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The End

Our summer trip has come to a close and we are back in the US. Reflecting on the past ten days, I have only positive memories. From Hawaiian luaus to Japanese tea ceremonies, we had the opportunity of a life time to experience new cultures with 30 of our best friends.  We were able to cherish to the greatest extent the last days we would have as a team. The seniors are moving on and the Stanford Women’s Lacrosse team will change shape once again. However, I wouldn’t have wanted to end the year in any other way.

The end is bittersweet. The senior class have had an invaluable impact on the program and the team. Their leadership, personalities, and talent will be missed probably more than they know. Our trip to Hawaii and Japan allowed us to savor the last moments we would spend together as teammates and friends. We had an abundance of laughs and experiences in the past ten days that will not be forgotten. We are all extremely thankful that we had this chance to bond in such an incredibly unusual way.

Reading Bilas’ Toughness supplemented the impact of this trip. We could apply his lessons of mental toughness to our experiences off as well as on the lacrosse field. Exploring the Japanese culture with our host families was a setting that forced us to use Bilas’ words to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and enjoy the opportunity. Playing the Japanese national team in front of nearly 5,000 fans was a different setting in which applying Bilas’ advice helped us to focus and stay confident. 

The past ten days was nothing what I expected it to be. The laughs never ended and the new experiences never ceased. The graciousness of the Japanese people was humbling and eye-opening. Their excitement to meet us, learn from us and watch us play was truly amazing. Our team bonded more during this trip than we had all year because we went through such diverse experiences together. 

On behalf of my team, I would like to thank our coaches and staff, the Japanese Lacrosse Association, Zag Sports, Stanford University and all who made this trip possible. The trip was like nothing we had ever done, and we are all extremely grateful. Last, to our seniors (Lyndsey, NIna, Megan and Anna) you will be missed. You have had an enormous impact on each of our lives and the Stanford Women’s Lacrosse program, and we are all thankful to have been able to cherish our last moments as a team in such incredible places. 

“Lacrosse Makes Friends”

Although we came to Japan to explore a new culture, we also came to compete against a top international team. Yesterday we had the opportunity to play in the 25th annual International Friendship Game against the Japanese national team. The Drexel University men’s lacrosse team played the Japanese men’s national team, and together we sought to represent American lacrosse. Lacrosse is not well known in Japan; therefore, our participation is one step to aid in the growth of the game. The Japanese players expressed their desire to watch and learn from how we play to further the game in their home country. Thus, we have dedicated the three days we play here in Japan to not only playing Japanese teams, but also teaching Japanese players what we know.

As we stepped onto the field for the opening ceremonies, we were in awe. The stadium stands were filled with at least 5,000 eager fans waiting to watch the talent of American lacrosse players. The scale of the event was not like anything we had anticipated it to be. But, it was an opportunity to play in front of thousands of ecstatic fans that we would not have in Palo Alto. We lined up next to the three other teams participating and listened as the crowd cheered after every speech. The energy was like nothing we had ever experienced.

A Japanese princess attended the game, a privilege we also did not expect. She, the Mayor and the head of the Japanese Lacrosse Association all spoke, welcoming us to the event and expressing its importance. Both our head coach and the Drexel head coach also spoke acknowledging how grateful we are for this opportunity. “Lacrosse makes friends” is the motto of the association, one that all speakers took to heart. In fact, one speaker initiated a cheer: when he said “lacrosse”, we were to respond with “makes friends.” Needless to stay, the cheer has become a team favorite.

The game was exciting and fun. The crowd cheered at every goal and ooo-ed at every check or interception. Such an animated crowd only added to the thrill of the lacrosse, something that none of us had ever experienced.

It is incredible to see how exciting the Japanese players are to play against us and meet us. We partook in an endless amount of selfless and received an abundance of gifts. Their excitement fuels our own as we come to remember why we began playing lacrosse so many years ago.

