AMSTERDAMAGE: The Amsterdam Tournament Story





By Nelson Coffin

Typically, lacrosse grows in two ways; spreading across a state as popularity increases from town to town or through spot growth when a kid, family or coach moves to a town where lacrosse is not played and begins a program. There is a third and rare method that involves the seeding of the game, in a place that has no lacrosse to speak of, by people that do not live there. The last two usually only get done by someone who is, to use popular business vernacular, thinking "outside the box". It's how then-Johns Hopkins Coach Don Zimmerman, now at UMBC, and his mentor, Bob Scott, brought the game to Japan in the late 1980's. Out of the box thinking took the game to Texas, Florida, South Korea, Ireland, Italy, and many other here-to-fore lax free lands. There weren't many folks who thought of Amsterdam as being within the lacrosse box - or anywhere near it, for that matter.





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AND INDIVIDUALS FOR AMSTERDAM 2004 - August 10-14!


E-Lacrosse owner John Weaver admits he's never perceived the box's edges very well. When he decided to start a tournament in Holland, there were more than a few skeptics out there who questioned why he was reaching for a market that nobody wanted anyway. And the box be damned, the tournament enlisted Paul Gait as Master of Ceremonies, the Division II NCAA Champion NYIT, the German National Team and the world famous Crease Monkeys as contestants, 10 sponsors including Harrow, deBeer, Gait Helmets, Euro-Lax, Six Tribes, Lax World and Red Bull who provided the 'Red Bull Girls', beer on the grounds, no games before 11 a.m., created a full line of tournament merchandise for sale in Europe and the US, added a new popular rule for the referees, and then offered individual sign-ups for any player who wanted to come but could not gather a whole team. Next year, from August 16 - 21, the addition of on-site free camping, 4 more fields, an "off day" in the middle, a full kitchen and the inclusion of women's teams from all over the world will turn the grounds into a 96 hour "Laxstock" field party interrupted by occasional lacrosse games. The box is shattered forever.





Weaver got the idea for an adults only tournament in Amsterdam a few years back when he noticed the Europeans had to play a European Championship so often that they could not afford or take the time to do the things that they needed to do to improve as nations - namely sending players to compete in the US at the summer tournaments like Vail, Lake Placid and Ocean City. So he basically decided to take a Vail-like tournament to them. The spot was a no-brainer. Amsterdam and the series of beaches located just west of the city are weekend vacationing spots for many Europeans anyway, so it was relatively affordable and familiar for the target participants. But Amsterdam is also the party capital of the world and coincidentally it's a playing surface nirvana, as men's and women's field hockey is a national pastime. There are more artificial turf fields in Holland than in any country in the world. Bringing the old American Indian game to 'Mokum', the old city of dams, canals and tolerance that abounds seemed a natural fit to Weaver, who by all accounts lives outside the box. That's how, boys and girls (over 18, of course), the E-Lacrosse Amsterdam Tournament was born.

The event debuted in August with 14 men's teams participating in two divisions, North American and European. The format matched the Europeans against only North American teams for the first two days and then the next two consisted of playoffs within the divisions and two champions crowned. In 2003's title matches UK Lacrosse topped Team Steuerbert in the European Final and The Crease Monkeys defeated NYIT in the North American Final. The game of the tournament was the semi-final between Crease Monkeys and Harrow in which Scott Hochstadt score the overtime goal in stylish fashion, whipping the ball past a defender and into the top left corner, slamming his stick to the ground and walking slowly into the celebration. Most teams actually had players from both continents. Long Island goalie, Mike Zagari was actually "traded" to Italy United during the opening party at the Amsterdam Hard Rock Café, another sponsor. At first it was just to give lone Italian keeper Alex Rastelli a breather and give Zagari and two other keepers on the trip with DII Champion New York Tech a little more playing time. By the end of the week, Zagari, an Italian-American, had impressed on and off the field and may be a part of future Italian plans. It's important to say, for those Islanders keeping score, that Zagari is a graduate of C.W. Post and made the trip with Tech along with a couple teammates.





