As the 55th member of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) and one of the teams to be invited to participate in the World Lacrosse Championship, the Haiti National Lacrosse team was determined to join its competition in Israel this July. Short on funds to get the team to Israel, Haiti’s head Coach, Barry Ellison, set up a GoFundMe account, hoping to draw enough support from the community to ensure Haiti’s presence by July 12.
With just a few weeks until the championship games and the reality of the the unlikelihood of their attendance looming, the team pushed forward with fundraising for the 2018 championships. After missing their financial mark for the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships, the team is doing just that: pushing forward, with the support of some Haitians and the help of their American-born team captain.
“I probably have gotten 1 or 2 messages of people not even being mad at the team, but about the government not being behind it as much as they should be, which is really out of our control at this point,” said Stevens Cadet, captain of the team. Cadet joined the team a little over a year ago, after being selected as the first overall pick for the team. In this short time, he has also become team captain, taking on various responsibilities, such as assisting with trainings, strategizing and even building awareness.
“We would love it and welcome it. It would give us another stamp of approval. Obviously, being a national team and representing the country, it would make sense and it would only work in everybody’s benefit. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to sit around and wait for it. We’re working with what we have.”
The Haitian government isn’t the only sector of Haitian influencers lacking in their support of the Haitian National Lacrosse team. The most shocking has been the lack of support from Haitian celebrities and athletes.
“We have not gotten, to my knowledge, donations from one Haitian celebrity or athlete, and I’m very shocked and surprised by that,” Cadet said. “Maybe they haven’t seen it yet or it hasn’t reached them yet.”
Cadet believes support from Haitian celebrities and athletes would propel the team’s mission and is a cause all should get behind.
“I’m waiting for that, because I feel like once that happens, then it’ll really take off. I feel like it’s a good cause that they should get behind, because it’s something that’s representing their culture and their country in a positive way.”
According to Cadet, a Haitian-American born and raised in Elmont, NY, currently about 95 percent of the Haitian National Lacrosse team players are Haitian nationals, which creates a challenge for the team as a whole.
“The experience level and the fact that Haitian national players born and raised in Haiti haven’t been exposed to lacrosse for as long as I have, so their understanding of the sport is not as vast,” Cadet said. “When I jump into a leadership role, helping a lot of the other players understand the game of lacrosse on a more professional level has been a challenge.”
Cadet also recognizes the seemingly simple tasks that are challenging for a team with physical and economic barriers, such as communication.
“A lot of the players don’t come from a privileged background,” he said. “A lot can’t get to the internet everyday or to a phone everyday so we can talk about some of the strategic efforts that we want to do as a team.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Haiti National Lacrosse team is outside of the team itself. One major focus for the team is building awareness of the lacrosse sport as well as Haiti’s National team.
“Coach spoke to me, giving me the opportunity to help with efforts of building awareness. No one really thought, other than myself, that this would turn out the way it did. I had faith in our people, that they would support once they knew of Haiti National Lacrosse. Many people didn’t think it was going to turn out the way it did, now they see a great potential.”
Once word of the team began to spread, waves of supportive messages from childhood friends and family, strangers, sports enthusiasts and patriots poured in. “Ninety-nine percent of the response has been very very positive, very very supportive, and excited to see the process of Haiti having something else that’s positive, that’s representing the culture in the right way,” said Cadet.
Going forward, the team is placing their focus on the 2022 World Lacrosse Championships, and dedicating all resources to preparing themselves for the world stage. The team plans to bring players from Haiti to the US, to hold training camps focused on technical skill, nutrition and overall game knowledge.
Cadet said, “Some of our goals are to continue building the brand of Haiti National Lacrosse, grow the game itself, get an official sponsor whether it’s Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, to help with uniforms, cleats, gloves… that would be something that would take us to the next level. Getting more Haitian-American players and supporters. High-name supporters to build awareness.”
Cadet believes that one day Haiti could host the championships, but is focused on proving that the team can put it’s best foot forward and get to the world games first.
Of course this is “The opportunity to be part of the first ever Haitian National Lacrosse team is such an honor, the opportunity to be able to grow the game of Lacrosse that has given me so many opportunities, It’s something that is hard to fathom, that I was given this opportunity at this point in my life.”