by Staff Sgt. Nathan L. Hanks, Jr.
TOKYO, Japan - "In every clime and place" held true for the Marines and Sailors of the Okinawa Marines lacrosse team as they battled not only opposing teams, but also a slippery, muddy field during lacrosse games here. Marines and Sailors from 3rd Marine Division participated in the 13th Annual International Lacrosse Friendship Games June 15-17, marking the first time a U.S. military team has played in the games. The 'Okinawa Marines' played eight games throughout the weekend, but came away winless. The losses were attributed to the team's lack of experience and limited practices, because of the unit's recent deployments. Despite these challenges, members of the team charged ahead with enthusiasm and teamwork.
"You can definitely see the discipline in the (Marine) team," said Dean Rogut, assistant coach, Australian Under 20 Victorian Men's Lacrosse Squad. "Once they get the stick skills down, it will be a great team." Although the Marine team fought for every inch of the field during the games, winning was not the main reason for playing in the friendship games.
"The purpose of the games was to promote international friendship, competitiveness and lacrosse as it becomes a growing sport in Japan and other countries," said Thomas Sammel, attackman, Okinawa Marines. "Even though we lost this game or that game, to see the happiness on the Marines' and Sailors' faces at just being able to compete was worth the trip," said Daniel Paris, head coach, Okinawa Marines. "To see them compete and feel what it is to be an international athlete is really rewarding to me."
The Marine team competed against the Australian team, and six Japanese teams: Japan National Teams A and B, Valentia, Tokyo-club, Ragamaffins and Advance-club. The Japanese Lacrosse Association hosted the games. The grueling schedule tested the Marines' strength and stamina. "We call it the fastest game on two feet," Paris said. "It is combative and it has a warrior aspect to it. Lacrosse is played with a lot of physical aggressiveness and is very much a Marine sport."
More than 3,000 fans attended the
13th annual International Lacrosse
Friendship Games in Tokyo June 15-17
For members of the Okinawa Marines, competing in the international games was more than they could imagine. "We have players, about one-third of the team, who have never played lacrosse," Paris said. "For (their first game) to be an international competition is quite significant." Competing against teams with more experience and which have played together longer did not discourage the Okinawa athletes.
"Going to Tokyo was a great experience," said Charles McClung, defenseman, Okinawa Marines. "I enjoyed meeting the other teams and learning their different styles of play. This was also a great opportunity to display good sportsmanship among the other countries." Although the team was lacking in experience, the coaching staff was still proud of the Marines performance. "The team has done everything (the coaches) have asked them to do," Paris said. "They have accomplished our goals, which were to play hard, enjoy the game, spread goodwill and show the Japanese and Australian teams that we are good sportsmen."
With the closing of the games, the teams are looking forward to meeting again in the next international competition. "In the near future, we would like to bring some of the university teams and the Japan national team down to Okinawa and, perhaps, host our own tournament for not only lacrosse, but also for other sports such as baseball, rugby and soccer," Paris said.