I, Jimi Payne, president of the Barbados Lacrosse Association, moved home to Barbados in June, 2018 to fulfil a childhood dream of mine.  To introduce the sport of Lacrosse to my homeland.   I fell in love with the game while attending St. Mary’s high school, in Annapolis Maryland.
 At St. Mary’s, the most prominent boys’ team, is the lacrosse team and they play in the most competitive league, MIAA “A” Conference, in the entire USA. The program has produced collegiate players for decades, professional players, coaches and legends of the game. One of those legends is, Michael Burnett, who was my head coach at St. Mary’s. Coach Burnett will be an integral part of exposing/teaching lacrosse in the Barbados.  A variety of coaches from Maryland and other lacrosse hotbed areas are also being invited to teach lacrosse in the island.
Lacrosse’s roots trace back to the native inhabitants of the Americas and Caribbean who played the game as a tribal battle between two tribes.  They called it, “The Creator’s Game.” The sport blends; speed, strength, endurance, precision, mental focus and stick skills into a fast paced action packed team sport.  Now citizens of Barbados can play the sport that has the longest and deepest history in the western hemisphere.
A key objective of BLA is to coach players in Barbados at the same high level as players in Maryland.  While also educating players on how the game reinforces vital life and interpersonal skills, how the sport can open doors to athletic scholarships to Universities in the USA and Canada and the various career opportunities attached to the game.  Lacrosse is a physically demanding sport, but more importantly it takes mental fortitude to truly excel as an individual and a team.  If our players embrace the lessons they learn on the field they will succeed off the field as well.
The youth of Barbados who have been exposed to the game, quickly gravitate to it.  Many of them say they have seen lacrosse on the Netflix series, Teen Wolf. They are ecstatic to learn the game they watch on T.V.
 The first lacrosse camp was held in August 2018 for two weeks.  A total of 14 boys participated, it was an encouraging start because I could see their interest growing, skills improving and untapped potential.  Neil Murrell, director at the National Sports Council, payed a visit to the camp to talk to the young men about the vision and future of lacrosse in Barbados.
Camp MVP, D’Andre Williams, 14, shared his thoughts on learning lacrosse, “I love lacrosse, first time playing it, and it’s a new experience for me in Barbados. I’ve been playing for two weeks and in the future I want to play for St. Mary’s and get real far in the game,” stated D’Andre. He was awarded a lacrosse stick and ball.
BLA currently holds weekly lacrosse sessions three days a week.  Tuesdays at Harrison College from 3:00pm-5:30pm, Thursdays & Saturdays at Queen’s College from 3:00pm-5:30pm. Between these sessions; over 50 students have participated in lacrosse practice sessions.
In December 2018, the organization partnered with Karli Brentlinger, head coach of Howard University women’s lacrosse team, to host a women’s lacrosse camp. The camp was held at Queen’s College and Harrison College over three days.
 Coach Brentlinger and five of her players, visited Harrison College and St. Michael’s School to talk to students about the many benefits and joys of playing the game and to encourage them to attend the camp.  Students at the schools got a big surprise; when they found out one of the Howard players, Alayah Hightower, is Barbadian!
 The young women who attended the camp loved being coached by coach Brentlinger and her players. The women’s game is different from the men’s game, and BLA wanted to ensure that our young women also be exposed to elite coaching. I coached the boys who attended.  The camp was a success and the visitors enjoyed experiencing the natural beauty of Barbados.  The entire team is will visit to host a bigger and better camp in the near future.
Eunique Small, 14, girl camp MVP, expressed her feelings on the camp. “I think it was really fun. It was really nice to meet the Howard players, they are really awesome. I have seen lacrosse on TV and I always liked the game and I really wanted to play it. I was really excited when I found out it was coming to Barbados,” she said.  Eunique was awarded a stick and ball.
Timon Howard, 15, boy camp MVP, talked about winning a lacrosse stick.  “It’s exciting, makes me feel I put in a lot of effort to get this. It’s a nice stick and has a nice pocket.  This is really going to help me because I can practice at home and not only at practice. My goal learn is to be able to pass and catch accurately over the school break,” stated Timon holding his new stick.
