NORTHFIELD, Vt.—Following the conclusion of the 2013 Norwich University women's lacrosse season, teammates Hope Royce (Washington, Vt.) and Emma Smith (Patterson, N.Y.) had an opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to travel to Scotland and represent the United States while playing lacrosse.
The two Norwich starters traveled overseas with USA Athletes International (USAAI), an organization that provides American coaches and amateur athletes the ability to play abroad in an Olympic-style setting.
USAAI also helps advance the growth of sports in countries such as Scotland. On this particular trip, the team was slated to host a clinic for younger lacrosse players, but the event was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.
Although lacrosse is not yet an Olympic sport, Royce and Smith certainly got a taste of Scottish-style lacrosse, both at the recreational and the national level. The team played four games against a variety of competition levels, from a local community team in Aberdeen to a collegiate club team at Edinburgh University and two different levels of national teams.
Since both girls had never experienced international lacrosse competition, they did not know what to expect from their Scottish opponents. The first thing the Norwich teammates noticed about their opponents was their garb—no team they played required the use of protective goggles.
The Scottish rules are also more relaxed than they are here—the Americans learned that referees were not as quick to call contact fouls as they are in the U.S.
"We could definitely get away with more during those games than we were used to," noted Smith. "Unless you actually knocked someone over, there was no whistle."
The team most similar to United States-style collegiate lacrosse was the Scottish Junior National team. The Junior National team featured players of similar age to Smith and Royce, as the team was comprised of players aged 16 to 21.
"We played against their national team," said Smith. "Then in July, the national team went to play at the World Cup in Canada."
The Scottish national team featured women ranging in age from 22-35 years old. The small 15-player United States team consisted of collegiate players from the East Coast, so playing against older competition was a first for the Americans.
"They were really good," said Smith. "They were the only team we lost to."
Following the game, the United States team was able to socialize with the Scottish National team at a local pub. Here, the Americans were introduced to traditional Scottish food, drink and culture.
Both Smith and Royce noted that the Scottish way of life is very different from what they are accustomed to stateside. When they played the Aberdeen community team, players arrived and substituted into the game at their leisure. The team featured players of all ages, from a nine-year-old girl to a goaltender who was in her late 60s. There was no organized team warm up.
"It was really refreshing to experience their lifestyle. It's so laidback," said Royce.
In addition to lacrosse, the USAAI team used the opportunity to see as much of the country as they could fit into the 10-day trip. The team explored both the town of Aberdeen and the city of Edinburgh. In addition, they spent a day exploring historic castles, including the cliff-side Dunnottar Castle, whose history dates back to the fifth-century.
A lot of the group's travels were focused around the history "We got to experience a 'Fright Night,' which was a tour of Edinburgh at night that was based on old legends and ghost stories," said Royce.
The team also switched their focus from lacrosse to golf by visiting the Old Course at Saint Andrews, which is home to the British Open.
Despite the cold and rainy conditions which are standard to May in Scotland, both Royce and Smith agree that they had the time of their lives and they would do it again—so much so that Royce has plans to travel to Australia with another USAAI team next summer.
Members of the USAAI team pose with the Scottish National Team following their game. Emma Smith (8) and Hope Royce (9) are both in blue in the back row.