By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/28/15
Frank Campanale said that the recent 11-day Encore Lacrosse cultural immersion service trip to Ecuador was “a once in a lifetime experience.”
“The trip overall was amazing and a once in a lifetime experience,” said Campanale, a 2017 attackman from The Shipley School. “We traveled all over the country from the capital of Quito, up to the Andes, and all the way down to the Amazon where we did a home stay with the local villagers, which was very enlightening for me.
“The native people loved lacrosse. Many kids picked it up right away and the adults loved the physicality and finesse needed to play. Some soccer players were able to pick up a stick right away and throw and catch with both hands; it was amazing to watch how quickly the natives’ interest in the game grew. I loved spreading the game that I love with new people.”
Campanale was one of 23 high school players from the United States and Mexico that participated in the trip run by Encore’s John Christmas, a former college and pro standout and High School All-American from Lower Merion High. The trip featured elite training, travel to many key sites, including Cotopaxi – a volcano that erupted for the first time since the 1940s a day after Encore’s visit – and time teaching natives the sport for the first time in the capital of Quito. The Encore crew even got to execute the first face-off on the equator – won by the Northern Hemisphere.
“The most challenging parts were the elevation, the water situation, the bugs, and especially the language barrier,” said Campanale. “The elevation made training more rigorous and intense, although training with Johnny Christmas is always intense, the elevation doubled it for sure.
“Suicides were like full field sprints, and 1 on 1s took way more out of you. Training at that altitude strengthens your lungs so training back here on the main line feels easier so I feel like I can train harder for longer.”
Click here for Episode 1 on the trip
Click here for a video of Episode 2 on the trip
Click here for a video of Episode 3 of the trip
What did Campanale learn from the experience?
“I learned that I know more Spanish than I thought I did, and that I have a much greater influence on the people around me than I thought I did,” he said. “I was able to pick up the energy of the others on the trip when I wanted to. I never thought I had that kind of influential ability before, and that gives me a lot of confidence.
“Lacrosse wise, I learned that I am quicker than I thought, and that gives me more confidence on the field to take the extra step and to dodge and make my next moves more efficiently so I can be even quicker.”
The training with natives was organized by the Asociacion Ecuatoriana de Lacrosse leader Juan Marquez de la Plata. He was instrumental in starting lacrosse in Mexico.
What were the trip’s highlights?
“If I had to pick my absolute favorite highlight it would be the river rafting trip we did in the Amazon; that was absolutely incredible,” Campanale said. “We also got to do a home stay in the Amazon and we visited the equator and had the first ever face-off on the equator.
“We practiced in a public park in the middle of Quito , so we had extra sticks and gear around and people would just walk up and start playing with them. We really only guided them, just like line drills and a bit of shooting.
“There were no organized coaching sessions but even when we were just walking around the city we had our sticks with us and we would let kids and adults play with them just to raise awareness of the sport.”
Campanale said the trip was a success for everyone involved.
“We tried to spread the game with the native people,” said Campanale. “According to a girl in the airport on our way back to the states, we even made the news in a local newspaper! Within the next few years one of our trip leaders, Juan Marques de la Plata, who played for the Mexican national team in 2010, will lead and coach an Ecuadorian national lacrosse team. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
“It was the most amazing experience.”
Other participant reaction from the Encore Lacrosse blog:
“All my life I’ve wanted to travel the world and for this trip to be my first international experience, it’s truly been a blessing. Being able to travel this beautiful country while spreading the game of lacrosse has beem absolutely unreal. One of the aspects of this country that has touched me is the culture. The people here are passionate about their country, they’re a caring people, and a sharing people. Lacrosse to me is the definition of community, and here in Ecuador community is a big aspect of life for these people.