It’s an absolute joy to watch the growth of the players. They are now watching lacrosse game highlights, following players/teams on social media and are inviting some of them to Barbados to coach lacrosse.  The happiness on their faces makes my sacrifices worth it and motivates me to achieve all of BLA’s objectives.
Aaron Ballantyne, 15, started playing in January, 2019.  He has quickly become the most skill full player, due to his consistent practice habits, drive to improve constantly and openness to coaching. He shared his two cents on his new favorite sport, “Lacrosse is a very enjoyable and entertaining sport, I like that lacrosse requires physical, technical and mental skill. I would like to play lacrosse in college and in the Premier Lacrosse League, and also would like to represent Barbados in the World Championships. I’m glad that lacrosse was brought to Barbados and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to play lacrosse.  The coaching is excellent, coach Jimi always makes sure that practice has a positive atmosphere,” stated Aaron.
Through the organization’s social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, BLA has been able to spread awareness worldwide about Barbados Lacrosse.  Governing organizations, manufactures, college teams, high school teams, professional players, coaches and Bajans that play lacrosse overseas are reaching out to express their encouragement and excitement of the growth the game in the island. Special thanks to those who have made equipment donations, financial donations to the Barbados Sports Mission GoFundMe campaign, reached out to connect BLA with lacrosse organizations, shared footage from our Instagram and Facebook pages on their social media platforms.
Huge thanks and blessings to the following for the inspiring support of Barbados lacrosse.
Bob DeMarco, head chairman of the World Lacrosse, who donated 40 sticks (20 boys, 20 girls), 4 goalie sticks and 120 balls to the mission. He also guided me through the process of getting Barbados Lacrosse sanctioned by World Lacrosse and the Pan American Lacrosse Association (PALA).  His support and guidance has been inspirational.
Kat Loh, director of PALA, for believing in the vision of Barbados Lacrosse and being an advocate for the association in her organization.
Miguel Lozada, of Puerto Rico Lacrosse, for your networking advice and connecting BSM with leaders in lacrosse organizations.
Mark, of Blaxerblog, for sharing camp footage on their Instagram page and connecting me with positive people in the lacrosse community.
Lumberlax, who makes wooden sticks, is organizing a used equipment donation drive and is planning to visit this year to host a training clinic.
LaxHut, started an apparel partnership and wants to partner to build a custom lacrosse field and training facility in Barbados.
Frederick Douglas Opie, invited me to do an interview on his podcast to discuss the future of Barbados lacrosse.
Howard University and Derek Ludlow, donated used sticks, used sneakers and cleats, new rib/chest/elbow pads, 48 balls and T-shirts.
Lacrosse Bucket website, for doing an article and podcast about BLA being accepted into World Lacrosse and PALA.
BLA was the 64th nation added to World Lacrosse, the membership was announced December, 2019. This membership coincided with acceptance into PALA.
I have also connected with numerous lacrosse players and coaches, of Barbadian descent, in the USA and Canada to be members of the national teams or help spread awareness of Barbados lacrosse in their lacrosse communities. They’re all ecstatic about the idea of representing their country through a sport they are immensely passionate about.
The future of lacrosse in Barbados has immense potential, but BLA can’t do it without support from fellow Barbadians.  The next step is get grants/funding/sponsorship from organizations/individuals in the island and lacrosse enthusiast across the globe. The BLA non-profit paperwork is complete and can now receive donations/grants.
  BLA’s upcoming goals are forming a high school league (boys and girls), hosting invitational camps/tournaments, forming teams to compete in World Lacrosse championships, starting a Caribbean lacrosse championship and competing in the 2028 Olympics. 
There are more ideas in the works, but we can’t give them all away.  BLA wants to keep you engaged on the organic growth of lacrosse in Barbados. Stay tuned to see what we do next! I hope this article has inspired you to assist the mission in making Barbados Lacrosse a force to be reckoned with.
            Please follow and share our social media pages to see the hard work we are putting in and spread awareness. 
Written by: A. Jimi Payne
President of Barbados Lacrosse Association
(246) 240-6313