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Wong, Medfield lacrosse make mark in Netanya

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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

Over the course of the last two weeks, the FIL World Lacrosse Games took place in Netanya, Israel. Of course, the main storyline of the tournament is Team USA defeating Canada, 9-8, for the gold medal, their 10th gold medal in the history of the event, and their first since 2010.

On a more local note, though, Medfield lacrosse proved, once again, just how powerful of a program it has become - not to mention how strong of a family it is. Haley Wong, a former MHS athletic trainer and current rising sophomore at Quinnipiac University, traveled to Netanya for the games to serve as an athletic training intern.

After being offered the opportunity to go to Israel for the games, Wong and her peers put together a GoFundMe page and raised $2,300 to sponsor her trip, with many of the donations coming from Medfield High School lacrosse alumni, players, coaches, and others associated with the program.

Wong says her experience in Israel was unlike anything she’s ever experienced before - it is something she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life as she develops a career in athletic training.

“It was unbelievable,” said Wong. “Coming off the plane, I didn’t really anticipate how involved I would actually be. I figured, being a 19-year-old intern, that I was probably going to be on water duty - but it was two weeks of 16-hour shifts, and I was working with all the teams that didn’t have athletic trainers … Any teams that did have athletic trainers, I was free to go over to the fields and chatter with them and help out. I’d say it was a surreal experience, because I saw all levels of the tournament, whether it was teams who scrapped together what they had just to be there, or the teams with huge budgets [that] had massage therapists and staffs of athletic trainers.”

Wong also says that the mixture of cultures in Netanya allowed her to see all sides of the game of lacrosse, whether it was with the “thoroughbreds” taking part, such as USA, Canada, and Iroquois Nation, or newcomers, such as Jamaica, Israel, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

“I saw it all and I learned from both sides,” said Wong. “The teams without athletic trainers sort of shared to me how they got there. All the teams were great … no teams came in and were a group of misfits.

“Team Puerto Rico, [this was] their first year in the tournament and they had multiple D1 athletes but no athletic trainer. So hearing J.T. Giles-Harris from Duke be like ‘Where’s Haley? I need her to tape my ankles,’ was unbelievable. To be so trusted like that and to see all of these players from a different side than the one I’m used to was extremely cool.”

“I’m a lacrosse fan along with being an athletic trainer, so it was unreal to be in that world for two weeks and live that lifestyle and to see the game of lacrosse from a different angle,” said Wong. “Seeing that these players are actually real people who get hurt, and to see some of their pregame routines gave me a new outlook. Working with the Iroquois Nation, who’s a pretty well-known team with some of the best players in the world - like the Thompson brothers and Tehoka Nanticoke - was incredible. They were so welcoming and happy to have me there, and their athletic trainer was so open to talking to me and helping me out with any questions I had. Being given the opportunity to help out and be a part of it all, it sort of felt like I was being welcomed into the lacrosse community in a way. Just making those connections and hanging out with people that I could never see myself hanging out with was unbelievable. If that was my day-to-day, I’d be so happy. It’s something that I’ll draw from and take with me for the rest of my athletic training career.”

As for her roots, Wong says that she is extremely thankful to have grown up in a community like Medfield. Her hometown provided Wong the opportunity to become close with the game of lacrosse while serving as an athletic trainer at MHS. Furthermore, the generous spirit of the many involved with Medfield lacrosse program played a starring role in making her Netanya experience possible.

“It all started with Medfield lacrosse,” said Wong. “This program and this community was the first group that gave me responsibility and let me figure out that athletic training is what I wanted to do with my life. They took me into their community and now, having been to a lacrosse event on a world stage, it is evident to me that Medfield lacrosse is absolutely what the sport of lacrosse is about. I’ve never played lacrosse, but the lacrosse community in Medfield has never looked down on me for it, and has completely embraced me.

“From Medfield to Iroquois. That’s a huge jump, and it all started with Medfield - whether it was Coach Isaf embracing me and being happy for me to be there, or the countless number of others who’ve supported me and what I want to do. It’s the reason why I get so excited about these things. Medfield was the first step, and I’m kind of now finally starting to see myself grow past that.

“The saying goes to ‘remember where you come from,’ and the majority of my donations came from Medfield lacrosse, friends of Med lax, players and coaches. When you have a community like that behind you, it is so much easier to step into such an intimidating place like [Netanya] and feel that you belong. I was walking around the airport with my Medfield lacrosse sweatshirt and people knew about the program and everything that they are about … it was awesome when people recognized Med lax and I was able to tell them that that was my team. It definitely all started there.

“That was step one, Netanya was step two, and I’m incredibly excited to see what step three is.”

For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.

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