By Rachel Villari | 7/10/14 10:20 AM
At six feet tall, weighing in at just a little under 200 pounds, Tom Schreiber might not be the biggest midfielder to ever grace a Major League Lacrosse pitch this season, but he might be one of the ones with the biggest heart.
As a recent senior All-American, Tewaaraton finalist and captain for the Princeton Tigers, Schreiber has had big shoes to fill upon graduating this summer. Not only was he drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 MLL Collegiate Draft by the Ohio Machine, but he was also selected to be the assistant coach of the Ugandan Lacrosse Union’s Cranes (the ULU), who are set to compete in the 2014 Lacrosse World Championships in Denver, Colo., July 10-19.
Thus far, his transition into professional lacrosse has gone smoothly. In the eight games he has dressed for the Ohio Machine, he has collected 16 points in 12 goals and four assists, and it only took him two games to net his first hat trick. His international endeavors, however, are just getting started.
Schreiber—who had never left the continental United States—was quick to fall in love with the country, the people, and the cause upon spending the summer of 2013 in Uganda with the Lacrosse Volunteer Corps’ program Fields of Growth.
“My teammate from college and the Machine Chad Wiedmaier went over before me and had nothing but good things to say. I called Kevin Dugan, who runs Fields of Growth, and two hours later I was headed over there myself. I got to head over there and see how native Ugandans lived and their perspective, which really altered my perception on life. I think traveling to Uganda really did that for me.”
Fields of Growth aims to increase global awareness of the beauty, struggles, and opportunities that exist in developing nations, to provide educational and humanitarian services, and to grow the sport of lacrosse.
“This initiative is all about passion for life. The enthusiasm and love for the game embodied in the lacrosse community knows no boundaries… Dreams tie mankind together. The power of dreams and sharing your passion cannot be underestimated—it serves to fuel a creative love that can help change the world,” Director Dugan writes on the program’s website.
During Schreiber’s visit, the budding lacrosse star served as a coach, a teacher, a laborer, and as an ambassador for the sport. He practiced with the Ugandan Lacrosse Union (or, the ULU), and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.
“I expected a lot [after talking to Chad about it], and I got even more. The whole experience was incredible; I really can’t say enough about it. The lacrosse aspect was great, y’know, getting to see the team and how hard they’ve worked and how much they care about the game… It’s amazing, being over there and just seeing guys with lacrosse sticks playing three or four times a week. It’s just a really cool thing to see. These guys are emailing me all the time to say ‘how can my left hand get better?’ and stuff like that. It’s just so cool to see a genuine love for the game and the [World Games] are just going to be awesome.”
Coupled with his success in the lacrosse world back in the States, Schreiber’s newfound interest in uplifting the nation of Uganda has earned him a position in helping the ULU’s Cranes achieve their dream of competing in this summer’s World Championships.
Dream2014 was the campaign created by Fields of Growth to help the Cranes actualize their goal of traveling and competing in the World Championships. Just before the deadline to register passed earlier in the year, the Cranes earned enough money—mostly due to enormous fundraising efforts—allowing them to participate, coached in part by Schreiber.
“I’m excited to see the guys again. I’ve been in contact with some of them going over some offensive stuff, but, y’know, it’s tough being a continent away… I think once we all get [to Denver] we’ll get a little more detailed and meticulous. I’m looking forward to it, really; it’s going to be great. Even if we go out there and lose every game it’s still a win for Team Uganda, y’know? Just to get here is a win. But,” and he stopped himself for some further consideration. “But, I really don’t think that will be the case. I think we’re really going to surprise some teams. Like I said, they’ve been playing for a couple of years now and developing as a team so, I think we’ll squeak out a win or two…”
In attending the World Games, the Cranes help grow the sport of lacrosse in more than one way, which is a big achievement for ULU, Fields of Growth, and the MLL’s big-hearted Schreiber. As one of the nine first-time entrants in the international tournament (the others being Belgium, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia, Thailand and Turkey), Uganda’s attendance makes for 40 countries being represented, qualifying lacrosse to be eligible to participate in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.