4 Feb 2016

Croatia is FIL’s 53rd Member Nation

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TORONTO, ONTARIO—The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) announces that Croatia has been approved to become its 53rd member nation by a December 2015 postal vote of federation members.

Tom Hayes, FIL Director of Development

“The FIL welcomes the Croatia Lacrosse Association as its 53rd member. The addition of Croatia brings the number of lacrosse playing nations in the Balkans to six.”
—Tom Hayes, FIL Director of Development

FIL Director of Development, Tom Hayes, was enthusiastic about Croatia’s membership, saying, “The FIL welcomes the Croatia Lacrosse Association as its 53rd member. The addition of Croatia brings the number of lacrosse playing nations in the Balkans to five. We look forward to including Croatia in future FIL championship events.” Croatia joins Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey as FIL members from the Balkan region.

Two sports enthusiasts, Matej Bodul and Ante Pilić, started Croatia Lacrosse in 2011. A core group of players and supporters developed club teams in Zagreb, New Zagreb, and Varazdin. With the help of key individuals in its native country, the U.S., and eventually FIL, the Croatian Lacrosse Association (CLA) was formed. The Serbian and Slovenian Lacrosse Federations also played significant roles in helping the lacrosse program grow in Croatia.

Chris Voelker, CLA Director of Development

Chris Voelker

Chris Voelker, the CLA’s Director of Development, is thrilled with Croatia’s membership acceptance and commented “Croatia’s membership in FIL will serve as a portal to connect the CLA with people of Croatian heritage who have a love for the game. With FIL membership, the CLA’s newly elevated profile may motivate others to bring donated equipment or to run clinics in this amazingly beautiful and friendly country.”

The Croatian men’s national team recently played in the Celtics Cup Tournament in Klagenfurt, Austria against teams from Slovenia, Serbia, and Austria. The team will also be participating in the Newcomers’ Tournament during the European Lacrosse Championship (EC16) in Budapest, Hungary in July 2016 and is looking forward to representing Croatia in it’s first major international lacrosse tournament.

Dino Mattessich

Dino Mattessich

This past fall, Dino Mattessich joined the CLA as Head Coach of its men’s national team. Mattessich was a former NCAA champion player and head coach at the University of Maryland and is the current Deputy Director of Athletics at Hofstra University. A Croatian-American, Mattessich had this to say, “I am very fortunate and extremely excited to be developing lacrosse in my native country. Like so many who have been profoundly influenced and enriched by their experience with the game, I am humbled and honored by this calling to develop a national program that will afford educational, cultural and life learning opportunities to all who participate. The challenge is great, but those who commit to this effort will look back on this journey with very fond memories.”

According to CLA founder and President Matej Bodul, “the Croatian Lacrosse Association is working hard to expand the men’s program into new cities and to establish a youth and women’s program. These programs are essential to further developing lacrosse in Croatia and for developing future Croatian lacrosse players that will represent their home country on an international level.” Bodul concluded, “The organization is very excited to have the support of the Federation of International Lacrosse. FIL membership is a major step forward for the program”.

See Chris Voelker’s full report on the growth of lacrosse in Croatia and the key people who made it happen below.

—FIL Press Release

For more information contact: Tom Hayes at t.hayes@filacrosse.com

 

Lacrosse in Croatia

 

Lacrosse takes flight in Croatia

By Chris Voelker, CLA Director of Development

Two sports enthusiasts, Matej Bodul and Ante Pilić, started Croatia Lacrosse in 2011. In a few short years, what began as a hopeful dream of one day fielding a lacrosse team in their hometown of Zagreb, developed into a lacrosse program fielding teams in Zagreb, New Zagreb, and Varazdin and also the beginnings of a Croatian National Lacrosse Team. Like most non-mainstream sports in this part of Europe, lacrosse in Croatia owes its existence to the dedication and backing of a core group of players and enthusiasts. With their help, it was possible to travel on a regular basis to tournaments, play organized leagues and develop infrastructure for regular, quality practice sessions.

Croatia Lacrosse got a boost in 2013 when Croatia Lacrosse team member Marko Duvnjak reached out to his cousins Bobby and Johnny Duvnjak (from Manhasset, NY) who in turn asked their cousin, Billy Bitter (of Bitter Lacrosse) for some help growing the game in Croatia. The Duvnjaks and Bitter, along with a couple of Bobby’s Harvard lacrosse teammates, ran a series of clinics in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. They brought with them cartons of donated lacrosse equipment for the team, generously supplied by Maverick, Cascade and the Manhasset PAL lacrosse program (organized by Frank Coughlin and Karlo Duvnjak).

The lacrosse connection between Croatia and Manhasset continued in 2015 when Jack Voelker, as part of his 3rd-grade book project on the history and origins of lacrosse, reached out to Croatia Lacrosse (in addition to the 52 members of the FIL) with a questionnaire. He asked general questions about lacrosse outside of the United States: How many teams are there? Do kids play lacrosse? If not, why?. Both Matej Bodul and Marko Duvnjak of Croatia Lacrosse enthusiastically responded to Jack’s email and explained that it is the limited the availability of equipment, not lack of interest; that is holding back the growth of the sport in Croatia (as is the case in many countries around the world).

