(From OurSportsCentral Article)
Brett Hughes of the Denver Outlaws has always been determined.
Suffering injuries sustained during his senior season at Virginia, Hughes was forced to take a year off from the sport of lacrosse before entering the League, and yet he was the first overall pick in the 2005 MLL Supplemental Draft and has become one of the League’s top defenseman.
It should come as no surprise to those who know him best that Brett Hughes would never let anything derail his dreams. Sports have long been a part of this Ohio native’s life. In addition to lacrosse, Hughes was a standout football player who could have just as easily pursued life on the gridiron over life on the lacrosse field. Hughes readily admits that his involvement in sports has had one of the greatest influences on his life.
“I think anyone who is where I am now knows that sports have taught them more than anything else in life,” says Brett. “The life lessons from football will always stick with me, and my freshman football coach, Nick Roman, will forever be a guide to me, even though he passed away around the week we won the NCAA Championship at UVA. I learned discipline from football, I learned teamwork from lacrosse, and the importance of doing your job as best you can with no ego attached. That’s why I play the way I do.”
And it’s the way that Brett Hughes plays the game that earned him an All-Star selection in 2008, as well as two MLL Defensive Player of the Week Awards, the second of which was earned after holding Rochester’s John Grant Jr. without a goal for the first time in his career in an August, 2007 game. Prior to that meeting, Grant had successfully scored in 48 consecutive MLL games.
And yet, despite the on-field accolades, it may be off the field where Hughes is having the greatest impact.
Lacrosse the Nations
Earlier this year, Hughes became the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Lacrosse the Nations, an organization which aims to use the universal language of sport, lacrosse in this case, to bring hope and encouragement to children living in some of the most impoverished and underserved areas of the globe.
Lacrosse the Nations was founded in January, 2009 with co-founder Brad Corrigan, and coincided with Brett’s first trip to Managua, Nicaragua.
“My first trip to La Chureca came with the thought of Lacrosse the Nations and seeing what we could do with lacrosse in a community like this one in Managua,” says Brett. “We knew we wanted to bring lacrosse to this community but what it looked like, and what would come after it was what we needed to find out. Brad Corrigan is a beast for communities all over the world and fights for so many people with his music (www.braddigan.com) and just with his personality and heart…”
Corrigan, a former Middlebury lacrosse player, had discovered the “trash dump community” of La Chureca several years earlier, a place where many families live and work amidst piles of garbage, and had long been interested in bringing the sport of lacrosse there in order to share the joy and hope of the sport with the children of this area.
So in January, Lacrosse the Nations made the trek to Managua to spend a week sharing the sport that they all love with their friends in the community.
“[O]ur expectations were simple,” Brett says of that outing. “Let’s go bring the noise on this community, bring the joy we get in the states from this game and allow the kids of the trash dump to enjoy it with us.”
But the trip in January was not just a onetime event. Lacrosse the Nations has traveled to La Chureca three times this year, once as part of the Day of Light concerts that Brad conducts, and twice more to play lacrosse and perhaps more importantly, to build relationships within the community.
“It isn’t enough to just stop in and leave,” notes Brett. “You need to become part of the community to really help identify the things that can and should be changed and then also have the relationships to have the change continue when we do head back to the States. Dropping in and leaving is not what Lacrosse the Nations is about…we are ready to fight for the communities we are in.”
Brett notes that you often have to forget what you think you know.
“What we think is normal or stressful in our lives does not exist down there, as they have simple needs that are not met daily. How can they worry about credit card debt or if they have new shoes, when they are focused on what to eat for lunch?”
By provided a constructive and creative outlet, Lacrosse the Nations hopes to give families another option to time spent working in the dumps or submitting to the many vices that unfortunately are all too abundant in an area such as this.
“We enforce school, family, teamwork, and above all else love, which is what this community needs from outsiders,” Brett stresses. “Not exploitation, but people who want to listen to them, learn from them, and share a damn good time together.
And while there is much work to be done in these communities, it is not a hopeless situation.
“I think that this community (La Chureca) has the most incredible way to find joy in life than any other I have ever seen. That’s what makes this so powerful,” Brett explains. “There is obviously a lot that needs to be changed, but the hearts are something these people have in abundance.”
A Qmmunity Star
It was a friend of his at ESPN RISE, where Brett works covering and promoting the sport of high school lacrosse, who nominated the defenseman as a Star in the Qdoba Qmmunity contest, which allows people to nominate a person who has made a real difference in their community. QDoba will donate $5,000 to the charity of the winner’s choice, and Brett has selected The V Foundation as his charity.
In 1993, Coach Jim Valvano announced the creation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, during a moving and emotional speech during the ESPY Awards.
“I have loved the Jimmy V foundation since I heard his speech, and it’s been a goal to get involved,” says Brett. He realizes that this is a special opportunity that he has no intention of wasting.
“If I have the platform to help us as a unified lacrosse community help others, then game on. Let’s do it!”
The coming year brings both challenges and excitement for Brett and his Lacrosse the Nations crew. Their certification as 501(c)3 non-profit organization should be coming shortly, and they are preparing to embark on some major fundraising and will bring their first “projects” to the lacrosse world. And all of that is in addition to his “day job” at ESPN RISE, where his goal is to continue to spread the game at the high school level. A trip to Europe is also is the works.
“I’ve never been, so anyone with ideas for what to do in Germany and England, let me know!”
Unfortunately, Hughes was plagued by injuries this past year and missed the majority of the 2009 MLL season with the Outlaws. However, he is excited to be taking the field along with several of his Outlaws teammates this coming weekend at the Colorado Lacrosse Showcase. On Saturday, October 24 at 1: 00PM MT, Brett Hughes and the rest of the Denver Outlaws squad will face-off against the University of Denver men’s lacrosse team, coached by Bill Tierney. A youth clinic will also be held prior to the game at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium on the campus of the University of Denver.
No doubt that his teammates will be happy to have Brett Hughes on the field alongside them once again.
“My coaches always wanted someone who was going to do their job, who never gets tired of just doing the “right” thing, and that’s how I have molded my game and life around. I’ll never be a sexy defender,” he jokes. “But I’ll also always do my job. I think we can bring that mentality to communities… just doing the “right” thing for your family and being part of a team is huge when trying to lift up a community.”
The top five finalists in the Qdoba Qmmunity contest, according to number of votes received, will be presented to a panel, and the winner will be selected from that group of five. Currently, Brett is in sixth place overall in total votes received.
Each time you vote, or use the Qdoba Qmmunity tools to share your nominee’s story via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, Qdoba will donate $1 to Starlight Children’s Foundation (up to $25,000).
Voting ends at 11:50 PM MT on November 1, 2009.
To vote for Brett and to read more about his nomination, please visit http://www.qdobaqmmunity.com/Nominee/id/103/Brett__Hughes.
To find out how you can help Lacrosse the Nations, please visit their website at http://lacrossethenations.org
To learn more about The V Foundation, please visit http://www.jimmyv.org/