Help Defense ... in Fields of Growth or on Fields of Lacrosse

Lacrosse is less than two years old in the country. Already there are more than 300 players on five men's teams and two women's teams within the Uganda Lacrosse Union.

Fields of Growth has helped raise money and get donations of equipment, as well as train the officials and players. This was one of the roles that Wiedmaier filled last summer.

"There were a lot of people who wanted to learn how to play," Wiedmaier says. "People would just show up every day. We had a group of about 40 guys who consistently would play every day. Now that they know that Uganda is in the lacrosse federation, they want to come to Colorado in 2014. They see it as a chance to travel and play a sport they love."

Wiedmaier, in his coaching role, had an immediate impact.

"Thre were some guys who were very decent and could handle the ball," he says. "They're so used to playing soccer, and their idea of how to play was to play like soccer. They'd find open space and throw the ball into it and run to the ball, rather than passing the ball to the person."

While Wiedmaier was there, the federation held something of a national championship with four teams. The team that Wiedmaier coached won.

"They all went nuts," Wiedmaier says. "The first day I was there, it was intimidating. There were some pretty big dudes. Some pretty strong athletes. All of the sudden, I'm their coach. I was wondering why they would listen to me, since they don't know who I am. They came up to me right away and said 'hey coach.' They took it seriously. I've coached so many clinics here where kids are half in and half out. These guys? They wanted to learn absolutely everything. They were so passionate about it."

To help grow the game, the Uganda Lacrosse Union worked on several promotions, including co-ed teams that play without checking and even beach lacrosse (Uganda is a landlocked country).

"The ULU program is just not a lacrosse program," Otoa says. "It has helped players congregate as a tight fraternity from the start which has provided a platform for friendships, learning and character development. This has attracted numerous individuals as it positioned lacrosse in Uganda as a holistic sport that supports athletes in other non-sport life skills, as opposed to other sports that don't necessarily go the extra mile to support their athletes."

The on-field coaching was only part of Wiedmaier's time in Uganda.

"We were helping out with Batwa Development Program," he says. "There's a group of people who have lived in the rain forest for thousands of years. They lived with themselves and nature. Then, because of poachers, Rwanda, Congo and Uganda expelled everyone from the rain forest. For the past 20 years, they've been squatting on land outside rain forest. We've tried to help them to keep their culture but also assimilate. The program finds a family that's the most needy. We built houses with our bare hands. We'd use mud, sticks, bamboo. The main advantage is tin roof. We were able to build a house in a day big enough for a family of six or seven."

And then there is the Princeton Project, which Wiedmaier has led in an effort to enable the locals to provide from themselves, rather than to rely on donations. As part of the effort, the villages would become economically viable, in this case by raising pigs and poultry and by growing pineapples.

As an extra benefit, the project also is an educational one for the school kids, who, by the way, have schools that were built in party by Wiedmaier himself.

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2012-04-27



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