Jack’s mother is Croatian-American, and the family travels to Croatia every summer. Jack and his sister Kate (ages 9 and 7, who both hold dual US-Croatian citizenship) asked their parents (Chris Voelker & Anne Marinović) if they could bring lacrosse equipment to donate that summer. The Voelker children collected outgrown lacrosse equipment and donations to buy new equipment from their friends and neighbors instead of presents for their birthday parties. “Every garage in Manhasset is full of outgrown gear,” explained Anne Voelker. We were able to collect and bring almost 200 pounds of equipment to Zagreb and had the opportunity to meet some of the players. The kids were super excited and had a lot of fun. It was a great experience for all of us”. Jack already has big dreams for the Croatia program and says he is “looking forward to one day possibly playing for the Croatian National team when (he is) old enough!” Chris Voelker feels that “helping Croatia grow the game is a rewarding and productive way to connect his children’s love of lacrosse with their Croatian heritage.”

After returning to Manhasset, Chris Voelker volunteered to reach out to the FIL to navigate the membership process. Chris hopes that “Croatia’s membership in FIL will serve as a portal to connect the CLA with people of Croatian heritage who have a love for the game. With FIL membership, the CLA’s newly elevated profile may motivate others to bring donated equipment or to run clinics in this amazingly beautiful and friendly country.” Voelker continued, “Membership will also provide a mechanism through which tax-deductible donations can be made to help further develop and expand the program in Croatia.”

This past fall, Dino Mattessich and Kevin Boyle joined the coaching staff of the Croatian Lacrosse Association and are also working to help grow the program.

Dino Mattessich is a Croatian-American university administrator and former college lacrosse coach and player. Mattessich was born in Mali Lošinj, Croatia (raised in Susak). Mattessich played lacrosse at the University of Maryland from 1971 to 1974, including on the team that won the NCAA championship in 1973. He graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He holds a master’s degree Athletic Administration and a Doctorate in Education Administration. He served as the Head Coach at the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore NCAA lacrosse teams and for the University of Connecticut MCLA team. He has worked in collegiate athletics coaching and administration for over 38 years and is currently the Deputy Director of Athletics at Hofstra University. Mattessich also currently serves on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee as well serves on the Board of Directors for the Long Island-Metropolitan New York Lacrosse Foundation. Mattesich commented, “I am very fortunate and extremely excited to be developing lacrosse in my native country. Like so many who have been profoundly influenced and enriched by their experience with the game, I am humbled and honored by this calling to develop a national program that will afford educational, cultural and life learning opportunities to all who participate. The challenge is great, but those who commit to this effort will look back on this journey with very fond memories.”

Kevin Boyle, a longtime supporter of the CLA, is a Croatian-American lawyer and former lacrosse player and coach. During law school, he served as a Graduate Assistant Coach at the University of Michigan. Boyle has also coached various High School and Youth Lacrosse programs in the mid-western United States. Earlier this year, Boyle was a Guest Coach for the Helsinki Chiefs, a men’s lacrosse team in Finland. Boyle played lacrosse at the University of Illinois in the MCLA and was a member of the 1997 and 1998 conference championship teams. Boyle currently resides in San Antonio, TX.

The Croatian men’s national team recently played in the Celtics Cup Tournament in Klagenfurt, Austria against teams from Slovenia, Serbia, and Austria. The team will also be participating in the Newcomers’ Tournament during the European Lacrosse Championship (EC16) in Budapest, Hungary in July 2016 and is looking forward to representing Croatia in it’s first major international lacrosse tournament.

CLA founder and President Matej Bodul says that “the Croatian Lacrosse Association is working hard to expand the men’s program into new cities and to establish a youth and women’s program. These programs are essential to further developing lacrosse in Croatia and for developing future Croatian lacrosse players that will represent their home country on an international level.” Bodul concluded, “The organization is very excited to have the support of the Federation of International Lacrosse. FIL membership is a major step forward for the program”.

CLA Primary Contacts

Croatia: Matej Bodul, CLA President, zagrebbulldogs@gmail.com
U.S.: Chris Voelker, Director of Development, chrisvoelker@yahoo.co

Additional Key Contacts

Marko Duvnjak, marko1903@gmail.com
Dino Mattessich, dominick.mattessich@hofstra.edu
Kevin Boyle, kevin.c.boyle@tsocorp.com

Croatian Lacrosse Association website: http://hrvatski-lacrosse.com/

 

About the FIL

The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) is the international governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse. The FIL currently has 54 member nations and holds five World Championships (women’s and men’s field, women’s and men’s U19 field and men’s indoor.) The FIL is responsible for the governance and integrity of all forms of lacrosse and provides responsive and effective leadership to support the sports’ development throughout the world.

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