International Lacrosse: Grow the Game


Editor’s Note: Welcome Godzilla to the LAS mothership.  He’s got a lot to say about International Lacrosse and Asian International Lacrosse in particular.  Oh, and he doesn’t hold any punches.  I’d expect nothing less from a giant green lizard.  He spits hot fire.  Literally.  We’re a forum of opinion sometimes and Godzilla is certainly delivering his.  Agree?  Disagree?  Hit us up in the comments!

Please pardon the title, and welcome to a new segment of your LAS reading pleasures.  Lax All Stars believes in one common goal: Growing The Game EVERYWHERE (and we’re not just talking within the Stars and Stripes).  The rest of the boys here are already doing a good job of keeping you up-to-date surrounding what’s going on in the International lacrosse scene.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Brunelle decided to let me loose on to bring some fresh perspective on lacrosse outside of the continental United States (yes, it exists!)… And whether you like it or not, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not here to win a popularity contest, I’m just doing my thing until someone stops me.

This year was a good year for International lacrosse in my opinion, but bad for the Native Americans. The FIL World Championships for 2010 in Manchester, England, once again saw a significant increase (by 9) in national team entries from 2006.  Despite the messy and public “Iroquois-gate”, Manchester was another successful championship. Lacrosse companies got to show their “International flavor” credentials by the number of teams using their customized equipment.

But seriously, their International credentials are as legitimate as Exxon’s “green credential”.  Too much smoke screen, but nothing behind it. It seems like all talk, with not much action to back it up.

How many of those “national teams” are really an international lacrosse program?  Or are they really just a bunch of glorified (and extremely well-dressed) summer club teams that get together once every 4 years? This year marked the largest collection of national teams in the history of the World Games, yet the number of countries with development programs in place is just as low as it was 4 years ago.

Why?  Because a lot of these teams dismantle their operation as soon as the tournament is over and that’s it.  It is safe to say that for some of these teams (especially European national teams), the players’ sense of patriotism only lasts as long as the end of the tournament.  You don’t believe me? Show me a European team, and I’ll show you a number of American players that found a way into playing for the country that he really has no business of playing for.

Germany Japan Lacrosse FIL world Championships
Germany and Japan are two of the better “new” top teams out there.

The last time Japan ranked lower than Germany was at the 1998 World game. Japan is the only Asian team in the Blue division, Germany only moved up to the Blue division because of the recent “Iroquois-gate”. The Germans lost every game against the Blue division teams in 2010, and it is unlikely they’ll be back in that division for Denver.

Lame? Yes, but it is the reality of International lacrosse… Until the FIL implements a crack-down program on these impostor national teams, the sport of lacrosse will never be taken seriously by the IOC as a potential Olympic sport . There has to be a drastic change within the next four years, or else a TRUE World Games will fall as victims at the hands of club teams who just want to play at Denver in 2014.

Just you watch…

Speaking of the 2014 World Games, keep an eye out for a massive surge of Asian teams over the next four years. With Thailand and Hong Kong recently creating credible teams (Editor’s Note: and doing very well!), countries like India, Malaysia and Singapore are the countries that the lacrosse companies should get their hands on.

I’m not talking about sending a couple sticks to help, that’s not even enough for 2 teams (who are they gonna play with?  how can they really play if they can’t even afford the stick to begin with?).  You would imagine if one wants to “Grow the Game” in one of the Asian countries that has say, over 30 million people living in it, they would show their support and send “a little more” than a couple sticks to help expand the sport… Just some food for thought.

Want to see some great international lacrosse game?

Next July, 8 men’s teams and 6 Women’s team will be heading down under to compete in the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Championship (ASPAC) in New Zealand. There will be some great lacrosse, for the 20 millions sheep that lived there.  There are a few established teams (Japan, Korean, Australia, New Zealand) and the new upstart teams (Thailand and Hong Kong).  The biggest up-and-coming country to look out for is China, who has their own separate program from Hong Kong.  Oh, and did I mention the 1 billion people they have to choose from?  And that 90 percent of the lacrosse products are made there?

Imagine if they decide to put export ban of lax gear, it would certainly make alot of lil’ lax bros very unhappy!  Yet these teams are being treated as an “after thought”, so another quick note to the Lacrosse Companies: put your money where your mouth is… Get involved, and do it now.

Maverik Lacrosse Asia Gloves
A nice collection of gloves right there!

Imagine if all 10 countries in the region were using these gloves. It would be a hell of a lot more exposure for Maverik (or anyone else) than sponsoring some middle of nowhere mid-level D2 school from New England, don’t believe me?  Make the extras of these as “limited edition” and watch them fly out of your warehouse. (Credit: 412 with that idea.)


