August 20, 2013

Steinhardt's Philanthropy Paying Dividends in Lacrosse World

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Photo Gallery

Shootout for Soldiers founder Tyler Steinhardt (right), with event volunteer Jay Dyer (left) and Sgt. Ryan Major (center) after closing ceremonies of the second annual charity event earlier this summer.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

A version of this article appears in the August 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Tyler Steinhardt is not a typical 19-year-old. In the past two years, the Shootout for Soldiers, a 24-hour charity lacrosse game he conceived, has raised $231,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. The 2012 Boys' Latin (Md.) graduate is also the general manager of the Uganda men's national team that hopes to play in the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Denver. Steinhardt, who is spending two months this summer in East Africa, will take off next spring semester off from American University to be in Uganda again to prepare the team for its trip to the United States. Steinhardt is a boy wonder, but at least in one way a regular college kid: the international relations major is still plotting out what's next.

How did Shootout for Soldiers start?

The original idea was to do a lacrosse game to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Twenty-four hours came about a week into the planning process and it really grew last year. We wanted to do it again this year and it got even bigger. We thought it would be a small event that people would come out to, and it's grown into something special, way bigger than we thought it would be.

Why start an event like this?

My friends and I had seen a video about the Wounded Warrior Project, read up on some of the struggles that our men and women face when they return home. There was not much done in the area to support our troops, per say, and so we really wanted to do something special. This year's event took on a personal component. I met a lot of guys who served, who are wounded and going through that struggle. Meeting these guys is completely perspective changing. That's what really changed the event for me, and my team. When you meet a guy like Ryan Major or Calvin Todd, who lost a leg or two and they're walking on prosthetics and they're going through this battle, mentally and physically, the event becomes special on a personal note.

How many people does it take to organize the event?

I had four core people last year, and that number grew to about 10 on the organizing team this year. We probably have about 75 total volunteers who are in and out over the course of 24 hours at McDonogh (Md.) School, where this year's event was held.

What's the crowd been like for the games?

The first year the biggest hour was 4 a.m. This year was around 1 and 2 a.m. as well as the MLL hour with Paul Rabil and those guys were there. It was really packed watching them play. It's just special to watch lacrosse that late at night. People want to come out and play and participate and just kind of be at the event. Not much is going on on a Thursday evening. People want to come out and enjoy an atmosphere like that.

How much effort and planning goes into the event?

We probably put in hundreds of hours in the weeks leading up to it. It's a true testament to my team, because they're willing to meet at odd hours, late at night and the last-second kind of thing. We'll do whatever's necessary and work whenever necessary to make the event happen. The night beforehand we didn't stop working until 4 a.m., and I ended up heading right to McDonogh after to do an interview. That's just how some things worked. We do every hour we can. The mother's and father's, they all have jobs, so after their child is done, they all come out and volunteer their time and night to come and meet and talk about the event, or hop on conference calls in the fall and winter. People donate their time. I'm a student in the summer and I can work at 10 a.m. For them, they sacrifice their time.

How did you get involved with Uganda lacrosse?

It's my first really true passion. I went to Uganda the summer after my junior year in high school. It was a completely life-changing experience. I went on a summer trip with Johnny Christmas, Chad Wiedmaier and his brother, Kiefer, and Hannah Nielsen, who won the Tewaaraton twice. It was a cool trip not only to meet those people but also to see Uganda in a whole different light. It was the first time I'd been to Africa. There's this love of the game of lacrosse, and of life. The people are so happy. Fields of Growth is way more than just lacrosse. I'm excited to go back to really get things going for the World Games. The Uganda lacrosse story is really something special for 2014. Their love of the game and their true passion for the sport will be refreshing to the lacrosse world. They play because they love the game.

Why did you want to join up with Fields of Growth in the first place?

I knew I kind of wanted to get involved in development work, and I went over with a lot of pre-conceived notions and ideas. I was blown away. It was nothing like I ever expected. I had dinner recently with Tom Schreiber [Princeton rising senior and 2013 Tewaaraton finalist], who went over last summer, and he and I were talking just about how crazy it is. You have all these ideas about what Uganda is going to be like, and it's nothing like that. They have this true love of life. They are constantly happy. You can't mimic or fake that here. It's refreshing to be over there. You learn so much more than you can possibly give to those guys.

What was the lacrosse like?

When I went, I was a junior in high school, and they were having their first national championships. There's a league that operates as a fully functional league. There's two leagues that go year-round. It's run similar to European soccer where they have managers and recruit players. While I was over there, one of the team's, Oneonta, the coach dropped out and I was a 17-year-old kid and they asked me to coach. These guys are mid- to late-20s guys and I was stuck in the position to coach them. I had little to no experience coaching a team, much like guys who are five to 10 years older than me from East Africa. To this day, I still talk to every single one of those guy's on the team. We made it to the championship. We lost to Chad Wiedmaier's team. The Panthers beat Oneonta, 2-1, in the championship. It was so low-scoring. Back then, guys were just learning the game. I still joke with Kevin Dugan about this, I was named coach of the year for Uganda lacrosse, and that's where my passion started. It was fun. I was over there enjoying the sport how I started playing it, for the fun of it. There was no ulterior motives or scouts or anything like that. No knock on that, but it was just for the love of the game.

What is your lacrosse playing background?

My parents put me in a league when I was five years old. Lacrosse became my relief for everything. When I was happy, I played lacrosse. When I was upset, I played lacrosse. It's what I did all the time. I stopped getting really competitive after my junior year in high school, because I wanted to do the Shootout for Soldiers, and I decided to do that instead of playing for Boys' Latin my senior year. I've played my whole life. It's always been about going and enjoying the game.

What's your coaching experience like in Washington, D.C.?

WINNERS is Matt Breslin's lacrosse-oriented organization in D.C. They go in the inner-cities and it starts off very basic, with fiddlesticks, lacrosse sticks, then the start playing. I would take the Metro down and into the east side of D.C., which is a really rough area. And these kids would go play lacrosse. It was fun to see. After school, they would just go home and sit there and do nothing. Now WINNERS puts on these after-school programs for these kids to play lacrosse. I coached them this year, and coached some Breakout Lacrosse, a youth league in the area.

Where does your drive come from?

I feel like sometimes we get lost in the game itself, and we need to keep enjoying it for what it is. I had a coach growing up at summer camp who was on Morgan State's Ten Bears team, and he would always talk about the medicine game and just going out and losing yourself in the sport of lacrosse. I really hope that people keep lacrosse in that light. That's why I try to share it so much. I know how much the sport has done for me both as a person and my own development throughout school. The idea that I can share this game and share this passion with people is why I do stuff like this. I think there's a lot of potential. I hope people that love the game will do the same thing, and pay it forward.

What's your plan after college?

In an idealist sense, I want to use the power of sports, and particularly lacrosse, for some common good. I would love to get involved in coaching or teaching. But I'm really open to where the future goes.


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