After the game, we headed to a boat cruise around Tokyo where we were served a freshly caught meal and sang Karaoke. I can’t speak to the food considering I ate a nuts, edamame and rice, but the singing was horrible. Despite the lack of pitch my team has, singing karaoke with our team and staff was one of the funniest and most memorable experiences of this trip. Everyone let loose and we acted like a crazy, large, dysfunctional family. Without any hesitation, our assistant coach Lo Schwarzmann got up and kicked off the karaoke with a beautiful (…) rendition of Britney Spears’ Lucky. Head Coach Amy Bokker reprised her performance of Don’t Stop Believin’ and our athletic trainer Nina Holley and sports performance coach Lesley Moser also joined in. While Lesley rocked the boat with her dance moves to Love Shack, Nina chose to remain seated for her emphatic performance of Man in the Mirror. By the end of the night, everyone was singing and dancing to classics like Sweet Home Alabama, Piano Man, and the infamous Wannabe. The servers even said, “I hope you had fun. You guys are crazy,” as we were walking off the boat. Crazy? Yes, we were. We were singing our heads off as we had probably the most productive team bonding session we had ever had. We were enjoying one of our last nights as a team before the seniors head off to the real world.

With one night left in Japan, we can only look back at our adventure with a smile. The trip was nothing like we could have ever anticipated it to be.

Communication and Persistence

Two days ago we landed in Japan. There is an unknown yet familiar air within the country. It’s modern but traditional, structured but fluid, westernized but cultured. There is a McDonalds at every corner, yet they are surrounded by sushi restaurants. There is an iPhone in the hand of many, but they carry traditional milk tea in the other.

We arrived on Thursday after a long 8 hour flight. After one movie, four episodes of Orange is the New Black, a blog post and a quick nap, I found myself standing on Japanese soil. We drove to the hotel and were greeted by a dinner that seemed quite American. Soup, salad, and (most importantly) bread began the meal. French fries and a chicken with some tomato sauce followed. Although the food seemed to mimic typical American cuisine, the meal disappointed many. We came to Japan to experience all aspects of the culture and not be isolated by what we are comfortable with. Needless to say, that meal was the anomaly: we have since been immersed in the Japanese culture in every aspect. From visiting historic temples and statues in Kamakura to singing karaoke to staying in the homes of Japanese players, we have had the opportunity to learn first hand about such an interesting society.

The two chapters in Jay Bilas’ book that apply to these experiences are titled “Communication” and “Persistence.” When I first met my host, Rise (pronounced ree-say), she seemed to just simply nod at all that I said without quite understanding. Her friend said,”She is a shy girl and she doesn’t know much English. Good luck.” I’m not going to lie, in that moment I panicked. How would I communicate with her if she can’t understand me? What if something happens? (and..What if they don’t have wifi?) These thoughts raced through my head as we began to walk towards the train station. But, when I arrived at Rise’s home, I was greeted so warmly by her family. Both her mother and father speak English well enough to communicate, so any fears of isolation were washed away. Even as Rise and I began to get to know each other better, we were able to communicate easier. Although her English remained weak and my Japanese was limited to konichiwa (hello/goodbye) and arigatou (thank you), simple gestures and mutual interests enabled us to communicate. Persistence is also prevalent in the home stay experience. Bilas discusses the importance of stepping outside one’s comfort zone to build confidence and toughness. He writes, “Without those experiences teaching me the value of persistence, of sticking with it when you are outside of your comfort zone, I’m not sure I would have been able to succeed.” As my teammates dispersed, following their hosts, we did just that. We were taking the first steps outside of our comfort zone to allow ourselves to live as the Japanese do. This persistence can only make us more comfortable and confident when confronted with more unfamiliar tasks. Some of us were nervous, others excited, but we all took advantage of this unique opportunity.

To get to the home of my host family, we took a bus, two trains, and walked ten-minutes. Rise’s home is in a small, quite, yet metropolitan city. The streets are lit by tall green lanterns and the aroma of Japanese cuisine fills the air. The first night, Rise’s mom prepared a homemade DIY sushi platter. To make the sushi, you take a square piece of seaweed, fill it with some rice, add any combination of vegetables, meat or fish, then roll the seaweed, dip it in soy sauce, and enjoy. The crab and avocado combo was by far my favorite, but the other stuffings included cucumbers, shrimp, sea urchin (I stayed away from this one…remember I’m a picky eater), egg, and sprouts. Because I am so particular about what I eat, I was (not gonna lie) very concerned about the food during the home stay. I was worried not only about being rude by not eating the food Rise’s family prepared, but also about not, well, feeling the need to run to the trash can. However, I found this concern moot as I stayed in Rise’s home. The sushi dinner was delicious and this morning we had croissants–every and all types of croissants. I could not have asked for anything better. Tonight, Rise and I went with graduated goalie Lyndsey Munoz and her host to a local Japanese restaurant. There, we had tempura (fried vegetables and shrimp) and soba (thin noodles). Once again, the food was both edible and delicious.

