Written by Brian Ku
This past year I decided to return to school to pursue a Master’s degree. Fortunately for me, the first year of my program allowed me to live in Bologna, Italy. Located, in northern Italy in between its more famous brethren of Milan and Venice to the north and Florence to the south, Bologna is a charming city where the simple pleasures of the Italian lifestyle gently creep into every aspect of daily life.
The Bologna lacrosse team long ago discovered that advertising at Johns Hopkins in Bologna was a sure way to get some experienced lacrosse players to practice and play with. It was through this exact method that I found myself with a friend, in a public park a little way outside the city, ready for our first practice. Lacrosse practice in Italy is a little different from your normal high school or club practice. First, there were only about 9 of us on the field. Second, there was no goal. So how do you practice without a goal? After some line drills and ladder drills, we found out. The goalie stands in a circle made up of cones and the rest of the team sets up as if it is a 2v2 drill. The team then proceeds as if practicing 2v2, except that the goal isn’t to score, but to complete a pass to the teammate and then another pass to the goalie. Stick skills in Italy aren’t the best, so this actually turned out to be a challenge for some of the players. (Next time you wish there was a goalie instead of Hector the Rejecter or have to use a potato ball, remember, there are people who practice WITHOUT a goal).
We also played some games for the Bologna Sharks. The Italian league is formed of about 7 teams throughout the country who travel and play throughout the season. Due to the small amount of teams, schedules follow a club/tournament style with game days being designated, and a team playing 2-3 games that day. Games are often a 2-3 hour ride away, and these teams need to pay for these travel costs out of pocket. Fortunately, these games are in some of the most beautiful settings Italy has to offer – imagine yourself in the Tuscan hillside surrounded by cypress trees playing of a beautiful field. Intensely contested games are followed by warm and friendly Italian barbeques. Beers, Italian sausage, cheese, and wine are all available in copious quantities. The Italians know how to prepare a feast.
I found the Bologna Sharks to be one of the warmest and most welcoming teams that I’ve ever been a part of. From giving us rides to practice and games, lending us all the necessary equipment, to inviting us out in Bologna, the team created a fun and close-knit atmosphere, allowing us to experience Italian culture like a true local.