Swax Lax is proud to announce we're "The Official Training Ball of Lacrosse the Nations." As a company of coaches, one of our goals is to share our products and experiences to propel the game of lacrosse forward. Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) is a perfect match for this initiative. As part of the partnership, LtN received a donation of Swax Lax lacrosse training balls to enable its athletes to train anywhere with confidence.
Javier (Javi) Silva, Executive Director, first joined Lacrosse the Nations (LtN) as a volunteer in Nicaragua in 2012. His 12-month volunteer position turned into four years, where he led the growth of the Nicaragua site. In 2016, Javi returned to the US and took over as Executive Director. Javi is a lacrosse player himself. He's a University of Connecticut Men's Lacrosse alum, and he played on the Columbia Lacrosse Men's National Team in the World Championship in 2014. Most recently, he coached the Columbian Women's National Team at the 2019 PALA Women's World Cup Qualifiers.
We spoke with Javier, who provided in-depth insight into our partnership and the joint initiative to continue to grow the game of lacrosse. Here's what he said:
Would you give us some background information on Lacrosse the Nations for people who may not be familiar with the organization?
We're a sport-for-development non-profit that uses lacrosse as a vehicle to achieve our mission of improving education, health, and creating opportunity for youth across the world. Internationally, we combine afterschool lacrosse with life skills lessons, study hall, academic scholarships, and mentorships so that kids can fall in love with learning while playing lax and use it as a tool to build a better life for themselves and their families. Domestically, we provide the US lacrosse community the opportunity to learn about the power our sport has to create a positive change in the world by offering various volunteer opportunities. We're huge believers in the positive benefits of travel and inter-cultural exchange. We like to use lacrosse as the medium to make it an easy decision for lacrosse players to pack their bags, lax stick in-hand, to make the world a better place.
How have your programs grown and evolved over the years? Does LtN keep in touch with some of the kids (now teens and adults) that were part of the organization early on?
We started out serving a tiny school inside of Central America's largest open-air landfill in Nicaragua. Now we serve more than 200 student athletes, at five different schools in four countries (Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and the United States).
At first, our main focus was providing a safe space for kids to be kids. As our relationship with the communities we work with has developed, we have been able to identify ways for our programs to have a large impact. That's where our scholarship and study hall programs came from — a response to a need our student-athletes had (lack of funds to go to school, and lack of support to excel in school).
We do keep in touch with our student-athletes. In fact, every one of our current coaches is a former student. That's on purpose. We've created a model where our high-performing students are rewarded with part-time and full-time jobs once they graduate from our programs so they can afford a higher education. Our goal is that as coaches they can get an education that will translate into a great job. We leave coaching spots open for new students who are graduating, and we’re open to the possibility of expanding our programs to more schools in the community.
Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Swax Lax and your interest in partnering?
We first were introduced to Swax Lax because we've had a long standing partnership with boys and girls lacrosse teams at the Pingry School in NJ. Swax Lax gifted us about 30 balls, and we tried them out at our Nicaragua site. Since then we've been using them almost exclusively. We've had an informal partnership in their support of our programs. LtN has wanted to make the partnership more formal for a while so we can do as much as possible to promote their brand. They've been an invaluable part of our mission. We want to support them in any way we can.
What impact have Swax Lax balls had when teaching/coaching new beginners in your program?
They've been a total game changer for our programs. We work in very unfriendly conditions — rock covered fields, basketball courts, the beach — not your typical venues for lacrosse. We tried using tennis balls but the difference in weight made it hard to run efficient practices. We tried using the bouncy practice balls, but they'd break and get lost too easily. Using real lacrosse balls is almost impossible because we're so close to the schools and run the risk of hitting windows and passersby.
Switching to Swax Lax balls changed all that. Swax Lax balls are incredibly durable and withstand all the different terrains we play on. They're great for the tight spaces and keep everyone around us safe too. Moreover, we saw a giant leap in ability because the kids could finally feel the ball in their stick, and it made all the difference.
Where do you see LtN going in the future?
We're dreamers. We want our programs everywhere and anywhere we are wanted and needed. Our goal is to deepen our relationships in the communities we serve and do more for those folks. That means opening programs at neighboring schools, expanding our scholarship program, and increasing the number of local coaches on staff. We hope to have a vast network of teams and schools at all three of our international sites (Colombia, Panama, and Nicaragua). Eventually, we hope to continue expansion to new countries that need increased access to sport, education, and opportunities beyond the field.
In March 2020, we spoke with Brooke Wilson, the Communications and Development Director at Lacrosse the Nations. She, too, shared her pivotal role with us in our Coaches on Coaching interview, and her interest in a growing partnership.
We look forward to this successful partnership and together growing the game of lacrosse.
If you're interested in learning more about our partnership programs, please contact us.
About the Author
Theresa Shafron is in charge of social media and marketing for Swax Lax and Swax Lax Lacrosse. She's also the Girls Director at Swax Lax Lacrosse where's she's been a coach or director since 2013. She played Attack at Drew University.