Some teams, like Team Steuerbert and Backbert, the German National and Rising Stars teams, came as units. Other players just showed up as independents, having been assigned teams by the tournament staff, some as fill-ins on teams that needed a player or two, but most filled out the rosters of the Lax World Select team and the E-Lacrosse team. DeBeer's Tom Ryan um, coached the E-Lacrosse team and Lax World's A.T. Bailey was seen a few times on the Select sideline.





Weaver, who typically averts all attention to E-Lacrosse and its sponsors, could claim the idea was all his, but he touts the immense help he received from Dutch mastermind Edouard Dopper and others. "I have family over there and love Holland. I speak a little Dutch but am not of Dutch descent myself," said Weaver, who lives in suburban Washington, D.C. where he publishes this site. "The tournament was just a legitimate reason for me to visit Europe a few times a year at first. Soon, it was obvious that it would be a big European event for a long time. Everyone had the time of their life and my wife and I enjoyed sharing one of our favorite places to 300 lacrosse friends. We even invited my Mother and her parents and they had a great time too."





Dopper and Weaver became fast friends after Weaver contacted the captain of the Maastricht University lacrosse team, the only team in Holland at the time. Dopper responded with a few ideas of his own and the two hit it off. Dopper and Weaver decided to partner up for the event with the E-Lacrosse editor drawing the US teams and general attention through E-Lacrosse and the Dutch All-Star promoting in Europe and arranging things on the ground. Weaver got his two extra trips to Holland for meetings usually set up by Dopper. "The anticipation this tournament generated in the months leading to its official inception was insane," says Dopper. "People in Europe were buzzing about it before John and I had the opportunity to even lay down concrete plans. It seemed like I just got off the phone with John and people knew about it. Crazy! And the grapevine buzz is growing for next year. Word-of-mouth is our best marketing tool now." The partners decided that while they were aggressive and knew what they wanted and expected from the tournament, they were not experienced at actually pulling off a big tournament so they enlisted the talents of Matt Peterson, a Government Relations guru at N.C.State University, director at the Vail Shootout, founder of the Dulles (used to be AOL) Lacrosse Club and a long-time friend of John Weaver.

Peterson just kept Weaver and Dopper on the right track during the planning stages but when the tournament opened in Holland, he took over as the full Director. "Matt was the perfect combination of host and taskmaster. He can be all business and stern and you still like him. He's perfect for this kind of thing. He stopped two would-be streakers as they disrobed on the sideline of an under-15 Field Hockey game. It could have caused an international incident. Well, maybe not in Holland. In any case it was a great save!" Laughs Weaver. "He even had me feeling like I was working for him over there. He's very good. The tournament was a huge success on the ground because of Matt and the head referee, Ken Galluccio. Ken had the refs running like clockwork and stepped in to do so many other things too. He provides what I call 'caring management'. If you're on his staff he's looking out for you. He's a real motivator but also takes care of his guys. We'll be glad to have Ken back next year, but we will miss Matt who is retiring to become more domesticated and focus on his career."



The E-Lacrosse Team


OUR THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING QUALITY SPONSORS







Weaver knows that having a top-notch staff was crucial to the tourney's success. "We couldn't have pulled it off without those two guys," he admits. "They really were the glue of the event along with Emilie Dopper, Nadine Neidhardt, Max Wagner, David McKenzie and the Maastricht team volunteers. Emilie will be next year's Tournament Director and we have great confidence in her."



Some Crease Monkeys with the Cone family - travelling Europe on a lacrosse tour!

The staff was not sure how the lax crowd would mix with the cosmopolitan and very liberal environment and the unique physical attributes of the city but there were no problems beyond some lost sunglasses in canals, missed trams and unexpected sunburns. "Amsterdam is built on water and huge pylons. Things shift a bit over time," said Weaver. "And they're always doing reclamation work. Everything like buildings, streetscapes and even cobblestones are tilted all different directions, creating a surreal visual and even some blisters for most tourists. There are nearly as many canals as there are streets. The water taxi, for example is much more popular than taxi cabs. The Dutch, though, ride bikes and the public transportation in Amsterdam. So did the players at the tournament this year. It was funny to see the expression on the Dutch faces when six defensemen with sticks and huge bags boarded the Tram in front of me. On the way home, sometimes they rode with arm pads and eye black still on. It was a culture shock for all involved. That was part of the fun for me - witnessing many of the participants' first time in the city and the city's first look at lacrosse and a lacrosse crowd. It's another world, literally."





