By Steve Guglielmo | 2/13/12 3:16 PM
Photo courtesy of Greg Bice: Jonathan, one of the best players in the program, and Bice at one of Lacrosse the Nations' field days, where they take the kids on a field trip to an actual field.
When Ohio Machine Defenseman Greg Bice was growing up in San Antonio, Texas, he could have never predicted that lacrosse would become such a major part of his life. In a city of more than two million people, there were only two lacrosse teams. Bice didn’t even consider the prospect of playing college lacrosse until he was a junior in high school. “I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Bice says. “I never could have guessed what the game would lead to. I am so glad that it’s part of my life and that I get to pay forward all of the blessings that the game has given me.” Paying it forward is a major tenant in Bice’s life. Not only does he play professional lacrosse, he is also involved in several charities and clinics that focus on lacrosse like Lacrosse the Nations and Resolute Lacrosse.
Lacrosse the Nations began in 2008 as a simple conversation between Brad Corrigan and Brett Hughes. Corrigan, a member of the band Dispatch, was involved with a charity in La Chureca, a community in Managua, Nicaragua. He began to discuss with Hughes the power of sports in bringing people together and the possibility of introducing lacrosse to the impoverished community. The two founded Lacrosse the Nations, and in 2009 the charity made its inaugural trip to La Chureca. Bice, who went on the trip, was amazed at how the game was received. “We just kind of dropped lacrosse into this school and started playing. The way that the kids gravitated to it was amazing,” he says. “It was such a useful medium for us to communicate and to teach and learn from the kids.”
Lacrosse has helped bridge the cultural divide between the coaches of Lacrosse the Nations and the children. “Obviously there are cultural differences all over the place,” says Bice. “One of the special things about lacrosse is that it is a common bond that we all share. It opens doors to foster these relationships. Even in the United States, when you’re tossing the ball around with your Dad in the back yard, it’s not just throwing a ball. You’re getting to spend time with your Dad and getting to know him better. The game is a conduit to building lasting relationships. It breaks down barriers. It’s amazing how much you can communicate without words.”
Not only does the sport help foster relationships, it also teaches life skills that often can’t be taught in the classroom. “You learn so much about life through sport,” says Bice. “It teaches you discipline, hard work, communication, teamwork and forgiveness. There is so much that you just can’t teach in a classroom environment. I think it’s critical for kids of every age to be involved in team sports.”
In addition to the afterschool lacrosse program, Lacrosse the Nations has also implemented a nutrition program for the children of the Colegio Cristiano La Espereanza (School of Hope). And the charity continues to grow. “We started another program in Nicaragua this summer,” says Bice. “We have several state-side initiatives. We’re getting ready to start a program here in Columbus with an inner-city elementary school that we’re very excited about. And we’re also looking into starting some new programs in Central America. Seeing the impact that our pilot program has made in these children and everybody involved has been amazing and we’re so excited to move forward and put this program in other places to let everybody benefit.”
In 2009, Bice and his college teammate Anthony Kelly also founded Resolute Lacrosse. The company hosts position clinics, training sessions, individual lessons, coaching clinics and camps. “Our goal is to teach kids life lessons through sport,” says Bice. “We have a great staff of coaches who believe in what it means to be resolute. They are great role models for kids and are passionate about teaching. We’ve had some great kids and families come through the program and feel very blessed.”
Bice was named the New Balance Sportsman of the Year in 2011, his second time winning the award. The award was created in 2004 and recognizes players who consistently demonstrate sportsmanship through tenacity, determination and fair play on the field. Additionally, the recipient should also be involved in off-field charity work that not only promotes lacrosse, but also helps youth players understand the importance of sportsmanship and fair play. “The lacrosse community is great and there are guys in our league who do some amazing things in their community,” says Bice. “To be recognized amongst those guys is truly an honor for me. To try to serve and uplift is so important and I think we forget that a lot of times. We are so lucky and so blessed and it is our responsibility to pay that forward to those who are less fortunate.”
Bice, who was traded to the Machine in September along with Anthony Kelly, Stefan Schroder and Brett Garber, is chomping at the bit to get the season going. “I’m expecting big things this season,” he says. “Getting out and talking to people in the Columbus area, they are so excited. I think we’ve got a great squad and I’m just really fired up.”
To stay in shape, Bice and a group of players that live near Columbus are working out with an athletic trainer. “We get together three times per week and get after it. We do some lacrosse-specific training. It’s important to get it done in the off-season because that is when the work needs to be put in. Once you get into the season, all that hard work will pay off.”
Not only does Bice believe that the Machine has the talent to compete right away, he also believes they have the character. “Anybody that has been in the locker room knows that chemistry and character are two things that you really can’t measure,” he says. “Coach has put together a roster full of character-guys. It’s going to go a long way for us this season. I’m fired up!”
Learn how you can get involved with Lacrosse the Nations by visiting www.lacrossethenations.org.
The Machine travel to Chesapeake to open the season on May 5 at 7:00 ET against the Bayhawks. For the full 2012 MLL schedule, click here.