Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club Extends Its Reach World Wide In Support Of One Of Its Own

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Mike Perez, Orchid Island resident and Coach of the Austrian Women's Lacrosse Team, will travel to Amsterdam with his team for the 2012 European Championships this year through supported by encouragement and donations made by his friends and neighbors at Orchid Island.

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Many of my friends at Orchid Island took it upon themselves to make generous donations. I didn't ask for help; they just wanted to support the team.

A couple of years ago, Mike Perez would have never imagined he would be coaching the Austrian Women’s National Lacrosse team for a two-year stint, covering the 2012 European Championships June 20-30 in Amsterdam and the July 2013 World Cup in Toronto.

He thought he would be a spectator via television and the Internet, continuing his passion for lacrosse.

Perez, a resident of Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club in Vero Beach, Fla. grew up playing lacrosse in New Jersey. He also won a national championship in lacrosse during his senior year at Johns Hopkins University.  More recently, he has been coaching girls’ lacrosse at St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach for the past six years.  

But Perez will be more than a spectator when the women’s lacrosse teams from throughout Europe take the field in Amsterdam in June. He will be a part of the games as a coach for the Austrian Women’s Lacrosse Team. He has volunteered to work with the women’s lacrosse team from Austria for both this year’s tournament and the World Cup next year.

But the Austrian Women’s Lacrosse Team?

How did a man, who admittedly moved his family from chilly Boston to Vero Beach so he could retire and begin playing golf at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club, end up coaching the Austrian Women’s Lacrosse Team?
“I stopped working about 15 years ago, when our elder son left the house and our daughter was a freshman in high school,” Perez said. “My wife and I decided we wanted a warmer climate. After three years of looking we found Orchid Island. It was one of the newer full service communities and we felt it might be easier to meet people because there would be people in a similar situations relocating to the community. In addition, we thought our daughter was flexible enough to change and move to a new location, and we found St. Edward’s School. It worked for us and it worked for her.”

Perez started a youth lacrosse team in Wellesley, Mass. before moving to Vero Beach, and once in Florida, he began coaching girls’ high school lacrosse at St. Edwards. The lacrosse community is a small one, and his reputation as a winner in college, coupled with his youth lacrosse experience and his coaching at St. Edward’s led to the job of coach with the Austrian team.

“The Austrian Women’s Lacrosse Team was self-coaching, and it was a new sport for them,” Perez said. “There is no youth or high school lacrosse there, and the women I coach are either still in graduate school or are young professionals who have picked up the sport on their own. They pay for their own equipment, attend clinics and camps, many of them run by Americans who travel to Austria during the summer, and eventually form club teams that play other country’s teams,” Perez said.

Unfortunately, this hodgepodge of training and playing didn’t work out well for the Austrian women, Perez said, since they got beaten badly in the European Championship and three years ago, they were beaten soundly in the World Cup.

“After these two experiences, the team put out the word that they were looking for a volunteer coach. I probably met their requirements since I was retired and was willing to coach on a volunteer basis,” Perez said.
He went to Austria for two weeks last summer on a trial basis, and the team members and new coach felt it was a good fit. Now, he travels to Austria every other month for two weeks at a time, working with the players as a team and one-on-one if the schedule allows. The team’s goal is to be one of the top four teams out of six that are in each bracket in the European Championships, although Perez admits it is a difficult goal, since powerhouse England is in their bracket. “We are one of the newer, weaker teams in Europe, but the women are working hard and are dedicated,” he said.

He structures the team’s practices like he does at St. Edward’s School, where he is still the lacrosse coach. Although he thoroughly enjoys coaching the younger players at St. Edward’s, he says the maturity of the Austrian players makes it different.

The team’s dedication—and the new coach’s decision to be a part of the team without pay—caught the attention of many friends at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club, Perez said.

“When the people at Orchid Island found out I was doing all this as a volunteer, they said that if the team didn’t have enough money to pay me, then they must not have the money to get to Amsterdam this year and Toronto next year. Many of my friends at Orchid Island then took it upon themselves to make some generous donations to the Austrian team,” Perez said. “I didn’t ask them for help, but they wanted to support the team, and of course, I’m receptive to getting more donations to help the girls.”

Jackie Kennedy
Membership Director
Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club
One Indies Drive
Orchid , FL  32963
Phone: 772-581-1011
Fax: 772-388-9296
Email: jkennedy(at)orchidislandclub(dot)com

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