Another world is perhaps an understatement. Amongst the cobblestone streets, 500 year old buildings mixed with contemporary architecture on most blocks and romantic canals and bridges hide Amsterdam's more infamous features - "coffee shops" that sell soft drugs like hashish and marijuana and legal prostitution, typically on display in the Red Light District in rows of lighted display "windows" visible from the street. "I was pleasantly surprised that most of the guys had no interest in the sexual aspects of the Red Light District, beyond taking it all in as a visual experience, which it certainly is." said Weaver. "Hochy [N.A. MVP Scott Hochstadt] summed it just right when he said 'The Red Light District was my favorite and least favorite part of the experience.' I know the guys missed having lax playing women around. They'd go into a bar and nobody would know who they were or what that silly racquet on their shirt or jacket was. And the European women are a tough play. All the ladies in the clubs look and act like the beautiful suitors on "Joe Millionaire goes to Europe". It was funny to watch that culture clash too. We played on the atmosphere some at the tournament. One PA announcement read 'The Coffee Shops are fun but they may effect your memory. Did you forget to buy a tournament T-Shirt for your buddies who coulnd't make it over?' We tried to make every element of the event fun. Next year we may have a leather covered dominatrix actually whip (softly) those who get penalties in the finals."



The entrance to the RLD or Red Light District

The tourney was big news in Holland. Local and national television coverage showed how quickly the Dutch embraced the sport. Already, a couple of club teams have been formed in areas where men's field hockey is the most popular athletic endeavor. "Field hockey is king in Holland and they play three seasons," Weaver said. "For lacrosse to get its best chance there we decided not to conflict at all and make lacrosse the off-season conditioning sport for hockey. The kids and a few national hockey officials who saw it loved it and a few folks who saw it on TV came out to see it. We also provided a couple 100+ crowds for some girls' hockey games at the club in the early evenings. The guys all rooted for the home club and our hosts loved it."



Lax on TV in Holland!

An Amsterdam Men's Club formed from the pre-tournament interest in the area and Weaver requested participants to bring and donate equipment they did not need and could fit in their luggage. The donations supplied the team with over 20 sticks and lots of gear. "Some of the Americans just left some equipment instead of lugging it back home. The donations that were generated by the tournament were very significant. Especially the two goals we gave them and also the publicity we managed to generate for lax in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam club is still looking for some donations and/or sponsors. Their website is www.alax.nl. The team trains once a week now. It currently has twenty members and is officially establishing itself. They are talking to our host club, Hurley, about a possible cooperation in the near future. This will expose the hockey playing youth to lacrosse at their own club. What better exposure for the sport?" Dopper asks. "Hurley is a prominent hockey club in Amsterdam. They have hundreds of young hockey players running around all the time and they seemed interested in the lacrosse being played."



Everyone has fun at this tournament!

Dopper also says that in the northern Netherlands, in the town of Groningen, a team has started playing intercrosse, "I am very confident that this influence will spill over in interest for field lacrosse. It is of utmost importance that Maastricht supports them and maintains a dialogue with Lacrosse Groningen. It is actually the town where my brother Eric lives and I hope one day that he will start a field team."



Our host, the Maastricht Laamas





Dopper will be marketing the tournament right here in the U.S. soon. He is a Graduate Business student at Maastricht and was recently accepted at Boston College for study abroad. "I have a dream to play lacrosse on a high level. I hope to try out with their team and maybe make the cut. The Americans play great lacrosse and are outstanding athletes. I have quite a job ahead of me," Admits Dopper who's only played lacrosse for about four years, although he was a scoring star for Maastricht who went undefeated in the northern division of the German college league last season and ran with both Maastricht and the Crease Monkeys at the Tournament.



Ken Galluciao with his staff: Mike Ventura, Buck Hoffman, Dick Pepper, Fred Zensen, Jim Jordan, Jim Price, Don Blacklock,
Matthias Lockemann, Andreas Rossband, MArtin Holmen, Phil Long, Graham Lester, Rudney Burns and Kei Miyachi!