  1. My primary concern with this argument is that it fails to consider the possibility that some countries would not have teams at all but for the involvement of talented American players. You claim that if the FIL allows these teams to be as talented as possible (by allowing American talent to fill their rosters), lacrosse cannot be taken seriously as an Olympic sport, yet if they did crack down on “impostor teams,” there may not be enough teams out there for lacrosse to be taken seriously as an Olympic sport anyway. If both of these premises hold true, how might it be possible for lacrosse to be taken seriously as an Olympic sport in the near future?

    Additionally, you seem discontent with Americans playing on these teams without warrant to do so, yet proceed to follow by demanding American lacrosse companies extend American material resources to help establish these same teams (I assume so that one day they might function without American talent). There are more talented American lacrosse players than there is money being made by American lacrosse companies. If American resources are necessary to promote international lacrosse at present, one would think America would offer the lacrosse resource it has in spades (talent) before it offers the one it still lacks (dollars). Yes, of course it would be nice if our lacrosse companies had the profit margins to toss Federal Foreign Aid style cash at other countries’ lacrosse programs, but if we care to be realistic and accept that as an impossibility from our lacrosse companies today, perhaps donating our talent isn’t such a bad thing after all; it is the only way American lacrosse can contribute to other national teams at present, which seems to be the overarching goal you’re after here.

    Further, if American lacrosse companies WERE so profitable they could be throwing their weight around abroad, I would hope they would invest in their international market strategy only after investing in the players that have been investing in them, namely Americans.

    • @Deuces: Not sure why my comment got bumped up there, but that long reply is to you… opps.

      @Iowcheeseforlife: Deep pockets is not an answer to everything, certainly helps. But far cried from a solution, not everyone throw money at the problem or hide behind it as excuse of why they can or can not do things. There are people who did so much with so little to work with, if thailand didn’t have people who’s passionate about lacrosse to play. It would be burning the money instead of “throwing” it.

      Also, let me me correct a few misunderstanding… when I say assisting, yes donate some stuff (overstocked last season gears or whatever). But for most part these countries are willing to pay for it too, if the lacrosse companies perhaps selling it to them at cost or with alittle less profits that what they’re getting. After all they’re making these equipments in these nations already anyhow, perhaps even get them in the good will with the local… (depending on country ofcourse) No need for the “Federal Foreign Aid style” financial commitment, just take in a little less for “future investment” in the new market.

  2. I would actually lean towards more growth in Latin America than Asia. With legitimate leagues starting in Mexico (currently have upwards 8 universities competing) and a determination to only invite Passport holding players, they seem to be headed the right way. Argentina, and Peru seem to be growing legitimate operations as well. Lacrosse is definitely growing, but it has a very long way before countries like Malaysia are sponsoring teams. Plus the reason Thailand has seen such explosive growth is that is has huge private financial backing as compared to most starting countries. They have very deep pockets and obviously when money is available the sky is the limit.

    • The only problem with the Latin American countries is money; most of the nations have a population below the poverty line, that doesn’t bode well for getting kids involved in a game where even with donations it can be expensive. Baseball has flourished because of stickball and the ability to play with any type of glove/mit, bat and/or stick. In 2018 or 2022 I think we will see the following nations spur up lacrosse programs (some out of curiousity and some out of increased competitive nature in international competition):

      1. Jamaica
      2. Belgium
      3. Algeria (spelling?)
      4. Russia
      5. Brazil
      6. Peru
      7. China
      8. Brunei (Small nation, but filled with $$$$$$$$$$)
      9. Iceland
      10. Taiwan

      I left India, Singapore, and Malaysia out because of the dominance of Cricket in those countries. They have primarily focused on that one particular sport and haven’t branched out much; even in Soccer, the World’s game, they have been unable to field competitive teams with their hefty populations.

      • You might want to move China up a few ranking there…

        China already hosting an annual lax tournament for local teams, and near by countries to join for a few years now. Not quite sure why they haven’t made a push to a national team conquest yet. But don’t count them out from the 2014 in Denver, once it became one of the national program… the chinese government will make sure the team will not be at the bottom of the ranking if they decide to enter the World Game.

  3. True, and I agree with some of your points. And it raise a few new one as well..

    Hooooooowever (I know, I know)

    Yes, the service of the Americans are needed to help “start up” these new teams. By that I mean, the 3 years in between the World Game, and help the developmental side not just competition aspect of it. Certainly not just jumping on the team 2-3 months prior to the Game, then leave right after it’s over. And that’s what it’s like for the most part, since the American can not be there for the whole fiscal year. Or even if they wanted to, those “national team” doesn’t have the year round national program (some moved over to get a job in those countries, and help develop lacrosse at the same time. i.e. Steve Hess in Thailand, or a few fellow on the HK roster, who actually moved to and lived in HK).

