July 7, 2014
A trio of former and incoming Michigan men's lacrosse players will take part in the 2014 FIL World Championships July 10-19 in Denver. The second player being highlighted in a three-part series is Harrison Freid, a former close defender from 2008-11 on U-M's MCLA Club Team. A team captain in 2011, he was a three-time All-American and was named CCLA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Israel will participate in the orange division, alongside Sweden, Korea and Slovakia. Play opens for the Israelis Friday (July 11) at 11:30 a.m. against Sweden.
Q: Since graduation, what have you been up to?
A: Since graduating Michigan with a BA degree in communications (2011), I went on to obtain a master's in business administration from St. John's University (2013) in Jamaica, New York. During the first year of my graduate program I was able to compete with the St. John's Men's Lacrosse team (NCAA Division I), a season in which I was named a USILA North-South All-Star.
During the second year of my program, I had the opportunity to intern at Excel Sports Management, working under Michigan alumni and Michigan Athletics Hall of Honor member Casey Close. Following graduation, I found myself in the position that many graduates find themselves in, moving back home while looking for a job. Fortunately for myself, I received a call from the executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association, Scott Neiss, who had a job offer, which allowed me to also continue playing a sport I love. Within a week, I moved to Israel to help grow youth development in the country and assist in the organization's overall efforts abroad.
Q: Talk about your level of preparation for this tournament. How have you been training? How organized has Team Israel been?
A: The makeup of the 23-man Team Israel roster consists of a majority of players who currently live in country and a smaller portion of players and coaches who live and work in the United States. With players ranging from 19-44, it's a diverse group but one passionate about representing Israel. Once a week, the team gathers at a field in Tel Aviv to practice, with players coming from all over the country. A typical day for employees of the organization includes bringing lacrosse sticks and balls into surrounding schools and introducing the sport to children in gym classes. Following the school day, after-school practices are held at the U13-U15-U19 level. Training throughout the week is on each individual team member's shoulders; however, with many of the players on the 23-man roster working for the organization, the group holds everyone accountable, and the work gets done.
Leading up to the World Games, the guys living in country traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, to compete in the Alec Hebresky Memorial Box Lacrosse Tournament. Even with a roster chalk full of field lacrosse players, we were able to finish in the top 10, out of 23 teams, despite forfeiting our eighth-place game due to our strict, "No playing on Shabbat" policy.
Another event leading up to the World Games, which allowed Team Israel a competitive training session, was a three-game showcase around Israel against a roster of U.S. based All-Stars. The three games featured current and recent graduates from Division I and III lacrosse programs and was an opportunity not only for Team Israel to train against top competition but a way for us to showcase lacrosse to the people of Israel. The last game of the trip was played in front of a sold-out crowd at the New Soccer Stadium in Ashqelon, ISR.
Come July 2nd, the US-based players and coaches and the Israel-based players will meet for tune-up games against other countries and club teams in Vail, Colo. The eight days in Vail will allow for us to get acclimated to the high-altitude environment and for some final team bonding ahead of the games. Overall, the preparation of the staff ahead of the games has been phenomenal. From the handling of all the logistics to organizing moving, Michigan director of operations Joe Hennessy would even nod his head in approval.
Q: What are your expectations for the tournament? What are you trying to get out of it?
A: Our expectations for the tournament are high. We may not feature many of the household names that those who follow the pro circuits are familiar with. However, we have a ton of talented individuals who are all ready to play the roles necessary for our team to be successful. We look to factor into a medal. Even though this is Team Israel's first time competing in the FIL World Championships, we have the talent to surprise people.
Winning a medal would create more exposure about what we're doing in Israel with the media, government and children. Israeli national teams are rarely in contention for a medal in other sports and for us to come back with one would turn heads and help us get more people involved.
For myself, playing at the highest level has always been of the utmost importance to me. I compare myself to the best and I want to prove that I am. I can't think of a bigger stage to do such a thing than in the World Championships.
Q: What drives you to continue playing?
A: The three most important things in my grandfather's life were his family, his religion and the University of Michigan. My grandfather Irving Laker, who was a member of the 1947 and 1948 Michigan Football Team, ingrained the importance of religion in my brother and I from an early age. Our childhood was spent flying in from Massachusetts to Southfield to spend the High Holidays with him and the rest of my mom's side of the family. Watching my grandfather lead the prayer service both at the home and at the Shard Zedek synagogue, where he served as temple president, was something I took tremendous pride in.
Having fulfilled his and my dream of attending and graduating from the University of Michigan, the opportunity to further my learning and understanding of the Jewish people, along with honoring him by competing for Israel, has made this experience complete.
Q: How did Michigan prepare you for this experience?
A: Michigan has molded the individual I have become, from the rigors of a top academic institution to the ups and down throughout a long season. When I came to Michigan in the summer of 2007, the club lacrosse program had not been able to get over the hump; they were unable to win their first MCLA national championship and stuck in neutral. The year I arrived, a culture change occurred from the top down, and over the course of my four years we won it three times. Each year, the commitment to the team and responsibilities of team members were elevated. The pressure and environment was such that I was able to learn a tremendous amount from and on top of it, I was able to excel in it.
I consider myself a part of the group that helped the program elevate to varsity status, through our success both on and off the field. Building a lacrosse program in Israel is similar in that those in the country (much like at Michigan during my early days) aren't familiar with the game, but those of us on the ground are able to have a big impact with our successes both in the tournament and in the community. Michigan prepared me for the struggle, both the good days and the bad ones.
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