Dopper was very pleased with the outcome of the first year tournament. "The responses were great. For most Europeans it was the greatest tournament they had been to in their entire lacrosse life. I am truly not exaggerating. I did not get one bad review," claims Dopper, the salesman in the partnership, "Just the fact that Europeans got to play teams from other countries inspired them profoundly. Our Dutch hosts loved us. And they loved lacrosse. The people behind the bar were wearing our clothes and our logos. I personally would just like to see more nationalities at the next tournament. You know, one big family for Laxstock '04!"

The overall experience, benefit and feedback from the tournament has been so positive that E-Lacrosse will be hosting tournaments in Rome, Italy next June and in London, England and Amsterdam again next August. In fact, Weaver met with the Italian leadership in the Hurley clubhouse during the Amsterdam Tournament to get things started. The Rome Tournament, in partnership with The Italian Lacrosse Federation will be for all levels, male and female, with an emphasis by E-Lacrosse to attract Catholic universities and high schools in the states and teams from all over Europe. London will be a first class men's and women's elite event in the heart of the city and figures to be for those with deeper pockets while the Amsterdam event, only a week later, will include a women's field and a Dutch Masters division for the over-35 set this year while increasing affordability for the younger adults, mainly because on-site camping will be available.



Graham Lester lead the refs in a traditional song of woe

"Amsterdam, after the shift to the Euro, lost its added attraction of being very inexpensive." Weaver explained "We could tell the hotel costs on top of the flight fares were hard on some of the younger participants this year. I was eating on the Patio at a very nice Italian restaurant and two young players walked by. I told them to join us and try the Fettuccini Gorgonzola. They looked at my bountiful plate admiringly and admitted that the pizzeria around the corner was all they could afford. Amsterdam is full of delights for all budgets so I didn't feel bad, but we want to give those young guys a break next year with basically free lodging. They just need to rent or bring a tent and stuff for light camping. Then they'll have more cash to spend on things other than expensive hotels."



The canals at night

One of Weaver's proudest accomplishments of this tournament and what he feels will become the wave of the future is independent player registration. Ethan Hennessy, who was assigned to play for Lax World Select, knowing no one on the team, loved the independent experience, "It gave those of us with less well-supported clubs the opportunity to play. None of the clubs from my area are well-funded enough or organized enough to get there as a unit, so it gives us die-hards the opportunity to go on our own. The type of player who registers independent for this thing is what you call a 'lacrossestitute.' We'll play for anyone, anywhere. My fiancé is dragging me to her college reunion here in a few weeks, so I e-mailed the lacrosse coach and got in on the student v. alumni lax game, even though I graduated from an entirely different university. Most of the rest of the Lax World guys had the same attitude. If there's a game, I'm playing. I had an absolute blast. More than I thought I would. Several of the Lax World guys were already talking about going back next year. I have been gloating to all my friends that I got to go and they didn't. I've told everyone I've seen since I got back that they need to start planning for next year. And I'll be telling about 100 more when I get to the Eugene Celebration Tournament in Oregon."



Paul Gait awards Scott Hochstadt with the N.A. MVP trophy - an E-lacrosse Gait Helmet!

And there's a comfortable place for every level of player with the structure of the independent program notes Rob Livermore. "The guys were very forgiving of my lack of experience and skill level. Will I be back? Is the Pope Catholic? I certainly will be and I hope to see all those guys again next year!"






