Success in Borneo On and Off the Field

Twelve days in Ranau proved to be just the right amount of time needed to produce the results Kids Lacrosse The World sought in their first trip abroad to an international community to introduce the game of lacrosse.  Just a month ago, nearly everyone in the state of Sabah had never heard the term "lacrosse" let alone understood what is was and how it could pull a school together in tough times after a recent major earthquake.  Stop by SMK Mat Salleh School in Ranau, Sabah today and you could find numerous students playing catch outside on the football field as well as hear students quietly discuss the game among friends and how it has affected them.

I bought my plane ticket to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia just two months ago, teetering on the edge of thinking to myself "is this a good idea for our first program? Who is Kelly Case the English teacher constantly reaching out to bring a new sport to her town? Could we really pull this off with minimal sponsors and partners?" I enlisted the help of a friend from New York City to come with me and put this program together.  Samson Tan had previously started a lacrosse program in inner city areas to promote health and wellness as well as giving students who previously wouldn't have had a chance to learn the game an opportunity.  Before we knew it, Samson and I were packed into a tiny car, with tons of bags and equipment ready to immerse ourselves in a unknown culture to teach lacrosse.

The cheers received from our players at the end of our time in Ranau couldn't be louder and more heartfelt.  A student came up to me and thanked me, not for bringing lacrosse to her home town, but for providing the chance for her to make new friends and enjoy herself being with others from playing a new sport.  She explained that all she does is study and go to school, with not much other opportunity to play sports or be with other students.  This profound impact is what I hoped would come from introducing a new sport and idea to a peaceful place that has limited resources and capital income which severely limited the opportunity of students and children alike.

During our tenure at SMK Mat Salleh, we were able to teach lacrosse to just over 200 students, involving them in our daily learning clinics and free time after class hours.  We also focused a 2-3 hour session everyday with 35-40 students aged 15-18 to develop their understanding of the game and training, hoping to create a sustainable team, roughly split between girls and guys who would currently and in the future represent the Ranau region.  Along with our programming, we donated two full sized lacrosse goals, 26 girls/boys lacrosse sticks, and 32 balls.  All of our equipment was sourced locally in Denver, Colorado being donated by numerous youth lacrosse clubs, associations, and high school teams.  Their couldn't be a better way to get rid of older equipment than given to these passionate, beautiful students of Ranau.

Reflecting on our trip a month later, I see a promising future for the Ranau Lacrosse Program. First I have to thank Kelly Case for her gracious generosity of her home and car while we stayed in town to get around and collect supplies last minute.  As well her devotion to promoting the game with her students and actively participating during our clinics.  She has continued to hold practices since we have left, working to sustain the program during tough times in the Ranau area (wildfire haze and smoke coupled with a recent major earthquake that damaged water systems).   We have a lot of work to do, encouraging school officials to get involved and and growing the game in the area.  This week, Kelly, the local Fulbright English Teacher Assistant at SMK Mat Salleh is holding a clinic with four student athletes at two locals schools to introduce the game and raise awareness of how they can get involved.  With this production on the local level Kids Lacrosse The World can focus on two more schools in the local area to hold clinics and create programs of which can compete in the first interscholastic lacrosse competition in South East Asia.