O’Hearn, who had performed clinics in a number of countries since his playing career at Albany ended in 2000, said the Russian experience was one of the most unique.
“As I was talking at the end, it really struck me that this is the first youth group to ever exist in Russia,” O’Hearn said. “So if the sport takes off and grows 20 years from now it’s an established thing, that was the first youth group. … It’s cool for the kids to see the beginning roots of a new country taking off.”
That was the goal when the Saint Petersburg White Knights and Moscow Rebels were founded in 2007, and it remains the goal 10 years later. And now that the Russian players have gotten a taste of American lacrosse, they want more. Many got the chance to compete with the Russian national team in the 2014 FIL World Championship in Denver, but they’d love to come back.
“We really looking forward to visiting the United States,” Ventsel said. “We need to gain more experience from United States players, and we understand that it’s very important for us. ... There are thousands of camps. It’s our first intention, to visit the United States and learn more and more.”
Could they return the favor with Mercer Island? How much could it influence the growth of the game? It may take years to show the tangible benefits of Mercer Island’s trip, but those involved with lacrosse in Russia are hoping it can help change the landscape of the game in their country for good.