SPORTS

Greece embraces 'fastest game on two feet'

The 'Boots on the Ground' program in Thessaloniki proved very successful.

Greece has become the 57th member of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), the latter has announced, making the Greece Lacrosse Association the 29th European member of the world’s governing body.

FIL said it approved Greece’s accession in a May 2017 postal vote of federation members.

“I am pleased to welcome Greece as our 57th member. It is very special having the nation that is the ‘Birthplace of the Olympics’ be a part of the FIL,” said Bob DeMarco, the FIL Director of Development.

The international federation recounted that the journey began in July of 2014 when the Greece Lacrosse Association (GLA) was formed by co-founders Paul and George Katsiaunis during the 2014 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship in Denver, Colorado. Since its inception, the growth of the GLA has been steady, initially on the international competition level and now at the grassroot level in Greece.

“We are very pleased to become an associate member of the FIL a few years after starting this journey. This is good news for the continued development of the Greece Lacrosse Association.” said Paul Katsiaunis,

Paul, a gifted long stick defenseman from Tenafly High School in Tenafly, N.J., captained Greek squads comprised of mostly Greek-American players that competed in three international friendly tournaments in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

George, the Executive Director for the GLA, along with with Bob Vlahakis, GLA General Manager of Lacrosse Operations, has been working recently to develop lacrosse in elementary, middle and high schools, and at the collegiate levels throughout Greece.

“It is a joy to see our efforts rewarded, and we look forward to working together with the FIL to pursue the rapid growth of the game in Greece. This has been a dream for many years and, through the determined work of Paul and George Katsiaunis, who laid the foundation, we can now move forward even faster with our plans. We are committed to growing and developing the game equally well on both the men’s and women’s side,” said Vlahakis.

According to him, lacrosse was introduced to over 400 elementary, middle and high school aged children in Thessaloniki earlier this year in a four-month program called “Boots on the Ground.”

The program was presented to and endorsed by Anatolia College in Thessaloniki. Stepan Partemian, Coordinator of Athletics and Student Activities at Anatolia College and the GLA’s Regional Director for Thessaloniki carefully arranged physical education classes at all levels to be available.

Teacher/coach Jason Pereles, who was hired by the GLA in January as an intern on an interim basis, directed the efforts of the “Boots on the Ground” program. He will be running three more lacrosse camps this month, potentially touching as many as 250 more students. Pereles will be staying on through the fall to continue to assist the GLA in its development efforts.

The success of the “Boots on the Ground” program led to the addition of a second program that will be taking place this month in Trikala, central Greece.  The program is an intensive five-day clinic for girls and physical education teachers selected from 14 Middle Schools and nine High Schools in the region. Maria Samara, a foreign language teacher at Aristotle University and GLA Regional Director in Trikala, has done all the groundwork preparing for this clinic, coordinating her efforts with GLA Women’s Director, Cathy Samaras.

Vlahakis believes that these on-going programs, along with FIL membership and an anticipated FIL fall clinic with physical education teachers, will be the catalyst for the rapid development of both the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs as the sports catches on in Greece.

Plans are in place for Greece to attend the FIL Women’s World Cup in Manchester ον July 12-22, 2017 to observe and participate in meetings, then field two men’s teams to compete in the FIL Men’s Lacrosse World Championship and accompanying festival tournament in Netanya, Israel, on July 12-21, 2018.

“With the tremendous role that Greece played in the Olympic games,” says a beaming Vlahakis, “and with all their famous Olympians, we now can proudly watch as young student-athletes of present day Greece embrace the fastest game on two feet and make lacrosse the next major sport in Greece.”

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