There are 3 types of lacrosse in the lacrosse sporting world: field lacrosse, box lacrosse and tournament lacrosse. The first 2 require athleticism, skill, and dedication. The third requires the ability to consume copious amounts of alcohol, and still be able to catch a ball the next morning. This article will describe the third kind in all its glorious detail!
Our journey began on Friday 11th of June when we arrived at Bluesfest. Tents in hand, we marched to the field and set up base camp with the rest of the Irish contingency. Immediate drinking began as bottles of sambucha were opened, and pints of wine emptied. A strategic nous by the clubhouse in selling snakebite by the gallon(in actual petrol cans) resulted in many an early night and forgotten memories.
The Saturday morning, we struggled to wake up for our games. Crawling to the pitches, we just about made it in one piece. We had 3 games to play and it was going to be a long day, but we all managed to get up for our first game against Loughborough. As both sides were tired and still half asleep it was a scrappy game, but we managed to come away with a comfortable win. We had 2 more games with Bath and Bristol after lunch, and we had woken up by then. We were beginning to gel as a team against Bath, where we won again fairly comfortably, but almost threw the game away against Bristol. With a comfortable 5 goal lead at half time, we began to become complacent and the tired legs began to show. The offensive ride began to slack and Bristol brought the game back to within a goal but we managed to hold out for the win. With 3 wins out of 3 we knew we’d be through to the playoffs the following day and games would get even tougher!
Every year on the Saturday night there is a themed clubhouse party. This year’s theme was ‘Under the Sea’, which it pretty much was due to the torrential rain. Unlike other years, many didn’t dress up because of the weather, but those who did went all out. Highlights including a homemade diver’s costume, a giant jellyfish, and a float of 4 estuarine crocodiles(not alligators, they are found in fresh water) were hunting sea cows. The usual bluesfest band ’2 Choices’ were on form, and kept the crowd going into the night.
Sunday morning. Having been undefeated on Saturday we were through to the cup playoffs. We had tough competition in these 3 games against Dunkin’ Donuts, UK Lacrosse and Bristol Bombers. After losing to a strong Donuts side we faced Bristol, who we narrowly defeated the day before. On this day we won comfortably, which left us with the daunting challenge of UK Lacrosse, who were just too strong and experienced. We played hard, but lost to the team that would go on to win overall. This left us with a respectable 5th place finish.
Finishing the final game left us with the arduous task of packing up and leaving. We experienced the usual bluesfest anti-climax as the once crowded campsite quickly emptied. Due to rain, wind,and possible dementor-induced damage, our tent was full of holes and did not survive. A quick patronus charm allowed us to watch the final without any further D.I.D.(which worked).In a thrilling final between Samba Lax and UK lacrosse, even the rain couldn’t keep the fans away. Samba took a commanding 4-0 lead into half time, but UK Lax fought back hard to come out 5-4 champions. As everyone departed for reality, our tour had just begun.
After a brief interlude in the big W(Worthing),and a separation in Paris, we were reunited on Thursday 16th in the IMA Loft Apartments in Berlin. We met with the Irish players that night at the local Mexican bar, and the Cocktail Challenge began. Underestimating how cheap Berlin drinks were, there were a few casualties, however the morning saw the start of a new tournament. After a week’s rest, the new arrivals were excited for the upcoming games. But our touring party, after a week on the road, were less than enthusiastic about the upcoming physical and mental strain that is tournament lacrosse.
We had a weaker team this time around, with injury and last minute cancellations, we faced the eventual winners in our first game, Jizni Mesto. At 5-4 down at half-time, we were hopeful for a comeback, but they came out strong and we eventually lost 10-5.Following the unusual spectacle of having the opening ceremony after everyone’s first games, we faced a German side, Bundesliga West. Having at last woken up, after our first 10 o’clock game, we beat the comfortably.