Today, our team reconvened to play two Japanese teams. In the locker room, everyone was sharing stories about their first night at the home stay. Everyone’s experience was unique, and all had only smiles on their face as they recounted the night. One of my teammates went to a Japanese spa and found herself in a naked public bath. Others had burgers for dinner and Krispy Kreme for breakfast. Some stayed with families who spoke perfect English, others ate dinner with a translator at the table. Some stayed in a large houses, others in small apartments. Most slept on mats, while a few had personal beds. In fact, I am writing this blog as I sit on a bed in my host family’s apartment. This bed is not what most Americans would consider “normal”: it is two mats with a pillow and blanket. For us, this bed may seem the equivalent of a sleeping bag, but to the Japanese it is comfort and tradition.

Staying with a host family only enhanced our understanding of the Japanese culture. Without the home-stay, we would not have been able to experience what life is like for the average Japanese family. We are able to compare our families and our lifestyles to that of our host-family and discover what is similar and what is different. The differences are just as intriguing as the similarities because that is what makes society so complex. What might be rude to us may be polite to them (slurping, as an example)–and that is what makes our world so beautiful.

Tomorrow is the international friendship game and we will play the Japanese national team. The game is one of the biggest events in the city of Kanagawa and will be attended by a Japanese princess. For now, I am going to get some rest and will be sure to recount tomorrow’s experience.

-Mackenzie Tesei

The End of the Island Lifestyle

Our days in the tropical heaven that is Hawaii have come to a close. I write this as I sit on a plane, the path to our next adventure. The hours of beach time, the henna tattoos and the bathing suits have all come to a close as we fly to Japan to experience yet another culture.

The final day in Japan was characterized by the word “courage”–denoted in the third chapter of Jay Bilas’ book. To end the last clinic we would be coaching in Hawaii, the freshmen (in charge of the day’s practice) decided to play 5 v 5. They divided the kids who came that day and a few Stanford players into two teams of 5. There was only one aspect missing: a goalie. Rising junior defender Adrienne Anderson, without regard to her lack of any experience or goalie expertise, agreed to step in goal. Our team cheered (and giggled) as Adrienne attempted to triumph over yet another position (she played midfield her freshman year). Witnessing Adrienne in goal provided a good laugh as she yelled, “I almost just ran out of the goal,” in response to a shot by attacker Kelsey Murray. But, she did managed to save one shot–she may not have had perfect form, but she got the job done. Adrienne evidently embodied Bilas’ description of courage .He writes, “Toughness isn’t an absence of fear. It is the courage to face it, to keep plugging, and to over come it.”

Later that evening, we had the opportunity to take part in a traditional luau. After an hour of spear-throwing, tribal tattoos, lei-making and snacking, we sat down for the main meal. (The star of which was a freshly roasted pig– I heard it was very good). My pickiness–similar to that of a ten-year-old–led me to a plate of rice, chocolate cake, and pineapple, which I was perfectly satisfied with. We ate as hula dancers and serenaders performed in the typical Polynesian style. The culture, so disparate from what we are accustomed to, was perfectly displayed through the performances. The dances were expressions of stories through movement, so intriguing to all in view.

The host invited viewers to come on stage to learn to hula. Many members of our team went and embraced the Hawaiian tradition. Adorned in leis, shell necklaces and grass headbands, my teammates attempted to move like the hula dancers while trying to avoid looking too much like Miley Cyrus–it is a delicate balance. Later, the male hula dancers walked into the audience, looking for a few willing participants to join them dancing on stage. Adrienne Anderson, encouraged (or rather, pushed) by much of the team, took the hand of the asking hula dancer. Once again, Ade displays her inner courage. She managed to let all anxiety or public embarrassment go, and (solo) hula danced on stage. She reveled in the experience, and, not to mention, provided the team with even more amusement.

Although our Hawaiian days have come to an end, our trip is far from over. These upcoming days will be filled with both cultural experiences and, even more so, lacrosse.
Now, however, it is time to binge watch “Orange is the New Black” until we land in Tokyo.

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Surfing, Snorkeling and Scavenger Hunts

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Day 3 and we have readily embraced the island lifestyle: surfing, snorkeling, throwing the shaka, hair braids, and henna tattoos.

