FEDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL LACROSSE
Developmental Clinician Report: Thessaloniki, Greece October 4-6, 2017
Submitted by Rick Mercurio, Bob DeMarco, Joanna Lignelli, Jane Pirie
The Staff – Bob DeMarco (Development Director), Rick Mercurio (Development Chair), Joanna Lignelli (clinician), Jane Pirie (clinician), Phil Pearson (referee’s clinician), Paul Bibby (referee’s clinician).
THESSALONIKI, Greece—As the FIL sets its sights on the Olympics, it seems only fitting that our latest development clinic would be held in Greece, home of the ancient games and twice host of the modern games.
FIL’s development team traveled to Greece in early October at the invitation of Bob Vlahakis, former general manager of the Greek Lacrosse Association (GLA). Bob had asked the FIL Development Committee to present a clinic in and around Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Bob, who has been instrumental developing the GLA and assisting with the organization and coordination of youth lacrosse development, put us in contact with Stepan Partemian, the GLA regional director and coordinator of athletics and student affairs at Anatolia College, which includes three divisions: elementary, high school and the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT). Without Bob, Stepan and the entire GLA, the clinic would not have been possible, and we are grateful for their hard work and support in planning and executing the event.
BACKGROUND AND PLANNING
Coordination of travel was challenging, as our staff had to depart from four U.S. states and our two referee clinicians from separate regions of England. All worked out well, and everyone arrived in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Stepan graciously greeted us at the airport and helped arrange for transportation to our hotel. He planned for us to have a staff dinner meeting later that evening at a local restaurant. Over delicious traditional Greek fare, Stepan offered with pride an explanation of each dish accompanied by an overview and insight into Greek history.
Getting down to lacrosse business, we established a tentative three-day program that included, for the first time, a development clinic for referees, most of whom had very little or no prior lacrosse experience or exposure. We knew this new venture would result, at least initially, in more questions than answers: how do we handle issues such as introduction of basic rules, developing officials and educating coaches in countries just starting to develop and promote lacrosse? We expected that it would be as much of a learning experience for our development committee as it would be a teaching one. Under the guidance of Don Blacklock, FIL technical director, the assignment was offered to Phil Pearson and Paul Bibby. They willingly accepted the challenge and did an outstanding job, despite having no prearranged plan or previous reference. Their professionalism, adaptability, willingness to assist and help in all facets of the clinic were noted and appreciated by the FIL development clinic staff and by all those involved in the GLA. Going forward, the experience that Phil and Paul gained will be useful in planning and crafting referee education and training during the initial phases of lacrosse development in other countries.
Three days of clinics followed, involving males and females of all ages including elementary, middle school, high school, college and post grad students. Another first was the workshop we gave each day in the late afternoon to physical education teachers from the Thessaloniki region interested in introducing lacrosse in their classes. They were an amazing group of motivated, enthusiastic professionals willing to try something new that was perhaps a little out of their comfort zone. They earned our respect and thanks for fully participating in the clinics after a long day of teaching. The GLA has set a standard of achievement for developing youth lacrosse in their country by encouraging teachers in some of their school districts to teach and promote the game. The growth of the sport in Greece will depend on the involvement of participants at an early age, and introducing lacrosse in the schools will help achieve this goal.
The following is a brief outline of the very ambitious schedule that we followed. The FIL development staff made every effort to give the GLA a comprehensive experience in a short amount of time.
Wednesday, Oct. 4, Thursday, Oct. 5 and Friday, Oct. 6
- 10 a.m.–1 p.m.: Elementary through high school physical education classes; two to three classes, depending on class schedules
- 1 p.m.– 2:30 p.m.: College students (club)
- 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Physical education teachers
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On Friday, the development team attended a meeting requested by Dr. Stamos Karamouzis, provost and vice president for academic affairs at The American College of Thessaloniki (ACT). Dr. Karamouzis spoke eloquently and shared his vision to establish men’s and women’s lacrosse teams on his university’s campus. The meeting included an overview by Bob DeMarco, FIL’s development director, highlighting the growth of lacrosse worldwide. He cited the expansion of lacrosse in the Mediterranean region of Europe, noting that if ACT chose to establish lacrosse teams they would have the option to compete with those in neighboring countries. Furthermore, Bob said that a lacrosse program would help attract international students to ACT from the U.S. and other lacrosse playing countries. In support of that goal, we recommended that the college hire a qualified full-time teacher/lacrosse coach. Because ACT adjoins a campus with the other Anatolia divisions, it also would be possible for that person to teach lacrosse at the elementary and high school levels while coaching the college team.
Dr. Karamouzis was appreciative of the FIL team’s recommendations and, in turn, we were glad to have had the opportunity to share ideas about growing the sport of lacrosse in Greece. We also thanked him for generously permitting us to use the college’s facilities for the clinic. We also extend special appreciation to John Kanaras, who volunteered his time and made the trip to Greece with additional bags full of equipment, and to Christina Daniskas, a Rutgers University graduate and intern in the ACT business administration office, whose time and lacrosse experience was invaluable.