That evening, after a tactical power nap(which are the most important aspect of survival when touring from tournament to tournament),we joined the other teams at a club organised by the tournament. There was a good chance to party and mingle with the other teams, although a severe lack of ventilation meant most of this was done outside in the smoking area. It was late when we left, but dedication to the sport was shown as we turned down an Icelandic house party, although as it turned out, this didn’t help.
Despite our best intentoins, and because of confusion with trains, we arrived at the pitches with seconds to spare. The lack of warmup on our part, and a well-organised opposition in thr form of the Swiss national team resulted in a 5-0 defeat. We didn’t have much chance to think about this though, as our next opposition was Global Players,a mostly American touring tem. We were outclassed in this game by superior skills and shooting, and lost 11-0.This placed us 4th out of 5 in the group,and put us in the 13th-16th placement bracket. We were drawn against the Mighty Oaks, a Berlin masters team, who we beat in our final game of the day.
The matches finished early for us that day, and coupled with the good weather there was a great party atmosphere around the fields. We drank by the pitches, and engaged in games of long-jump and flunkyball. General consensus was that long-jump was a much superior touring sport, as the choice between 6 jumps per tournament, or minimum 6 games of lacrosse per tournament left an easy winner.
The partying mood continued into the night as we had a team meal back at our local Mexican bar, but decided to have a team partying night instead of joining the rest of the clubs at the organised venue. After the meal we went back to one of the hostels where we drank until the early hours of the morning.
The next morning we determined not to make the same mistakes as the day before and set off half an hour early. We had a 1 o’clock game which meant we got to lie in until about 10.30,which felt like an eternity compared to our usual 8/8.30 rising times. Our match was the 13th/14th playoff game and we played a tough Bundesliga Nord side, who overcame u19 Lax Bros(a young US side) in double OT to get to the playoff. We had a tight game which came right down to the wire. With 19 seconds in the game, and down by a goal, we gave away a silly illegal bodychecking penalty which we thought would be the end of it. But a technical was called against the German side at the restart as they tried a hidden ball play from the whistle. With a second player too close to the ball at the whistle it was a turnover and we gained possession. An immediate time-out was called when we crossed the half and we had one chance to score while a man down. A play was thought up to give us the chance we needed to score but our shot was just wide of the left post and we lost 6-5. We finished in 14th place, which we considered fairly successful for our first time at the Berlin Open and with a weakened team.
Following our last game was the tournament final, between Jizni Mesto and Global Starz. Nobody had really expected the Jizni Mesto team to come this far, as they are primarily a box team, but their quick stick skills and patience moving the ball around had brought them to the final. The stadium was packed and tensions were high as the game kicked off. It was well fought by both sides, but Jizni Mesto were to come out victorious in a 14-11 win, the first time winning outright in their long history playing in Berlin. Emotions ran high,and you could see how much it meant to the Jizni Mesto team when that final whistle went as many fell to their knees and openly cried. But I think what will be remember most about this game was the half time show. With very little convincing, one of our players donned the Irish flag as a cape and did a full 400m streak around the pitch. Barefooted and bare-assed he ran the length of the track around the pitch,as the crowd went wild, and even did a Usain Bolt-esque celebration to finish. He will go down in history as “That Irish guy that streaked!”(who wishes to keep it that way).We spent that last night back at Que Pasa(the Mexican place),as most of the guys had to head home and return to the real world. We were not looking forward to another tournament.
On Monday our week of “recovery” began, and we gladly accepted the break from lacrosse. Our streaker had cut his foot the day before during the streak, which meant that while some people did the walking tour, a few did the bus tour. All tours were enjoyed thoroughly, and we highly recommend them. We had picked up 2 new tour buddies in Berlin who wanted to join us for the Amsterdam leg, and we went for Vietnamese food that night . All of us were completely shattered and took the night off to try recover. We had no accommodation booked for Amsterdam and were arriving the following day, but some last minute phone calls got us in a house boat together at a very good price.