Sandy Boyce and some UKLacrosse guys out on the town

THE BLUE FLAG

The blue flag is thrown to enforce the Geen Gezeik rule. Geen Gezeik means "no bitching" in Dutch. Basically, the Blue Flag is a way to stop players and coaches from abusing refs. The Geen Gezeik rule that seems to have caught on with some of the players and all of the officials. Ken Galluccio (left) loved the Geen Gezeik rule when he heard about it and showed up at the tournament with blue flags and the idea to use them for the unique enforcement mechanism of this mellow Amsterdamesque regulation. Ken matched the flags to the very unique officials jerseys he disigned with the help of Rebel Lacrosse Wear in Baltimore. The jerseys were the most requested item at the tournament store, but alas, they were made just for the refs!
The "Geen Gezeik" rule explained (from the Amsterdam Tournament Program): The referees are here to mellow out and party in a lacrosse environment just like you. To this end, they have use of a special rule - a "No Tolerance" policy on complaining to the refs. This applies to coaches and players. The first offence is awarded a one minute penalty with a blue flag. The second on the same person is a "that game" suspension to the beer tent for attitude adjustment. Warnings MAY be given first.
You could call it a "time out" for adults. Whatever you call it, most were pretty happy with the results. It's also an equalizer of sorts as the Europeans almost never yell at officials while it's become prevalent in the U.S. and Canada. It's an idea that will likely be implemented again in Amsterdam next August and at projected tourney sites in Rome (June '94) and London (August '94) as well. E-Lacrosse is talking to at least twice as many teams planning on being in Holland next summer, including women's and Dutch Masters teams. 68-year-old Texan Buck Hoffman gave the blue flag and the tourney a thumbs-up. "The blue flag was a very interesting idea, and from my experience with it, it worked very well - a simple device, but very effective. Just one more indication of the thought and preparation put into this tournament," said Hoffman, who has been officiating at European tournaments for six years.


"As successful as the whole thing was, we still had some things to learn, this being our first tournament," Weaver admits. "We will have more on-field staff next year for clock and book management along with huge coolers of water with cups on each field instead of little bottles that heat up fast. We'll have visible scoreboards on each field for the fans we were surprised to draw. We'll have a big DJ party and BBQ at the club next year, camping right on the Hurley grounds and a much larger variety of food available. The kitchen was still being built in the clubhouse this year but next year a full kitchen will supply a feast worthy of their best beer consuming crowd ever. They also said we were the best crowd they've had as far as picking up after ourselves - a compliment I've never heard attributed to lacrosse folks before."



The N.A. Champions - The Crease Monkeys

The quality and variety of the combatants was a key for a fledgling tourney trying to establish itself. "The competition was actually better than I thought," said North American MVP and fastest shot (106mph) Scott Hochstadt of the N.A. Champion Crease Monkeys. "I was extra impressed with the level of play from the European teams."



The N.A. Runner-up - New York Tech

Matt Edmunds, the UKLacrosse captain and manager is from Poynton, England but lives and coaches in Wingate, North Carolina. He was impressed with the field as well. "The guys said it was the best time of their lives and they are all coming back next year. It was fast, physical and a lot of fun, especially when we won. I was impressed with the teams from Germany and Holland. I have competed against them before and they get better and better. On a fun scale of 1 to5 - I give it a 6. The lax was great, the atmosphere was great and Amsterdam is nuts. "



Dude, we're trying to mellow out!

Sandy Boyce, the 25 year old Columbus, Ohio resident, originally from Baltimore, Md won the European division MVP as an attackman for UKLacrosse. "This was the best overall experience of my life, from arriving in Manchester, England to departing ten days later. The tournament offered an opportunity to play against players and teams from all over the world that I may never have had the opportunity to play any other time in my life. The tournament was very well organized and designed, especially allowing players to take in the full experience of Amsterdam, while not having to wake up early to play a game. The people that I met were awesome. It is great to see a sport that is still small enough that you can get together and realize that you are having an impact on the growth of the sport. Everyone that has talked to me about it has said that they are going to start putting money and time aside now in order to go next year. We are already putting the team together for a defense of our title. We are looking for some increased sponsorship to make the experience even better. We are talking about making it a yearly trip."



The final was a classic contest between the first two teams that committed to come to the tournament!

"I was very impressed with the discipline and high level of organization of the German teams. I suppose I didn't expect the European teams to be so far along in such a short time. The Italians showed some real flashes of brilliance for such a young team, and I think they'll come along very quickly with the coaching and support they're generating," Added Ethan Hennessey, a Lax World defenseman from Seattle, Washington.



UKLacrosse players basking in the glow of victory

"It was great to meet guys who had been playing pretty much all their lives. You can learn more from just talking to guys like that than from any book or video. I'll be back next year and every year after," proclaims 23 year-old Rob Livermore, a Lax World Select middie from York, England.



