Thankfully, as we awoke the following morning the world had righted itself. The sun, even at sunup was crisp, clear, and noticeably strong. Our small cadre woke and gathered in the residence lounge before going to breakfast. We had the luxury of being the only team in the dormitory. We had the floor and the lounge to ourselves which offered a quiet sanctuary and an ideal place for rest during downtime. We quickly found out that we were not the only team in the dining hall.
At breakfast our handful of players got their first glimpse of what they were up against. No sooner than we had entered the dining hall when all of team England marched in wearing matching practice shirts and shorts. The average English player was 20kgs heavier than us and our heads aligned a little too conveniently with their shoulders. The tone had been set.
As we queued in line we took stock of the other teams represented in the dining hall. It looked as though full teams had already arrived for England, Hong Kong, Scotland, Sweden, Poland, and some of the coaches from team Canada were also present for the 8am meal. Some of our players, who speak broken English and are used to having 2 hard-boiled eggs and noodles for breakfast, had as many questions about the foods they were being offered as they did about the international crowd they were among. Mobile phone maps were used frequently throughout the meal.
As I have had the good fortune to have become part of the China Lacrosse community it should not have come as a surprise to me that one of my colleagues has done something similar. One of the first people I encountered in the dining hall was a teammate of mine from prep-school, Drew Werney. Drew and I both attended Bridgton Academy during the 2003-2004 school year and were teammates on the lacrosse team from which at least 2 of our teammates went to the MLL. Drew was in Denver coaching for team Poland. We caught up, had breakfast, and wished each other a good tournament. Our teams were not slated to play against one another so we would be able to compare notes on other teams throughout the tournament. It was good to see Drew and also a comforting reminder of how the game of lacrosse brings people back together no matter how far they’ve traveled.
After breakfast we wandered over to the adjacent practice fields. We took in the view from the bleachers that overlooked all 3 practice fields, and were lucky enough to see Canada practicing with Thailand as well as other teams who would not play against each other in actual tournament play.
We then headed back to our dorm. The few players we had rallied and brought their sticks outside to throw the ball around. Admittedly our rag-tag bunch more closely resembled high school friends than we did an international squad. At least we were together. We had made it. And no matter how small the group was we were beginning to get noticed. As afternoon turned to evening so did the conversation towards the imminent arrival of the second wave of players and managers, all of who were due in sometime around midnight.