By David Lasday
The last two summers the Israel Lacrosse Association has hosted two of the biggest sporting events in Israel’s history. In 2018, the Men’s World Lacrosse Championships, composed of 46 countries and 2000 players, brought thousands of fans to Israel to cheer on their teams competing at the Netanya Municipal Stadium and The Wingate Institute. In 2019, Israel hosted the ELF Women’s European Lacrosse Championships, composed of 16 countries and 500 players, starting the games with tours of the old city and opening ceremonies at the Kraft Family Sports Complex in Jerusalem, and closing them with the Israel Women’s National Team winning the silver medal against England on National Television from Tubroq field in Netanya.
While the Israel Lacrosse Association runs a winter service trip for high school lacrosse players from North America, the majority of our programming for Jewish North American players takes place over the summer. Each summer, since 2014, Israel Lacrosse has partnered with Amazing Israel to bring Birthright Lacrosse buses full of Jewish college lacrosse players to Israel; Many of them choosing to extend their trip to participate in our summer MASA program: Israel Premier Lacrosse League. Competing with their Israeli peers in eight cities throughout Israel, they tour the country, learn Hebrew and Israeli history, and immerse themselves in the local communities. The most important and impactful part of the program takes place helping develop the sport and coaching Israeli youth on Israel’s periphery.
While COVID-19 derailed everyone’s summer plans, postponing international tournaments, and closing Israel’s borders, it also opened an opportunity. We can attribute much of the success and possibly even the survival of our young startup, which continues to put the cart before the horse, to our ability to pivot. While our Israeli youth have been trained to pivot on the field our staff and most importantly our board are practiced in pivoting off of it. With college sports offering seniors who compete in spring sports another year of eligibility, and many colleges moving classes to Zoom, it opened the door to running a long term MASA Israel program for Jewish college lacrosse players. October 1st we will open our doors to Jewish college lacrosse players coming to Israel to train, compete, and grow, while forging strong bonds with our Israeli players and coaches.
With safety the number one concern, we as an organization will benefit from both the updates and rules set up by MASA and the Ministry of Health as well as the protocols put into place by the Ministry of Sport. Imagine a Jewish NBA Bubble. We look forward to training these college athletes how to utilize their status and influence to advocate for Israel and fight anti-semitism once they return to their college campuses. While we never know how the ball is going to bounce, we can continue to strengthen our pivot foot on and off the field.
David Lasday serves as the COO for the Israel Lacrosse Association. A social entrepreneur and 2010 PresenTense Summer Global Fellow, Lasday has been involved in developing sports based youth development initiatives such as Global Game Changers, Sticks For Kids and Hoops For Kids. Lasday can be reached at [email protected].