Harrow was a sponsor and sent a great team!

"It is always great to meet new people at tournaments, especially if they play as good as most of the players did in Amsterdam. We played very well as a team against most of the American and Canadian teams," Adds Nikolas Ganss, a 24 year-old Team Backbert defenseman from Cologne, Germany.



European Runner-up - Team Steuerbert

Jan Göring, an 18 year-old Frankfurt Cosmos player from Ziegenhain, Germany might even get the opportunity of a lifetime as a result from the tournament. "The Amsterdam Tourney was the very first one I went to and it made a very good impression on me. My team had pretty much never played together before, so we played horribly the first day, but kept improving as a team and individually. I met a bunch of very cool Americans, Germans, Dutch, Canadians… and Lax people seem to be awesome everywhere. One player on an opposing team is going to be an assistant coach at NYU, and he invited me to play and maybe even to study there."



Matt Peterson with Paul Gait and European MVP Sandy Boyce from UKLacrosse

"It was the best tournament I've been to! It was great to meet all of the other players, especially those from NYIT. Berlin and Passau are always great tournaments with great parties, but the games at Amsterdam were even more fun," says Frankfurt Cosmos defenseman and organizer Bob Scheider, originally from Framingham, Massachusetts. "There wasn't as much stress as at a typical tournament and the length of the tournament left enough time to see things and go out. Playing NYIT and the Crease Monkeys and then watching those teams in the final was my favorite part."



The European Chapions - UKLacrosse

Some participants were neither North American nor European. One, Iain Kenderdine, was more dedicated than practically any lacrosse nut you can think of. He flew 11 hours to Tokyo from his home in New Zealand and then traveled another 11 hours to Amsterdam. For this Kiwi, it was worth every second and the $2,700 in euros ($5,700 NZD) he forked over for expenses. "It was great fun," he said. "I was a little worried because being fairly new to the game and being the only Kiwi, I wasn't sure I'd fit in. But everyone was really great and made me feel welcome and I got heaps of tips on my game which I think is going to help in the up coming season. I'd love to come back and bring a team of Kiwis with me."



"Someone got a very cool souvinier and Ed was pissed," says Weaver.
"But I told him it was a compliment and it meant that our tournament was a big success."


Many of the young European players saw the tournament as a learning experience. "I picked up a lot of tips from players from everywhere, especially from Paul Gait whom I was very proud to assist at the clinic he held," says the star struck Göring. "Also talking to Tom Ryan at the opening party was really cool. I have to say Amsterdam is great, and it would be a great pleasure to come back every year."



Jan Göring helps Paul Gait at the players clinic

Seattle native Ethan Hennessey showed that he had game, not grunge. The trip for the longtime connoisseur of the sport was a must. "It's nice to see that the attitude of lacrosse players is the same all over the world. Play hard, party hard," said Hennessey. "I especially enjoyed the international flavor of the tourney, and hope to see the kind of growth over there in the next 10 years that we've seen here in the Northwest in the last 10. If you had told me when I was playing for a first year team in high school that 13 years later I'd have the opportunity to fly halfway around the world to play, I would have called you crazy."



Hanging out at "Rookies"

"We've been called worse and we might actually be crazy," says E-Lacrosse's Weaver. But sometimes, you have to be crazy not to do something you know will work, like staging a lacrosse version of a Dutch retreat that looks to become a European classic.


11/2/3







E-Lacrosse 2003 Amsterdam Tournament Video and Photographs:
All photos featured in this article are from the following galleries

Tournament Video Coverage
Set-up & Hard Rock Party
Amsterdam Tournament - Day One
Amsterdam Tournament - Day Two & Three
Amsterdam Tournament - Championship Day
Amsterdam Assortment
Around Amsterdam & Trip to Haarlem
Trips to Haarlem and Zaandvort Beach
Amsterdam massive field party with many stages
Brian DeSpain's Awesome Amsterdam Gallery
Chuck Westphal's Cleaned-up Amsterdam Gallery
Sandy Boyce's UKLacrosse Amsterdam Album





The 2003 Party Invite


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THE AMSTERDAM GUIDE!

QUESTIONS ABOUT AMSTERDAM!



The 2003 Winners Medals