The Lacrosse the Nations Cup

This year was the fourth annual LtN Cup and our most successful one to date. Not only did every team get fully sponsored by the day of the event, in total we raised over $40,000. This was $10,000 over our original goal, and over $35,000 more than LtN raised in their first Cup just three years ago. As LtN’s programs in Nicaragua continue to develop, the LtN Cup will only grow to include more players, coaches, and LtN scholars. Through this event, our LtN student-athletes are able to become agents of change for their communities and strong competitors in the lacrosse world. $4,500 of the total raised will go toward MPI's health clinics in Nicaragua.

As a Lacrosse the Nations Program Director, the LtN Cup was something I heard about before even arriving in Nicaragua. Whether I was speaking with my boss Javier, Senior Program Director Dan, or players who have participated in LtN programs in the past, everyone around me regularly expressed their excitement for this day. Having an athletic background, I could recognize and share in this excitement for competition; however, prior to experiencing the LtN Cup for myself, I can honestly say I had no idea just how special this day is.

The Cup is one of LtN’s biggest fundraisers. On the day of the event, teams that we coach from the Chiquilistagua Public School compete against the teams we coach at Club Esperanza Private school in Villa Guadalupe in a championship style format. The goal of the Cup is to get each team sponsored in order to play. Through their team’s sponsorship, LtN student athletes are able to play an active role in giving back to their communities.

On a weekly basis, we hold practices for various ages, from 4th grade all the way up to the high school level. One thing I immediately noticed upon arriving at practices was the players’ unarguable passion for lacrosse, across all age groups. Whether it was answering questions during our life skills discussions before practice, mastering a new concept, or scoring a “tuani” goal on the field, the kids show a constant love for the game. When it came to their preparation for the Cup, their motivation alone triggered my own excitement.

The day of the Cup is like no other. Players from each school arrive together on a bus geared up and ready to go. Normally, these kids practice on a gravel-dirt mixture or a concrete basketball court. On the day of the Cup, they are greeted by the site of three turf fields with painted lines and music playing. The players are divided into their respective teams and enter the fields single file. This moment alone gave me goosebumps, reminding me of when I would suit up for games. The only difference was, this is a special occasion that only comes around once a year for these kids, and they are playing for so much more.

I had the honor of coaching team Managua this year, a group of players from Chiqui. While we did not have the age or size of some other groups, I saw performances from these players that I had never seen before. Millie is high school aged girl who is able to come to practice just once a week. During the Cup she was our star defender - chasing down fast breaks and stealing the ball from boys twice her size. Fourth grader, Jose, who was by far the smallest player on the field, scored a hatrick in our last regulation game which took us to the semifinals for Chiquilistagua. Every accomplishment on the field was celebrated by team Managua that day (my personal favorite being the seated rowboat with their sticks). I could not have been more proud of my team, not for their physical performance, but for the mere energy they brought and encouragement they provided each other.

Whether players were from Chiquilistagua or Club Esperanza, being able to represent where they were from created a sense of belonging in their game. Each player's pride for their respective school and community was apparent in their demeanor. The desire to perform well and compete for their program really shown through. As a coach, there was nothing more gratifying than being able to witness all that their hard work amounted to.



Martes De Español y Futbol

This Tuesday was the first Martes de Español for the Manna Nicaragua House. The rules of Martes de Español are simple: Spanish must be spoken all day – no exceptions. From the time we wake up in the morning, to the time were are in and preparing for programs, we must only speak Spanish. This also includes our personal downtime. If someone speaks English, they have to pay 1 cordoba to the house piggy bank (1.00 cordoba = about 0.04 US dollars).

Waking up on Tuesday morning was hysterical. For a while, the breakfast table was pretty silent. We all knew we needed to embrace the challenge and were just waiting for someone to break the silence. Slowly, we all began speak Spanish and the room quickly became filled with laughter. Let me give some context to this situation, all Program Directors (PDs) have a solid foundation of Spanish but only a few members of the house are fluent. So all of us communicating our daily schedules and intricate details of our programs in a foreign language quickly became a combination of Catch Phrase and charades. We tried our best! If we didn’t know how to specifically say something, we knew similar phrases - and if that failed, we knew how to act out the situation.

Despite the challenges of only communicating in Spanish, it forced us to immerse ourselves into the language. The more we practiced our Spanish, the easier speaking became. I have to admit, most of us were not able to communicate in Spanish for the entirety of day. It was mentally exhausting and bit-by-bit, English snuck back into our vocabulary. However, forcing ourselves to speak Spanish forced us to practice the language and work as a team. When one person was struggling, another person typically knew the context of the conversation and together they were able to effectively communicate the message across to others.

The other exciting part about this past Tuesday was Nicaragua played Jamaica in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Game. This was the first sold out game in the history of Nicaraguan Soccer and the PDs were lucky enough to have tickets to the game. Unfortunately, Jamaica won in a last minute goal, but it still was an amazing experience being able to cheer on Nicaragua in this history making game! Sí Se Puede!

-Kayla Sloane