FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL LACROSSE
Developmental Clinician Report – Croatia: 10-12 June 2016
Submitted by Rick Mercurio and Bob DeMarco
In December of 2015, only five years after lacrosse was introduced as a sport, Croatia became the 53rd member of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL).
Several people helped to develop lacrosse in Croatia. Matej Bodul, a native sports enthusiast and President of the Croatian Lacrosse Association (CLA), began the effort along with a core group of players. They were assisted by Chris Voelker, CLA Director of Development. Chris has been instrumental in acquiring equipment for Croatia and has also helped to bring players from the U.S., Slovenia and Serbia to Croatia for clinics and assistance.
In the past year, Dino Mattessich joined the CLA as head coach of the Croatian National Team. He was a former NCAA champion player and head coach at the University of Maryland who now serves as Deputy Director of Athletics at Hofstra University. Dino is a Croatian-American, born in Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia), who immigrated to the U.S via Italy at the age of five.
Matej, Chris and Dino helped us tremendously in setting up, planning and coordinating our efforts to bring this developmental clinic to Croatia.
CLA Development Clinic Photos
DEVELOPMENTAL CLINICIAN REPORT
Thursday, June 9 — When we arrived at Zagreb International Airport we were met by Matej and a few of the CLA players. It was evident that they were excited and enthusiastic about the events that were to follow. Our conversations about lacrosse and culture on the way to the hotel made it apparent that lacrosse people co-exist in a much smaller world than others do. We arranged to meet that evening to discuss the itinerary for the upcoming clinics and to get a better understanding of needs and expected outcomes.
We heard complaints similar to those in many countries: equipment and available field space are difficult to come by. By pure determination and their love of the game, they find ways to overcome these obstacles.
Lacrosse players are able to obtain field space and time through their associations with friends in soccer clubs. Some of the more established soccer clubs own or lease fields and are willing to rent out time for a small fee. The CLA players also are very resourceful in obtaining equipment. Chris Voelker has been instrumental in this effort. We were advised that one of their players, Marko Duvnjak (Facebook alias-Marko De Bobby, not to be confused with FIL Development Committee Chair Bobby DeMarco), was presently in route via car to Italy to pick up equipment. Marko’s cousin, Bobby Duvnjak, plays for Harvard, whose team was on a tour in Italy. The Harvard players were willing to donate equipment to the CLA, and Marko took time off of work and from his family to make the nine-hour drive from Zagreb to the Harvard team’s location in Italy to pick up the equipment. Examples like this motivate us to do the best possible job we can when presenting developmental clinics.
Friday, June 10 — Arrangements were made for a meet-and -greet with some of the players and for a press conference. One of the CLA players provided a venue at his family-owned Hotel Fala. In attendance were members from the local newspapers and Milan Colic, representing the Mayor of Zagreb. It was a privilege to make an official presentation to the CLA welcoming them as the 53rd member of FIL.
Saturday, June 11 — We held our first on-field clinic at a soccer facility that had been lined for lacrosse. There were several cages, balls, cones and other equipment indicating that the CLA had prepared well. There were approximately 35 players, plus several beginners who had no previous lacrosse experience. Also in attendance were some players who made the trip from Slovenia and Serbia.
The level of play and enthusiasm were exceptional. The players were eager to learn and remained motivated throughout the entire 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. clinic. With three coaches, we were able to adequately provide attention to the various levels of skill and age. We focused the first session of the first day on individual and positional skills. Later on we progressed into transitional situations, demonstrations and discussions of game situations.
Sunday, June 12 — The second day we adjusted activities based on what we had learned on day one. Also, we had some new players who could not attend the previous session. We reviewed, spent some time on a progression of individual skills and then moved into team offense and defense. We spent the last half of the clinic scrimmaging. During the scrimmage we were impressed by the participants’ speed and game knowledge.
Following the clinic the players asked us to join them at an outdoor café in the City Center to watch the Croatian Soccer team play Turkey in the televised UEFA Euro games. Thousands of Croatians gathered throughout the center at these cafes to watch and to cheer Croatia on. The enthusiasm of the crowd was electrifying and contagious, and was especially exciting when Croatia won. Many of the CLA players talked about a day in the future when lacrosse might gain enough popularity to be televised in their country.
The CLA has a strong administrative structure. CLA President Matej is organized and dedicated. Furthermore, he has an excellent support base in CLA Director of Development Voelker and Head Coach Mattessich. There are also several players in the CLA that contribute to its growth and development and take pride and responsibility for maintaining a sound organization.
There are potential efforts for growth and expansion in the cities of Zombies, Olimpija, Osije, Varazdin and Split. The CLA also realizes that for the sport of lacrosse to develop to its full potential, an ongoing effort must continue to attract and develop younger lacrosse players. There are presently four elementary schools in Zagreb that have agreed to introduce the soft STX sticks into their physical education classes.
The hospitality of all the CLA players was exceptional. We enjoyed coaching them and remain honored to have been able to offer help and advice in their development. We look forward to seeing them at future FIL events.
CLA Primary Contacts
Additional Key Contacts
Croatian Lacrosse Association website: https://hrvatski-lacrosse.com/