During a visit to the Bahamas a few years ago, rising junior and Saint Andrew’s lacrosse player Jack Ewen and his friend Brady Labell took something a cab driver said to heart.
“He said kids in the Bahamas want sports and they don’t have much to do,” said Labell. “We wanted to bring the idea of lacrosse to the Bahamas because it’s the sport we love and the only sport we play.”
That friendly discussion launched a spirited exchange of ideas between the two student athletes, who have been playing lacrosse since first grade.
Spurred by a passion for their sport, the young men worked with Saint Andrew’s assistant lacrosse coach and faculty member RJ Dawson to identify a community center that served underprivileged students in the Bahamas, ranging in age from 5 – 17. The result was the launch of the nonprofit organization, One Lacrosse Bahamas. Click here to view coverage of their organization, which was featured this summer in the Bahamas’ Eyewitness News 5.
Ewen and Labell worked with Dawson to compose an informative and historical presentation about lacrosse in 2020.
“We gave the students a 10-minute background lesson about lacrosse and how it connects to Native Americans and we shared our personal story about what we loved about the game of lacrosse,” said Ewen.
However, due to social distancing restrictions required during the arc of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the two friends were able to share their presentation with Bahamian students one year later, during the summer of 2021.
The student athletes’ message ranged from the social-emotional aspects of the sport, and how the sport has made them better people and players, to the more fundamental aspects of the game—scooping the ground ball, passing, and throwing.
And while the two spent most of their physical time teaching on the fields, they were also taking in profound points of learning themselves.
“Some of the kids in our camp don’t have running water or electricity and the kids and their families literally have to fill two-gallon jugs and carry them back to their houses to use for bathing and drinking water,” said Labell.
Dawson said the athletic project represents so much of what Saint Andrew’s athletic program seeks to promote among student-athletes.
“It is all about developing passion and taking that passion and sharing it with others,” said Dawson. “To see the smiles on the campers’ faces each day, we know that we met the objectives we set out to accomplish.”
Labell said he expanded his knowledge about the breadth of the experiences and home lives of the students he coached. While they were eager to learn something new, he and Ewen were learning right along with them.
“They loved it more than we thought they would love it,” said Ewen. “I think they loved getting out of the community and playing with their friends.”
While Ewen and Labell to return to school, they hope the success of their nonprofit continues as Bahamian coaches on the ground who worked with Ewen and Labell this summer organize weekly games for the Bahamian students. And, as interest grows in the island country, Ewen and Labell said they hope to build upon the interest in One Lacrosse Bahamas throughout their junior year by sharing the news with their peers and encouraging them to join them in supporting the gift of sport.
“The first week of our program in the Bahamas was a success but we feel we can grow this into something even bigger,” said Labell.
Ewen and Labell are scheduled to return to the Bahamas over winter break for a two-week camp and continue to grow the lacrosse program as well as the community needs for the program participants.