It was a Friday afternoon at Franklin Elementary in Tacoma and Hassan Mackey had just finished 10 push-ups after a loss.
In an overtime game of who could score the most goals through the special Elite Shot goal, Coach H had just lost to one of the kids challenging him all day to the match.
“He’s been telling me he could beat me so I told him we would have a contest and they’re going to pick sides,” Mackey said. “They just don’t know that the losing side’s going to have a punishment.”
It was a punishment Mackey gladly took after losing, 2-1, in overtime.
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“That’s what it’s all about — that connection to love the sport here at this age,” Hassan’s father, Larry Mackey, said.
Sometimes there are stories that come to life — where they tell their own story inside a tight little box that has a definite beginning, middle and end.
As a journalist, you become connected to the material, and the words seem to flow across the keyboard as the passion for the craft brings the tale alive.
And then there are stories like the ones about Hassan and his father, Larry — the ones where no matter how much you write, no matter how many hours are spent covering the details, things are always missed or left out of the final product. The stories become only half-tales of the event.
But even half-tales are worth their weight.
What was fascinating about the Mackey family story is part from the very beginning, discussing the campaign to send Hassan and his father back to Uganda, where Hassan has the chance to gain dual citizenship in order to qualify to play for the Ugandan national lacrosse team, as well as open up lacrosse clinics with his father and other locals.
“Just being able to have the chance is a good feeling (but) being able to play, that would be big,” Hassan admitted.
Not only is Uganda on the table, but Israel is as well. Hassan is half Jewish and recently found out that he would qualify for the Israeli national team as well as the United States, making it three potential teams Hassan could choose to play for down the line.
It’s a rare chance for someone coming from Hassan Mackey’s position, where the idea of three meals a day can be a mirage more than a reality.
Sometimes it’s hard not to relate to an athlete. It’s those moments walking back to the bus after a loss on a cold night in Seattle that it’s the most sincere moments — the most human ones.
On a hot summer day out in Tacoma, Hassan could be anywhere else but there. He has so much potential in his future, yet he was there, coaching the kids who wanted to come out for a free lesson.
It’s who he is and how he was raised by his father. With Eastern Pennsylvania University lacrosse around the corner, Hassan is one step closer achieving the dream he and his father shared for more than a decade now.
“If we can go there, maybe (Hassan) can go over there (Uganda) and inspire someone to pick up the game,” Larry said. “All it takes is one person, man — just one, and it would have been worth it. All of it. If only one African-born player could come back here and inspire African Americans here in the states, it would have been worth it.”
And as the Mackeys like to say: “That’s what it’s all about.”
Larry has opened up a Go Fund Me page to help support Hassan’s and several other former Puyallup Panther Lacrosse players’ trips. Visit gofundme.com/CoachMackey to make a donation.