I went to Denver to ref games, and I came back with an entirely new perspective on lacrosse. I knew that lacrosse was played outside of North America, but it is one thing to know that and another thing to witness. I got to see thousands of people cheering on their teams in languages I did not understand. I got to see Team Uganda win it’s first ever game in international competition in a one-goal, come-from-behind victory. I got to watch Team New Zealand perform their Haka. I got to meet the Thompson brothers. I got to watch the officials call timeout to hand the ball scored to Team China’s Coach after they scored their first international goal. I got to witness the incredible connection that lacrosse provides to people across the globe.
There is no way to recap every great moment I experienced while at the World Games, but here are the experiences that were just too cool:
Team Uganda Wins!
While walking to catch the 2:15 shuttle back to the dorms I saw a ton of people holding cameras near Field 2. I asked one of the gentlemen near the end line what was going on and he said, “Uganda’s up by one goal with 30 seconds left!” Suddenly, I didn’t have to catch the shuttle. This was easily the biggest feel-good moment of the tournament for me, and from what I could tell everyone else at that field too. Since this was the last game on the field for the day the party didn’t end. All the players ran around the field to a standing ovation by the fans and everyone had one word to say: “Awesome!”
The officials coordinator asked me if I wanted to be the Red Hat for the Iroquois-Australia game. The headset I’m wearing in the picture connected me to the TV Truck, and it was my job to inform the officiating crew when the broadcast was live or to hold them if replays were going on. Picked up on all the lingo that is used to flip cameras and how they marked plays for a new replay. Definitely a unique experience!
One of my coaches from back in the day, John Pritzlaff, was playing on Team New Zealand with his two brothers, which made watching their lacrosse Haka even more exciting. I still have no idea what the exact translation is, but the video below explains the ideas behind the Haka. I will say that it is not possible to witness this in person and not get swept up in the excitement and energy.
Run For Your Lives!
I had just gotten settled at the international ref tent after my set of festival games, when a massive storm rolled over the mountains. We got word that the fields were being evacuated and everyone had to get to the stadium for cover. There were about six officials under the tent, but about two dozen bags from the officials who were out working games. Someone shouted, “Everyone grab a bag!” and suddenly I’m double-timing it to the Stadium Press Box loaded up like a sherpa with all the other refs. All the bags were saved!
One experience was a little surreal. I had the honor of officiating an Open/Elite festival game between Team Tokyo and Team Tokai, two teams from Japan. The game was excellent. Both teams played with speed, finesse, and grace. On the rare occasions where I threw a flag I had to get the attention of the player who fouled and then signal the violation. No argument at all. Every player nodded their head and then ran briskly to the penalty box to serve their time. I can assure you that was not the case in the rest of the men’s club games. I didn’t really know how to accept a player accepting a penalty so mildly. The other cool part about this game was after the player shook hands each player lined up shoulder to shoulder and bowed to our officiating crew. We bowed back and shook hands with all the players.
I consider myself very lucky to have experienced this entire event, and it is unlikely that a World Games with this many teams and festival participants will happen again in the US for a while since putting this together was a massive undertaking. Still, even if I never experience a World Games on this scale again the memories from the past ten days are going to stay with me for a very long time.