The next day there was chaos with the trains, with some having booked the wrong ones and others losing tickets, but eventually we all arrived at Amsterdam central station. And when we saw the house boat we knew it was going to be awesome. The first order of business was a supermarket for booze and food(in that order),but a “coffeeshops” next door meant only a few actually made the trip for supplies while others “relaxed”. That night we spent wandering the Red Light District, and just exploring in general. It ended in Wok to Walk, possibly the greatest takeaway of all time, with freshly stir-fried food in minutes and a must for any visitors to Amsterdam. On Wednesday we did the walking tour, which we also highly recommend.
Thursday saw the arrival of our guys once more, with the games starting on Friday morning. Most of Thursday was exploring the quieter, less touristy areas of Amsterdam, but we did meet a few of the guys and drank by the canals in the sun, and we were all looking forward to the upcoming, and final, tournament. We moved into a bigger houseboat that day as a few of the new arrivals were staying with us and finally ended up at Café du Stoof, the usual Thursday night venue with the other teams. The bar was packed and people spilled out onto the streets around it as all the teams drank and mingled, while we were once again reunited with our team mates, old and new.
Friday morning saw many tired, hungover heads, but we all managed to make it to the fields on time. Our first game was against Hampsted, a strong team with a lot of American players. We came out strong and were expecting tough opposition, but they had too much experience on their side and beat us. We knew with a loss under our belt we would have to work hard in our next 4 games because it was 10 points for a win but there was also a point for every goal scored so if we were to score highly in all our next games we still had a shot at the semis. Our next game was against the Belgian Beasts, but we were a much stronger side at Lowlands and came out 13-0 victors. We knew there was still a lot of work to do but it was a good start.
The venue for Lowlands had changed from the previous year, and although there was still a bar and food by the pitches, they were a lot more spread out and people weren’t as contained. The party atmosphere wasn’t the same, but the weather wasn’t as nice as the previous year either so that put a bit of a damper on things. That night we went on the annual Lowlands boat party, which had also changed from the previous year. There were 2 large cruise ships for the parties to take place, with bars on board. We spent the night drinking on these boats, and although it was a tad expensive, everyone seemed to have a good night. Due to late predrinking by some people, our team was split over the 2 boats, which was also a bit annoying, but there were plenty of people to meet and other teams to mingle with. It was sell into Saturday morning by the time we got home, and we stayed up going over the fun of the night when we got back to the houseboat with our new arrivals. Well worth it!
On Saturday morning, as we put back together the pieces from the previous night, we made our way out to the pitches for another day of lacrosse. We had to work hard all day, and post up more big scores, if we were to make it to the semis. We faced the Ruhrpott Pirates, Reading Wildcats, and Mahrburg. We brought our A-game and posted massive scores of 12-1, 10-2 and 13-1, but we would have until we went out to the club last night to find out the overall standings. Hampsted and Global Players both went undefeated, but USA Starz, Amsterdam Lions and ourselves had all only lost one game, so it would be a close one.
That night the team all came to our houseboat to drink and chat before we headed to the club to meet up with the other teams. We tried to work out points and scores to see if we were to make it to the semis or not, but it was just speculation. When we arrived at the club a lot of the other teams had arrived and the results had been put up on screens around the venue. 1.Hampsted 2.Global Players 3.USA Starz 4.ILL Allstars. We made the cut. Just. But our hard work and big scores had paid off, and Hampsted awaited us in the semi-final. It was a night of celebration for us as this would be our highest finish of the summer, regardless of the results the next day! That evening we went to the club night organised by the tournament hosts which saw all the lacrosse teams partying and dancing together under one roof..We drank and danced the night away, and the Irish dominated the main stage in the club. As the night went on we made our way home piece by piece, with some of the later arrivals having to get some help from a rickshaw driver to make it into the boat, but all got home in the end.
