International program development is no easy task. LtN has been in Panama for almost one year since we began our pilot programming, and we’ve had our fair share of hurdles - from conflicting partnerships and limited volunteer resources to site relocation for our Bocas practices. Although international development means having to accept some challenges, those challenges are usually the catalysts for incredibly beneficial growth. And that’s just what we’ve found in our Bocas community, with the help of a 10 year old.
Coming back after winter break, LtN had to find a new location for our Bocas practices, so I (Panama PD, Caroline) with the help of our volunteer, Shauna, searched high and low for a place that kids would know that’s also easily accessible to all kids who want to play. In the process of this literal scorching and sweaty bike search, Shauna and I decided to take a break and plop ourselves down by a basketball court in front of the beach to throw the lax ball around. As we were passing around, there were a couple of kids playing basketball on the court adjacent to us. Little did we know at this moment that a ton of kids live across the street and play there everyday. We thought, hey, this is a cool sport for some lacrosse, so we made it one.
Practices started out slow, but eventually more and more kids were running from across the street from their homes or leaving their soccer games on the other court to come and play with us. This is when 10 year old Laisha, became a part of the LtN family.
One afternoon, three girls were playing a game of tag on the court. Shauna and I began to talk to them and eventually asked if they wanted to play lacrosse with us. At first they were tentative, but it was Laisha who took onto the game fast. She was passing and catching in the matter of 5 minutes, helping explain the fundamentals to her two younger cousins, Karla and Reychell. From then on, she has been dominating the court!
Every practice she picks up a new skill or drill so quickly. It’s incredible to watch the progress Laisha has made in just a matter of two months. Not only has Laisha conquered the game through her skills; the lacrosse “court” has become a place where she shows great discipline. In the beginning of April we implemented a rule that if a player shows up late for practice, they have to run a lap before joining the team. Laisha showed up a couple minutes late and immediately knew what she had to do without us reminding her. She got on the line, ran a lap, went to the bag to pick up a stick and got in line for the drill. As a coach, it’s exciting to see your player embody a strong work ethic and put forth effort. What’s even more exciting is knowing that lacrosse practices are now a time where other players can observe Laisha’s work and follow by example.
Beginning this month, we’ve started handing out sticks for our players to take home at the end of the week. We decide on two players and have the team vote who they believe most deserves the stick. These players need to exemplify good sportsmanship (on and off the field), listen and be respectful during practice, and come to practice with a positive attitude. Not sure if this will come as a surprise to you at this point, but the team voted on Laisha to be our first player to receive her very own lacrosse stick.
Since receiving her own stick, Laisha has brought it to every practice with a huge smile on her face, ready to go. Seeing her run across the street for practice, stick in hand, fills me with joy because I can’t wait to see what new tricks she has up her sleeve for that day’s practice.
Hurdles in our path of program implementation brought LtN to Laisha. Laisha, in turn, has brought passion, learning, and high numbers of kids to our programs ever since. Coaching a player like Laisha is a true prize and I can’t wait to see where this game takes her. She has so much greatness ahead and has brought so much light to this program with her positivity and radiant demeanor. LtN’s international programs serve a variety of purposes; but perhaps above all, our practices give children like Laisha a platform to grow, to share her light, to push those around her forward, and to enjoy every second of the process. Thank you Laisha, we should call you LtN’s new Director of Program Development, but simply calling you our teammate is more rewarding.
LtN Panama Program Director