As Big Blue readies itself for the fall season, it hopes to improve upon its record last season, during which the team took third in the Metropolitan Independent Football League.
A few weeks ago, as Pingry seniors were savoring their final days of classwork and gearing up for their Independent Senior Projects (ISPs) during the month of May, Director of Athletics Carter Abbott spotted Jack Baulig '19 in the hallway. "I just learned that you're traveling to Kenya to work with Kenya Lacrosse for your ISP! Did you know that I'm a friend of [Kenya Lacrosse founder and head coach] Storm Trentham?"* Jack had no idea, nor did he know that Coach Abbott had her own plans to visit Kenya in June to serve as a guest coach for their U19 Women's National Team, which Ms. Trentham is developing. And so, their unlikely connection—to a country more than 7,000 miles from the halls of Pingry—was uncovered, much to their delight. Here's the full story from Jack, who will play football for Kenyon College in the fall. (Note: The following interview was conducted before Jack's departure, and published just before his return, hence the neat photos he was able to supply!)
*Coach Abbott and Trentham, a former player for the Welsh National Lacrosse Team, met in 2011 at the U19 World Lacrosse Championships in Hanover, Germany. Abbott was a coach for USA's U19 National Team and Trentham was a coach for the Welsh U19 National Team.
So, you're headed to Kenya from May 5 to 14 to work with Storm Trentham, who happens to be a friend of Coach Abbott, to help her in her efforts to lead the country's first national lacrosse team. Can you share with me how this ISP evolved?
Last summer, my sister met Storm at a lacrosse program she was doing, and learned a bit about her campaign in Kenya to start a national lacrosse program. Because my dad's sister and her husband have lived in Nairobi, where Storm is based, for several years, and I've always wanted to visit them, my mom suggested the ISP connection to me. I've played lacrosse since I was a kid, so it made sense. The rest is history!
Storm's current goal is to launch a U19 Kenyan Women's National Team, and have them compete at the World Championships in Canada this summer. If she succeeds, then there will be a women's national lacrosse team on every continent, which means the sport can qualify to become an Olympic event. [Currently, neither men's nor women's lacrosse is contested in the Olympics.] Lacrosse is definitely more of a western sport; you don't necessarily think of African countries as offering lacrosse. But if you get kids practicing early—I started in third grade—they become good. It's one of the fastest growing sports in the world. I think these Kenyan girls are actually going to have much more talent and depth than I am expecting.
What will your main responsibilities be while you're there?
Mornings, I'll be working with Storm to help market, fundraise, and do some behind-the-scenes administrative stuff, like helping the 18 female players who are training for Worlds in August to get passports. A lot of them don't have birth certificates in order to get passports, so I'll help with all that. And then in the afternoons, I'll help out with the training sessions, and hopefully serve as a mentor to the players, some of whom will be younger kids. WiFi is very spotty in Nairobi, so Storm is actually going to stay with me at my aunt and uncle's house for the week, since they have pretty reliable service.
What is the goal of your ISP, or your planned deliverable?
I'm excited for the opportunity to work with a grassroots organization. They want any and every kind of help they can get. I also think there's a real chance to connect our school with Storm's organization, maybe through Pingry's Lacrosse the Nations Club, whose student leaders I've been talking to. In terms of a deliverable, I plan to demonstrate what the experience was like from a physical standpoint, by making a presentation with photos, video, and a written reflection. But I also want to demonstrate what having a national lacrosse team means to the country, to them. For many of these players, spending two hours at practice means they're not spending two hours in difficult living conditions. Storm told me that one of the team's best girls had to quit because she was raped and got pregnant. Being at practice means that they're safe, they get a bottle of water and a snack. We take these essentials for granted, but they don't see them very often. There's an aspect of humanity to the work Storm is doing.
What do you most hope to get out of this ISP? What will make it successful in your eyes?
I'm really looking forward to meeting the kids and making a connection with them. I haven't been to Africa and, while my family and I love to travel internationally, most times when you travel you don't have a chance to make personal connections. This is a very different situation. I'll be close to the kids and the teams and that's an exciting opportunity. If I connect and make a lasting impact with the kids, that will make it a successful ISP.
Read more information on Kenya Lacrosse.
Or, follow them on Instagram: @kenyalax
Photos, top to bottom: Jack with members of the Kenya Lacrosse program; Jack (left) with Kenya Lacrosse founder Storm Trentham and coach Hassan Ali.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org