In our newest Fireside Chat, Connor Wilson sits down with Thomas Palestrini, the captain of Singapore Lacrosse to discuss the growth of the game in Asia, Singapore, and all across the world. Read on to learn more about lax on the other side of the planet and how it’s been going so far!
What is your lacrosse background? When did you start playing the game and where did you pick it up?
I have been playing lacrosse for over 12 years now. I started back in 1999 playing in middle school in New Jersey. After playing through high school, I went on to play at my university, and continued as an LSM at NCAA DIII SUNY Maritime College in New York.
When did you move to Singapore, and what precipitated the move?
I was transferred to Singapore in September 2009 from Houston, Texas for work. It was originally a six month stint but I was signed on for an open-ended contract afterward.
Was there any lax in Singapore when you first got there? Did you see any potential there right away? Or did it take some time?
Haha. There was no notion of lacrosse to be found at all. I did some searching right away, and even brought my stick over with me, but to no avail. There was always a great deal of potential in Singapore. With their sizable ex-pat population, including a significant proportion of Americans and Australians where the game is big, the “instant” potential for Singapore was evident right away.
What were the first steps in really getting something going?
Have help from someone who has done it before! Payu, of the Thailand Lacrosse Association (also the Interim President of SLA), has been nothing short of outstanding in aiding our growth. On July 4th there was only five of us. Now, as of September 22nd, I have interest from over 26 guys, including interest in hosting some clinics. A good word ethic and “stick-to-it-iveness” is definitely key. You also have to be prepared for some disappointment. People saying they’ll commit who then don’t show up is one example of this. It can be very frustrating. But the reward is finding the guys who have a passion for the game and wantto be passionate about it.
Where could Singapore Lacrosse be in one year? What about 10 years?
I have a strong feeling Singapore Lacrosse has the potential to be an extremely successful program both now, and in the future. The hardest part will be to get the ground movement going with the locals. Most have never seen the sport played. The team is mostly compiled of ex-pats now and will always have to hold a significant number, or at least for the time being. The good part about Singapore is that there is always a strong influx of talent, and thanks to Payu’s and social networking on facebook and twitter, people are discovering us even before they move over!
Have you made any progress in getting younger people involved?
Very much so! We are working on hosting a clinic at one of the ex-pat schools, and I have received word of strong interest from parents who want their children involved. This is integral to keeping the movement going.
How can lacrosse be grown best in Asia? Is the approach different than how it is grown in other parts of the world?
I think the best way to approach lacrosse is to focus on the finesse parts of the game. Lacrosse has the potential to be a very violent and physical sport, which can tend to scare people off. Many of the most popular games in Asia are non-contact. Or at least limited contact. Soccer, badminton, tennis, water polo… All games that require a great deal of finesse that I feel you can focus on when recruiting new lacrosse participants.
What is the team’s schedule of events? And who is playing for the team right now? Mostly ex-pats? Or are there more and more native Singapore residents taking up the cause?
As of right now the number one date on our event is the upcoming Friendly Game with the Thailand National Team. We are very much looking forward to it and officially getting the ball rolling. The team that will be attending is all expats, however we do have three local Singaporeans that attend practices and throw-around sessions. So there is some local growth! Right now, we have a great eclectic group of guys on the team. From guys who have played at schools such as Duke and Kings Point to players from Switzerland and England. Right now our main concern is recruiting and finding and keeping a full roster in tact. Getting the locals involved is a top priority as well and more and more are hearing about us through our social networking and watching us at practices.
Where do you practice/play? Have there been any conversations with Singapore’s national sporting body? How close are you to becoming an official national team? Or is that too far off to say right now?
We currently practice at Farrer Park over by Little India. We set up our goal, take shots, work on stick skills and help the newer players learn the basics. I personally haven’t spoke to the national sporting body yet but Payu may have, as well as the APLU and the FIL. I am really focused on getting the team together. As far as becoming a verified national team? I feel we are getting closer.
We are growing pretty fast; faster than I had originally expected. There are players out there but the tricky part is getting the word to them. Players like me who, when I first got to Singapore, gave up after becoming frustrated with the initial lack of interest. The best way seems to be social networking and word of mouth. There is a team here that wants to play and we’re very close to finding all of them!
What is the future of Asia Lacrosse? And how can Singapore help lead the way?
I think Lacrosse has a good future in Asia. The region is nicely sandwiched between big players like Australia and Japan, the growth of the international market place, especially in this part of the world, and the influx of ex-pats has vastly increased the potential for Asian Lacrosse. When played well it’s a beautiful game to watch and be a part of and I have a strong feeling people will want to be a part of it. Singapore’s greatest strength for lacrosse would be the concentration of ex-pats and Singapore’s embracement for sport and modern culture. I have no doubt Singapore will soon become a strong player in the Asian Lacrosse scene!