Tyler Kolodka Contributing to the Growth of Lacrosse in Poland

by Stephen Stamp

Tyler Kolodka (Beamsville, ON) didn't know if he had Polish heritage or not when he was contacted, based on his last name, by the Poland Lacrosse Foundation about possibly playing for Poland at the 2019 IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship in Mississauga, ON. When he asked his Grandmother, who is Ukrainian, she told him that they were not Polish. A little more digging, however, showed that the area where his Grandfather was born was part of Poland at the time. 

While he may have only recently learned about his ancestry, Kolodka has embraced his Polish roots after a great experience at the 2019 World Juniors and has since been to Poland for an additional tournament and is considered to be a big part of the future for lacrosse in the country. 

Kolodka led Poland with 12 Goals at the 2019 World Juniors and most recently led all NCAA Division II with 4.12 Goals Per Game this past spring at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia. This summer, he was planning to represent Poland again at the 2021 World Juniors, but insurmountable COVID-19 protocols forced Poland to withdraw from the championship. Kolodka was understandably disappointed. 

“I think it's just the fact that I spent most of my life not knowing that I'm Polish,” Kolodka says. “It's cool representing a country. It's a weird feeling that you can't really describe, you feel like you're representing more than yourself." 

Thankfully, an alternative arose this summer. Kolodka was asked to travel to Wroclaw, Poland and complete in the European Men's Lacrosse Challenge, a field lacrosse tournament featuring a pair of Polish teams as well as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg and Croatia. He was initially brought in to play with the Polish U21 team. After the first practice session, though, Kolodka says that the men's team coaches asked him to play for the senior club, as well. 

It made for a busy week of lacrosse, Kolodka says, playing a total of 12 Games in only five days. “It was a lot, but it was worth it.” 

[Photo: Tyler Kolodka carrying the ball and using a pick against the United States at the 2019 IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship.]

Kolodka appeal is largely his talent, but there is more to it than that, says Heath Garlow who was the Head Coach for Poland at the 2019 World Juniors. “His two strongest attributes were his coach-ability and shooting skill.” said Garlow. “He is a strong competitor who can make adjustments to his game on the fly,” Garlow added.

The tournament this summer in Poland, which served as a tryout for future Polish national team, stoked Kolodka's desire to be part of the program going forward. 

“Being in Poland this summer, it makes you see the passion for the game and it's amazing how fast the game is growing in Europe,” Kolodka says. “They want to win so badly. They all had their families out and everyone is so excited about the sport.” 

The Polish program is keen to keep Kolodka involved, as well. They are looking into details for his inclusion in the twice-delayed formerly U19 tournament to be held in Limerick, Ireland, next summer. Also, the second-ever European Box Lacrosse Championship will also be held in 2022, in Hannover, Germany in late July and early August. Kolodka isn't ruling anything out. 

While he didn't know about his Polish heritage until a couple of years ago, Kolodka feels like a part of lacrosse in Poland and hopes to continue to contribute to growing the sport in the nation. He's off to a great start.

Poland is scheduled to hit the floor again this fall at the IIJL World U17 & U15 Lacrosse Championships in Massena, NY. Individually, the U17 and U15 championships will provide Poland with an opportunity to identify Polish heritage players at an earlier age, introduce them to the experiences, and provide more time for selected players to contribute and develop lacrosse domestically in Poland - similar to how Kolodka did this summer. 

For more information about the Poland Lacrosse Foundation, eligibility for participation, and playing lacrosse in Poland, visit: www.polandlacrosse.org.