“I got hurt early in this trip and spent two days in the hospital. And while it dampened my spirits a little, the people of this country, the mission of spreading the game, and the teammates that have become family, have kept me going on this trip. Every time we stop and play, crowds gather around to see this beautiful game. And seeing the smile on children’s faces when they get to pick up a stick and play catch with us is one of the most satisfying moments as an ambassador for this sport. Lacrosse has given so much to me and being able to show this sport to this great country and its great people has been the ultimate highlight of this trip.” – Gideon Brockenbrough, Roman Catholic High School, PA 2016
“I’ve never visited South America and always wanted to. Having the option to do so was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. First practice at Quito was probably one of the hardest in my life. As soon as I took that first step on the field, I could feel the altitude hitting me. I got the honor to show the Ecuadorean kids how to play lacrosse, the reaction on their faces was just indescribable.
“The cultural part of the trip was something that I did not see coming I thought that it would be similar to the Mexican culture but its not, its so much more colorful and active people have been really nice to us all the art work and crafts are amazing. I’m looking forward to Philippines 2016.” – Santiago Diaz, Emmanuel Munier, Mexico D.F.
“The whole trip described in one word to me is ‘unreal.’ Ecuador as is, is a location that isn’t a commonly talked about place. It is a whole different world compared to the United States. It has been an awesome and a completely eye opening experience exploring Ecuador and all its variety of different eco-systems. Not only just exploring, but being able to play lacrosse here is unreal and unheard of. Lacrosse is game that means a lot to everybody on this trip and being able to play in this amazingly diverse country is a dream come true. Also, not just playing but spreading the game, almost like lacrosse missionaries, is surreal. Each time we play a crowd of all ages, and all genders gathers to watch and film. People here are just completely wowed by the game and it feels great to be able to show them an amazing sport that they are untouched by.
“It amazes me that in such a short time a group of guys who didn’t know or barley knew each other has come together like a family. The even better part of this is the fact that everyone came together over the common goal of growing the game they love. Through traveling to Ecuador guys from New York to California, even from Mexico, have been able to show a diverse land of an even more diverse culture a passion of ours and spread it to place that wouldn’t have thought in a million years they would be holding a lacrosse stick. This trip has been just unreal in every aspect.
-Elliott Goldberg, Cardinal Newman (S.C.), 2016
“This trip has been surreal. Every aspect of this has been so much more than expected. When we first flew into Quito, Ecuador, it was like something you see in a movie. There were huge mountains surrounding the airport and it was a perfect 80 degrees. The people of Ecuador are so curious and outgoing. They always wanted to see the game of the lacrosse and to try it. That is one of the biggest payoffs for me, seeing all the people stop to watch and film the game we love to play. It has been amazing to see the little kid’s faces when you hand them a stick and they make their fist throw and catch.
“As far as the training goes, it has been super intense. All the drills are very competitive and fast paced. Being a goalie, it helps having such a great coach in Coach Rodriguez. He is great at seeing flaws and correcting them right away. In just a week of playing here, I have become a much better player. He has helped me with, stance, form, stepping to the ball, and reading the shooter. I think this will really help my game in the future when the season comes around. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else with any other group of guys. This trip is something I hope to never forget.
-Bailey Ferguson, Kings Way Christian (WA), 2016
“This whole trip has been a life changing experience. Being able to explore a new country and being able to spread a game that I so dearly care for is just an ‘all in one package’ deal. This all started in Miami where I got to meet people I will remember for the rest of my life. Kids from the USA and Mexico. Our base practice gave us all a feel of the competition that was to come. Eat, sleep, and were off to Colombia, where we will then took a short flight to Quito, where we then started the journey of a lifetime. From the second we all got off the plane, all eyes were on us. We made our way to the hostel where we got to meet one of the best drivers and tour guides I have had.
“In just a few days, I had grown to love Ecuador’s history, culture, food, and people. Being able to see all over Quito really opened my eyes, I could see all of their hard work. On our way to the Hacienda Grande we stopped at this one turf field and practiced hard. In just 30 minutes, we got the attention of almost all the people that walked, drove, ran, biked by us and some even stopped to record us. After that one practice, walking to the bus could see the people looking at us in awe and I knew that we had done our jobs.” – Jake Eide, College Park (CA), 2018
Encore Lacrosse has previously made service trips to Japan, Colombia, Uganda and Germany. For more information about Encore Lacrosse’s 2016 trip to the Philippines, click here.