The next morning we were playing at 12, but everyone arrived an hour early to prepare for our semifinal game. We were pumped up for this game hoping to pull off an upset to make it into the final. It would be a tough game but everyone was ready for it. The game got under way and we scored first, but went into half-time 4-3 down. We weren’t shooting enough or taking advantage of our possessions. After the restart the scored but we brought it to 5-4 again. But they broke away as we failed to convert possession into goals and the game finished 8-4 to Hampsted. That ended our hopes of a spectacular finish to the ILL Allstar tour with at least a silver medal, but we knew that we were still in with a chance to take home something and match our 3rd place finish of last year. In the other semifinal USA starz were beaten comprehensively by Global Players in a repeat of the earlier game between the two. After the semi finals there was a break so the teams could rest before the finals. We chilled out around the pitches to recover for our 3rd place playoff and watched a few games.
As we were relaxing before our playoff a rumour began to spread that USA Starz weren’t going to show up for our playoff because they didn’t make the final. We didn’t know if this was true or not but began to wonder whether they’d come or not. When it came time to begin warming up on the pitch before the face off there was no sign of them. We went through our usual routine, but by the time face off was supposed to have come around they were still a no-show. There was a 10 minute grace period for late teams to show up so we began to just do some light scrimmaging while we waited. After 15/20 minutes the tournament organisers showed up and talked to the referees. We were awarded the win, but USA Starz had at last come out. We agreed to play a friendly match as there was still time before the final. They beat us 8-5 in the friendly, and it felt wrong taking 3rd place in such circumstances. And although we were disappointed at losing, we knew we had done enough, even if it was just by showing up, to secure a 3rd place finish and bring home a medal.
It was time for a final to be remembered, and not just for the on field action. Global Players really showed their skill and finesse in this game, completely outclassing a very strong Hampsted side. With a behind the back goal, and a dive from behind the crease, the Global Players’ number 2 really stood out. Spectators along the sideline struggled to keep down food at some of the sick lacrosse playing on-field, and the class of the Global Players side was obvious. Even so the game will also be remembered for the half-time show, once again provided by the Irish, in a repeat of Berlin with a streak around the pitch by someone who will remain un-named. At the end of the game the finishing ceremony was held, and medals were given. It was a great feeling getting something to show for ourselves and a tough 3 weeks of travel, drinking and lacrosse.
With only a few of us staying on that final Sunday night, we made our way back to the houseboat. There was lots of beer and drink left from the night before, and an epic survivor’s night was planned to mark the end of tour. But alas, it was not to be. By 11pm we had all passed out into a deep sleep, mostly of sheer relief to have survived the whole ordeal. Our survivor’s party had failed, but the tour was an amazing success. The following morning we said our goodbyes, had one last roadbeer, and headed home, just about making it to the ferry back to England. Our long journey had ended.
Having done the same tour on my own in 2010, playing the Berlin Open with Two in a Canoe because there was no Irish team, and doing all that again this time with team mates, I can highly recommend this to anyone out there. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and physical well-being. From hating the sport every Monday after a tournament finishes, to being psyched up and ready to go on Thursday/Friday. From feeling like your body might collapse at any minute, or feeling like the next hit is the one to end you, to that feeling of putting someone one their ass and making them feel the pain. It is absolute chaos, but the fun you have and people you meet along the way are just amazing. The camaraderie between people after that long together is amazing, and nostalgia kicks in as soon as its over and people are saying goodbye. Your liver will hate you after, but its well worth it, because playing that much lacrosse in such a short space of team really helps you come on in the game. For any inexperienced players especially, you learn so much in that short space of time and it’s important to take those lessons and remember in your own home leagues.
We would also like to give a shout out to certain Irish players who were particularly banterful throughout tour. These are the Jonny-Sonny Sandwich Tour MVP Awards:
Blues: Nima Barzin For a ridiculous diving save across the crease, as well as carrying around a funnel for a night and making our captain funnel his own hat and some beer through it on, multiple occasions, because he kept forgetting he already made our captain do it.
Berlin: Lyndsay Duffy For her constant loud and hyper-happy attitude, even when everyone around her was dying, as well as crushing some poor girl on the field “right in the face”.
Amsterdam: Paul Murran For his ridiculous gingerness, absolute constant hammered-ness on nights out, and ability to miss from standing on the crease twice in less than 5 minutes.