Service Through Lacrosse

July 26, 2021
Jack Delligatti, '22, is teaching life lessons through sport to youth in Panama.

Jack Delligatti, ’22, has learned a lot through sport and is spending his summer finding ways to pass those lessons on. As an intern with Lacrosse the Nations (LtN), Delligatti coaches lacrosse to youth in Bocas del Toro, Panama, using the platform to teach valuable life skills and promote education and fun to unify a diverse community.  


"Life in the Caribbean is not as structured as in the U.S., and the population in Bocas is a mix of locals, ex-pats, and short-term residents. LtN welcomes everyone, and we try to make a lasting impression regardless of the amount of time students spend with us,” Delligatti said.

LtN’s curriculum focuses on building life skills learned both on and off the lacrosse field—work ethic, the importance of education, respect, teamwork, and self-confidence. “As a coach, I know I am able to have an impact on kids’ lives, but they have also had a huge impact on me,” Delligatti said. “Being away from my usual support system this summer has provided an opportunity to find others to turn to for mentorship and structure which has been so important for me. I want to empower older students to serve as these same kinds of mentor figures for younger learners so that one day they will be in leadership and coaching roles.”

He was introduced to the program by Maddie Finnen, ’20, a fellow Richmond lacrosse player. Having first volunteered in 2017, Finnen joined LtN full-time last summer and has been working in Bocas since January 2021. “Watching Jack grow, socially and intellectually, was concrete evidence for me that we are having an impact and this mission is possible,” Finnen said. “We have had really intense conversations about issues that are so important, especially here in Bocas. Doing it together makes me feel like we are making a difference, not just with the kids but with ourselves and how we approach the world.” 

Delligatti has found a community in Bocas by becoming involved with local organizations. “Lacrosse is just part of LtN’s mission. More importantly, LtN is focused on finding the best way to serve the communities in which we work. I have met a lot of people through volunteering on the weekends with Boca Surf Crew and practicing jiu-jitsu at Bocas Fight Gym. One day you’ll be grappling with a guy and the next you’ll be joining him for a meal at his restaurant. It’s a small, tight-knit island,” he shared.

Delligatti looks forward to his last year on campus when he can use his experience with LtN to plan for what’s next. “I’ve learned a lot about working in a smaller, non-profit. There is a lot of autonomy, but you have to be accountable because it’s all-hands-on-deck. Ask questions. Ask for opportunities,” he said.

With strong Spider alumni connections in the program, Delligatti hopes to remain involved with LtN in the future. “In some ways, I feel like he’s been here for a week, and in other ways, I feel like he has assimilated to the community and the program so well,” Finnen shared. “It reiterates why it’s so important to educate and support youth. We educated ourselves through experience and that is something I think everyone needs."