It is amazing what can come out of a driveway.
A ferocious game of pick-up.
The resurrection of a broken down car.
A make-believe buzzer-beater before an imagined, roaring crowd.
Or perhaps, a couple of real, celebrated lacrosse careers.
For New Canaan brothers Chatch and John Sirisuth, one summer day spent on the asphalt patch outside their house as children brought exactly that. And now, many seasons of blood, sweat and stick checks later, the duo will represent Thailand in the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships from Thursday, July 10 to July 19 in Denver.
Founded in 1967, the Championships are held every four years, and with the help of the Sirisuths, this summer is the first time Thailand has ever qualified to compete. For both the Thai team and its sibling pair, the road to Denver has been a long one.
More than 10 years ago, Chatch, a member of the 2004 New Canaan High School graduating class, invited his younger brother to play a simple game of catch before he eventually departed to play at the University of San Diego. John, who had never picked up struggled in their initial back-and-forth. But his trouble did not last.
"John got better, and then he got really, really good," Chatch said. "Now that I get to play on the same field with him is just great. I always think about those days when we were just playing catch in the driveway ... now we're playing in the World Games. It's an unreal feeling."
At seven years his brother's junior, John was able to soak in every step of Chatch's sports career from participating in New Canaan youth programs, to Rams lacrosse and four years of starting at attack for San Diego. Armed with a family blueprint and strong resolute, he forged his own path that took him from multi-sport high school athlete to walk-on defenseman at Northeastern, where he recently completed his third year of study.
Upon first stepping onto the field at tryouts, the younger Sirisuth made his new coaches take immediate notice, as they recognized the "NC" inscribed on the side of his helmet and commented about his well-respected roots.
"It was a humbling first interaction with my coaches," John said. "(It) made me appreciate all of the long hours that everyone in New Canaan dedicates to the success of the lacrosse program."
Separately, each brother will cite New Canaan lacrosse as an integral part of his growth both as a man and player. Undoubtedly, the highlight of their respective playing careers will arrive this month in Denver, an opportunity that was solidified into reality just over one year ago.
Last spring, Chatch, who was and still is working in San Francisco, phoned John to share they had been asked by the Thailand Lacrosse Association to try out for the national team. However, their audition was not arranged as a set of demanding drills and tests to be run against other prospective players. All roster invitees were going right into the fire of the 2013 Asia Pacific Lacrosse Tournament in Beijing, where they would play for Thailand over one week. Read Full Article
However well or poorly they competed and conducted themselves off the field in China would determine their status with the team. And that was all.
"It was the longest, most trying seven days of lacrosse I've been asked to play in my entire life," John said. "The international game is fast-paced and demanding. Regulation games are 80 minutes, and the athletes are top-notch."
Back in Thailand, the brothers were treated to lunch by the president of the TLA, who shared the good news that they had earned the highest athletic honor of representing one's country.
Periodically over the ensuring year, Chatch, John and their teammates took part in contests all over Asian continent against China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. When the Thai team qualified for the 2014 championships, it marked another step for lacrosse's growing popularity in Asia, previously best demonstrated by Japan's fourth-place finish in the 2010 games and sixth-place result in 2006.
While Thailand will face inevitable difficulties against the top three finishers of the last two championships, the U.S., Canada and Australia, its objective, as told by head coach Dylan Sheridan, is simple: Represent the homeland by doing everything within its power to compete as well as possible.
For the Sirisuths, their motivation is more multi-faceted. Among the duo's chief inspirations in Denver is to honor their father, who died during the summer before their tryouts.
"He worked hard so we could grow up in New Canaan," Chatch said. "Having "THAILAND" on our jersey as we take the field at the World Lacrosse Games will be an absolute honor to him and our family."
Traveling the world, and more specifically to the Thai capital of Bangkok, has not only given the brothers a chance to reconnect with close ones past and present, but with the deepest roots of their family tree.
"Lacrosse has brought us closer as brothers, as a family, and now has served as a means to rediscover our heritage, our faith, and the traditions of our ancestors," John said.
But ultimately, these brothers are playing for more than country. More than family. More than themselves. They're playing for everyone and everything that brought them to Denver, including the place where it all started.
"I'm grateful we have the chance to represent all of the people that have been a part of our journey, inside and outside the arena of lacrosse," John said. "My brother and I are forever indebted to the town of New Canaan, our coaches, our friends, and our loved ones."
The elder Sirisuth recounts his favorite high school memory as most who don the black and red tend to do. Looking back, Chatch says beating Darien in the state playoffs brought him the most joy over his Rams career, but only by a slim margin. For all the times he spent with teammates before and after practices, even when they just stood in the parking lot, are cherished, too.
Why? Because of how much effort each of them poured in just to get there.
"Everyone (in high school) was really good and you had to fight for positions or playing time," Chatch said. "You simply weren't guaranteed a spot on the team. This hyper-competitive environment taught us to work hard and work harder than the player next to you. Since nothing was guaranteed, you had to put in the work in the off-season to compete during the season."
For John, it was a sense of belonging he felt even as freshman in the NCHS program that he says he will never forget. From that point on, playing for the Rams meant engaging in a positive and stimulating atmosphere, one he says current players in the program ought to pass on to those entering in.
For the reason that then, with a little bit of luck, a load of hard work and one or two games of catch, the world of lacrosse can be at your fingertips.
"The game of lacrosse can open so many doors for you," Chatch said. "If you work hard, get really good with both your right and left hand and learn the strategy of the game, you'll be able to travel the world and play lacrosse."