Roughneck brings lacrosse to Uganda

Roughnecks defender Mike Carnegie poses with some young Ugandan orphans and the lacrosse sticks he...

Roughnecks defender Mike Carnegie poses with some young Ugandan orphans and the lacrosse sticks he brought with him to Africa.

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:02 PM ET

The main objective was to build a school.

During a two-week summer trip to Uganda, Calgary Roughnecks defender Mike Carnegie also found time to school dozens of orphaned African youngsters on the finer points of lacrosse.

“Bringing lacrosse sticks was just me getting to share my passion with someone else,” Carnegie said. “None of them had ever heard about the game. Basically, all they knew was soccer … so that was really cool to take something that I love and share it with the kids.

“They loved the game and just wanted to know about it — the players and the positions. And it even got a little competitive at times, with kids slashing each other and stuff.”

It will be more than just a little competitive this weekend at Genesis Place in Airdrie, where the Roughnecks will open training camp with three on-floor sessions in just two days.

The Riggers have scheduled four weekends of practises before opening their regular-season slate with a Jan. 8 visit from the Buffalo Bandits. That might seem like plenty of prep time, but it’s more of a crash course when you consider the scope of their off-season makeover, which included trading away scoring stars Tracey Kelusky and Josh Sanderson and welcoming about a half-dozen should-be starters.

Carnegie is one of six returning regulars on the defensive unit, which will be counted on to take pressure off an overhauled offensive group and limit shots against an inexperienced goaltending tandem.

“There was obviously a major shakeup so we need to find different ways to win games,” Carnegie said. “People basically have to step up that maybe took a bit of a passenger or backseat role at times. Now, it’s their chance to say, ‘Alright, I’m going to fill in for Tracey or Josh or Jeff Moleski,’ and to play that big role. I’m obviously going to have to be one of those guys, and it’s exciting.”

For the first time in his professional career, Carnegie didn’t play summer ball in the National Lacrosse League off-season.

That’s not to say that he wasn’t busy.

The 26-year-old spent two weeks in Uganda with his wife Hailey and other members of the Springbank Community Church, helping build a secondary school and other structures at a children’s ministry for little ones orphaned by war, disease or abandonment.

With some support from the Alberta Lacrosse Association, Carnegie also hosted a lacrosse camp and left a couple hundred sticks and about 100 balls so the kids can hone their skills in the lesser-known of Canada’s two official sports.

Although he joked he was searching for “future Roughnecks” and plans to return to the third-world country over the next couple of years, Carnegie insisted he benefited as much — or more — than anybody.

“It changes you more than it will ever change them,” he said. “Just the experiences you bring back and your mindset towards life and the fragility of it and the purpose of giving and loving other people, those things last forever.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/WesGilbertson


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