A love affair


A love affair

Alix Baldini eager to help grow the sport of lacrosse in Jamaica and beyond

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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What started out as a simple stint for Alix Baldini to assist in the development of Jamaica's lacrosse, blossomed into a love affair.

Baldini first arrived in Jamaica in 2014 to teach high school students the game, but she has not looked back since and now volunteers her service as head coach of Jamaica's Under-19 female lacrosse team.

She will be assisted by Karli Brentlinger, who is currently the head coach of Women's Lacrosse at National Collegiate Athletic Association Division One Howard University, as well as Peter Kenny.

At 28, Baldini may seem young at heart, but her vast experience in playing and coaching lacrosse indicates otherwise, and her enthusiasm and passion for the sport knows no bounds.

When not on the fields in Jamaica, Baldini remains active throughout the lacrosse community in Florida, and played three out of four years on the Owls club lacrosse team, serving as a volunteer for the Major League Lacrosse team during their inaugural years at Florida Atlantic University.

She also currently serves as a youth coach for the West Tampa Wolves in Odessa, and head coach for the Lady Gators at Land O' Lakes high school, heading into her third season with both teams.

“I never ever thought about playing sports in my younger days, although I had a competitive brother, so I didn't start playing lacrosse until my freshman year of high school and I haven't found a love like this ever since. So I kind of stuck with it and I am glad I did,” Baldini told the Jamaica Observer as she summed up her journey in a recent interview.

Knowing that Jamaica is blessed with incredible athletic potential, the American-born Baldini, whose family shares an Italian background, has been travelling to the island from her base in Florida for the past five years with an objective to unearth outstanding lacrosse players.

That coupled with the fact that she is a strong believer in correct technique, has resulted in significant inroads being made in the sport's growth locally with players showing vast improvement.

“I got involved with the programme when I came down for a one-week camp to come help out and I ended up coming back two weeks later, absolutely loving it, loving the girls and I have pretty much been back every winter and summer camp we have had since then. The number of times I have been back here, I feel like I do have Jamaican ties, physically,” the jovial personality said with a broad smile.

Baldini's contribution to the sport will be put to the test when the team makes a historic bow at the August 1-10 Federation of International Lacrosse Women's Lacrosse Under-19 World Championship in Ontario, Canada.

Despite still being some ways off from their intended target of over US$100,000, to cover airfare, accommodation and meals for the championship, Baldini and her team remains resolute in preparation, with the hope that a few good Samaritans will come to their rescue prior to their July 28 departure.

Should they make it, they would be the first Under-19 female team from Jamaica or the Caribbean to make an appearance and Baldini believes they are poised for a good showing.

Leading from the front, this shrewd coach is capable of getting the best out of her players, as her advice and words of encouragement have produced a fine all-round team to be reckoned with.

“It has been a really good journey; there has been a lot of growth, but we are still working on some fundamental qualities,” Baldini noted during a training session at Wolmer's Girls recently.

“However, every single day we come out here, there is more drive, there is more intensity, there is more passion and there is more pride and it keeps growing every day. So I hope that we can continue to keep that energy up well into Canada, and I think it is going to push the girls to do really well,” she added.

Baldini's main ambition is to bring lacrosse glory to Jamaica and while she admits that doing so will be a difficult task, particularly on this their debut outing, she knows all too well that with determination and courage nothing is impossible.

Jamaica's Under-19 females have been drawn in Pool C alongside Germany, Republic of Korea, China and Kenya.

“I think it (our appearance at the World Championship) is going to help the sport grow more, especially with women's sport in Jamaica on a whole. Having the Reggae Girlz go out in France was great to watch and I am sure it brought tremendous pride to the country,” Baldini reasoned.

She continued: “So, I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to make an impact on female lacrosse and lacrosse in general in Jamaica, and I hope that it is going to continue growing throughout the many schools that we have already expanded to over the last five years.

“I hope it keeps growing to the point where we continue to go to different world games and just get our name out there, letting the world know that Jamaica has lacrosse and we are not stopping.”

Unlike the men's team, all but two of the Women's Under-19 team are local-based.

The 18-member squad to the World Championship reads: Jhanae Bravo, Kavell Brown, Ishcah Browne, Felicia Dixon, Brianna Roper, Tamaya Edwards, Shannen Graham, Jada Johnson, Tonishka Murray, Janicia Skyers, Jessica Sylvester, Kimberlee Tucker, Gabrielle Small, Alicia Thaxter, Patricia Walters, Jada Kade Williams, Johanna Silvera, and Isabel Lawrence.

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