Team surfing was characterized by some bellyflops, many laughs, and quite a few caught waves. With the help of our surf instructors, we all managed to stand up and have a few seconds of “Blue Crush” glory.

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Snorkeling was an experience that allowed us to be literally immersed in another world. We drove to the scenic Hanauma Bay and dove into the fish-filled waters. We swam among sea turtles, indigenous fish, and (apparently) some sharks. I, not the most animal-loving human, found myself in awe of the sea creatures. There is something so calming about the quietness of the coral reefs where life thrives hidden from human sight. The mystery of the reefs, although frightening, is also too intriguing to swim away from. A group of us floated above a turtle, watching as it swam effortlessly among the coral and rose gently to the surface. Needless to say, snorkeling allowed us to be among new creatures and foster unforgettable experiences.

 

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The chapter in Toughness that we read for today is entitled “Preparation.” After we worked a clinic for locals and visitors, our coaches announced we were to embark on a scavenger hunt. We were randomly divided into teams of four and given a list of tasks to accomplish within a forty-five minute period. The tasks included taking pictures of famous landmarks and with locals while throwing the shaka. We were to meet at the beach for the final task: a swimming relay race. The teams who succeeded in accomplishing the most tasks prepared their hunt strategically. They found each landmark on a map and planned their route in the most efficient way. As Jay Bilas writes, “Preparation is multifaceted. It is about hard work, but it is also about concentration, in planning and execution, and it is about how you frame things in your mind.” The winning teams did just that: they focused on the task at hand, planned accordingly, and thus, executed it to the highest extent. They were undaunted by the length of the relay; instead, they dove into the waters and embraced the competition.

With one full day left in Hawaii, I am sure we will all embrace the island life to the fullest. Traveling in a more relaxed setting has caused more laughs (and more sunburn) than any trips we took this Spring. From falling off surfboards to getting sprayed in the face by a surprise sprinkler, we have certainly not had a lack of amusement.

Tomorrow we will have our last hurrah at a traditional luau. I can’t promise any pigs were not harmed in the process.

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– Mackenzie Tesei

 

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Aloha, Hawaii

After weeks of unwavering anticipation, we, Stanford Women’s Lacrosse, have arrived in Hawaii. We have embarked on our adventure to explore cultures, bask in the scenery, and play lacrosse in some of the world’s most beautiful places.

We had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor on our first day. Visiting the site can be described as eerie, heart wrenching, and humbling. Walking on the USS Arizona Memorial, which stands above the sunken ship, I looked around at my team. Nobody talked. Everyone was leaning against the railing, mesmerized by the juxtaposition between the beautiful scenery and the horrific memory of December 7, 1941. Visiting the memorial and honoring those who fell that day, was the perfect way to begin our trip. Our adventure was put into perspective, and we were ready to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

Before we arrived at the hotel, we stopped to get a famous local treat, malasadas, at Leonard’s Bakery to celebrate rising Junior Alexandra Crerand’s birthday. These donut-like desserts were our first taste of the Hawaiian culture–and they were unreal.

Additionally, this trip presents us with the opportunity to continue building not only our lacrosse ability, but also our mentality. As we boarded the plane in SFO, our coach, Amy Bokker, handed us a book: Toughness by Jay Bilas. Every chapter highlights a word imperative to the success of the individual athlete and the team. Amy asked that we read a chapter each day, so that we can apply the advice to our experiences both on the lacrosse field and immersed in new cultures.

The first chapter is entitled “Trust.” Bilas discusses the importance of trusting both one’s teammates and oneself. “Great teammates are willing to bring out the best in each other without concern for their own individual benefit,” he writes, and such teamwork comes from a community of trust.

We found ourselves able to apply this idea in our first practice. Our sports performance coach Lesley divided us up into four teams. Each team was given a set of puzzles, ranging from simple word scrambles to deceptively confusing riddles to seemingly impossible (but should have been simple) systems of equations. After one puzzle was complete, we ran, each time increasing the distance. The first team to complete all of the puzzles and the running sequence won. My team (in the lead until the not-so-simple math equations), found that success could only come if we trusted our own abilities and our teammates’ abilities. We had to recognize each other’s strengths and apply them to the task at hand. (Our strategy worked until we found math to be a mutual weakness.)

Now, we are off to a team surfing lesson. This should be interesting. Happy Birthday, Xan! Team