Friendship On The Line

Lacrosse

Anne Arundel Youth Team Travels To England For Cup

July 17, 2009|By Aaron Wright | Aaron Wright,aaron.wright@baltsun.com

The Anne Arundel Youth Lacrosse Club sent two boys teams to England on Wednesday in hopes of defending its Friendship Cup.

During the two-week tour across the country, AAYLC's under-13 and under-15 clubs will take on English teams, culminating in a battle for the Friendship Cup. The Anne Arundel squad possesses the Cup and has a 26-3-1 record in defending it.

As much as the American players care about winning and keeping the cup, lifelong friendship is the theme of this tournament, players and coaches say. Before going overseas, most players and their families host a player from England. When the Anne Arundel player goes to England, he stays with the English player's family.

Connor Kelly is in his fourth and final year playing for the AAYLC. Although Kelly says he's disappointed it's his last opportunity to accompany his team on the trip, he's excited to experience all that England has to offer.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me. I'm looking forward to seeing Manchester United," Kelly said.

Along with a panel of advisers, longtime coach Rick Schmidt decides which of the applying players make the cut for the team. Aside from skill and athletic ability, boys are chosen based on their behavior and grades in school. The coaches emphasize that character goes a long way in selecting the team and having a good trip overseas.

Former tour player and St. Mary's High midfielder Neil Lewnes is returning to the team as a coach. He'll also have the opportunity to reconnect with an English friend he met on a previous tour.

"All the people there are awesome," he said. "I try to talk to him once a month, through Facebook mostly."

A first-year coach, Lewnes explained that his duties are twofold.

"I'm going to teach and help my team, but also do everything I can to help my team have the same experience I had," he said.

The Anne Arundel County team has been participating in this player-exchange program since 1976. Some of the coaches and parents were participants during the program's early years.

"This is a sport that keeps giving and giving," said Bill Barnett, who played for the AAYLC during the 1979 tour and has returned to help coach the team.

Barnett said he'll be hosted by an English friend he stayed with when he was a player on the tour decades ago.

"We established these bonds back in '79," Barnett said, "and this is our chance to give back to a sport that's given us so much."

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