will be the play-in/placing games. We won’t know our schedule for these until all our games have been played and we are seeded against the competition.
July 11 off day
July 12 Championship Game

Most countries build from the ground up: a youth program, high school teams, then a men’s league.  In Bermuda, a different world, we do things the way we want and that’s that. We started with the men, got a few U19’s interested, next we’ll build the youth. 

My next post will describe my plans for learning how to build a national ATHLETE. What will it take to mold a former NCAA athlete back into top form to compete at the men’s international lacrosse world championships? We’ll find out over the next two years…


Building a Destination: Bermuda Lacrosse

June 20, 2008

Earlier we discussed how we can build a brand here in Bermuda.  I mentioned the chance to position ourselves as the premiere destination for lacrosse.  Everyone wants to go on vacation, and everyone should want to play or watch lacrosse, so why not combine both in Bermuda!

A major step took place toward that goal this weekend in the form of the innaugural King of the Rock lacrosse tournament.  Inside Lacrosse was here to cover it, and I really couldn’t do it any better justice, so if you want to catch up on the action follow this link:  http://blogs.insidelacrosse.com/category/bermuda-blog/

So continuing with our theme of how to build a national program, what are some of the projects one should take on in order to accomplish this goal? First, write a letter to John Jiloty inviting him to send a couple reporters down to your country for the weekend to cover the local lacrosse scene.  Tell him not to worry about blowing his travel budget, our department of tourism has got em covered.

Check.

Next, find some competition to come check you out and give you a real game in case you don’t have enough teams for your own league yet. (we don’t). Make sure they include division I NCAA lacrosse players, many of whom have championship rings from years gone by. Throw in a few professional players and then pit them against your Sr. men’s team, most of whom never played above division III and the closest they got to being a professional has more to do with those new NCAA athletics/academics commercials than earning a living on the field.

Check.

Turn the theme of the weekend away from them coming to beat you up on the field to you beating up their bodies in the local bar scene.  It also wouldn’t hurt to ask them to give some mini-clinics on the field during their game against the U19’s who are going to the world championships next month.  Every little bit helps.

Check.

Bring them out on the town both nights they are there, give em a party they’ll never forget with plenty of Dark n Stormy’s, introduce them to some girls, including a random run-in with one of their former babysitters who happens to be in town visiting a friend who lives here. Small world eh? Then make sure one of them goes home with that babysitter and has her drop him off the next day at the field in his clothes from the night before.

Check.

That is a surefire way to make sure they return home singing your praises.  Now the entire lacrosse world knows you exist, and to top it off they realize that the best parties happen in Bermuda while you pretend to be here to play lacrosse…

Next year: Double your efforts.


We Are A #1 Brand

April 29, 2008

So how do you build a brand? Do you need a product, a catchy slogan, or a better service?  Well…what is it? I have no idea, I’m not a marketer.  Yet.

 

They tell me you need to capture the essence of your product, and demonstrate so that it stands out from all the similar products.  There are many successful lacrosse brands that have been built on a winning tradition; Syracuse, Duke, Hopkins, and UNC just to name a few.  There are national programs like Team USA and Team Canada that are known for being the dominant international teams.  (The Aussies aren’t far behind, and they will be fun to watch as they have some great fans who we got to meet in Ontario…Aussie Aussie Aussie…).

 

There are serious club teams like Team Toyota, Crease Monkeys, and the LI Jesters to name a few.  Of course there are professional outfits, and from what I can see the NLL and MLL are building great brands with great fan appreciation.

 

Are these the teams we need to compete with in our brand category? Can we compete with them and their winning traditions? Ha! Absolutely, unequivocally, positively…no. Freaking. Way. At least not yet. 

 

So we can’t compete with them on wins. How about showmanship? Well accept for our good friend Pete Rodday’s simple stick tricks and Ernie’s masterful face dodge, I’m afraid we lose out to the Powell’s and Kyle Harrison right there.

 

So we aren’t champions like Hopkins, and we aren’t a Globetrotters-like highlight reel.  What are we? Well we are the number one lacrosse program in the Atlantic. Literally.  I’m serious. Name a lacrosse team other than us in the Atlantic. You can’t.  Ok so I’ve established that we are number one at something; it’s always a plus to be a category leader.

 

So how do we build this image, this brand? How do we get people to notice us, how do we stand out from our competition?  Lucky for us, until the system of plate tectonics creates another archipelago between the North American and European continents, which then goes on and starts a lacrosse program, we’ve got this number one position on lock-down.

 

Why do we even want to put effort into building this brand if we have no fear of competition? For that we look to our ultimate goal of developing a sustainable youth lacrosse program on the island.  In order to do that we need to make lacrosse popular in Bermuda among the cricket-loving population.  The US competes with baseball, we compete with cricket.

 

For this we’ll need outside help, and to get that help we need to build our brand. 

 

Bermuda Lacrosse is a luxury.  People can play, and people can travel to play, lacrosse anywhere.  Why come to Bermuda? Well that’s easy; why wouldn’t you come to Bermuda!  We need to position ourselves as the ultimate lacrosse destination.  The West Coast has Hawaii; the East Coast needs Bermuda. Luckily most of our work has been done for us through years of promotion by the Bermuda Department of Tourism, one of our largest sponsors.  

 

Now we need the lacrosse community to stand up and take notice, and that’s now visibly taking place on the triangle’s horizon…

 

Bermuda Lacrosse; it’s like bobsledding…in Jamaica.

 

 

 

 


How To Start A National Lacrosse Program

April 16, 2008

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.