    The International will have “some” growing pain along the way, but it is nessesary for the future of lacrosse. I am not argue with you that we need “experience” players to help set the foundation for the new national teams. Where do we draw the line? how many year of “assistance” should these teams allowed? and are those players also serves as the catlyst for their development program as well? It doesnt call help growing the program, if some program been to 2 world games but still required Americans to be on the team. Chances are those respective teams, doesn’t bother with creating the development program in there countries.

    Thailand is the biggest offender of all new teams, they’re employing the help of not just from “American” players. But the whole fleet of American division 1 players, 2 of whom won 2 national titles. However, these guys are on the “long term commitment” with the Thais, something call Development Officer. They’re coming and going between Thailand and the U.S. about twice a year to help aid the clinics/development, and train the national team. Thailand are working with the talents they got (Thais who studied in the U.S.) and you won’t see them straps up for the World Game in 2014.

    Yes, you’re right we needed American players to fill in some of the team back in as early as 2002 world game. And that’s just it… since then those nations, should be moving away from that “excuse” it’s been almost 10 years since. Mostly those teams are Europeans (and New Zealander), who can certainly have several “exemption” to allowed more of the American on the team than the Asian countries… not only the fact that european team can get away with technicality side but also “physical appearance” side of American present of their team more so that the Korean or Hong Kong.

    Japan for one doesn’t need American help to be in the Blue division, nor did any member of the Japanese national team played in the U.S. before. These are all home grown talents, that dropped a hammer down on a few mixed European teams at the world game. Now is it because Japan really push hard with their development program (of 20 years) or the Japanese are natually amazing at lacrosse?? Granted they’ve been working closely during the early years with then the Rutger head coach Tom Hayes (who’s now FIL director of development). But somewhere along the line, the feather grew on their wings, and they flew out of the nest of American assistance.

    We as the whole have made progress… but it need to be much steeper growth curve. Because after all we’re playing catch up to every other sports. The IOC is extreamly political, there are some Olympic sports that doesn’t have as many nations playing as lacrosse (Bobsled or Curling anyone?). So it’s not all about quantity with the IOC, but qualities (…and something else too) it’s our job to meet it, if we want our beloved sport in the Olympics.

    • Edit note: About Thailand – In the last sentence of that paragraph; I meant the U.S. players not strapping up for Denver in 2014 for Thailand. Just the Thais who studied in the U.S. AND new home grown talents (forgot that too).

      It can get a bit confusing at this godly hours…

  4. The fact is that there is really no right or wrong way to grow lax on the international level. For the time being there will be some issues with Americans playing on foreign teams, but the majority of these players do meet predetermined eligibility criteria. A number of players have worked to establish lax while working or studying abroad; surely they should have the right to play with the teams they helped build.
    My issue is allowing Blue Division teams to field non passport holders. If you are in the top level, you should only be allowed to have citizens, residents, and passport holders on you rroster. Period.
    Another issue I have is players like Brendan Mundorf. Mundorf played with Australia in 2006 but with the USA this year. In 2006 he did not make the cut for team USA so chose the Aussies, which is fine under the FIL rules. But that should have prevented him from EVER playing as a member of team USA. I realize he did very well for us and was a vital player this summer, but I view his status as tainted. By extension our championship is tainted. We have a large enough pool that we did not need to brin Mundorf in anyway…

    • Excellent point again Adam, maybe perhaps to meet the two school of thoughts half way. The FIL should do what Adam suggests with the Blue (and Red?) division?

      Also…. ladies and gents, Adam Edgington: A man who did so much with development of lax expansion in Iowa with very little to work with.

      No need over the top budgets.

  5. First off I can’t agree more that the REAL growth of international lacrosse has been hurt by the formation of these so called “impostor teams” at the world games. Aside from the FIL’s lack of scrutiny regarding a player’s eligibility, blame for the disturbing trend of MLL, D1, 2, & 3 athletes representing “their” country falls on the national programs themselves. Each team must follow the rules set out by the FIL, but it is each program’s prerogative to add these types of players to their roster that impedes growth and longevity within their own country.
    Secondly, reading this article further I can’t help but feel a huge amount of historical context is missing from your analysis on Asian teams, and further growth. Calling programs like Japan and Hong Kong “new” or “upstarts” make it sounds as if lacrosse was recently introduced to the country, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Both Japan and Hong Kong have been playing lacrosse within their University system for decades, a relic of colonial rule dating back over 50 years ago. There is no magic formula, aside from Thailand (LOTS of money & enthusiasm), to start these programs overnight, and bringing in US talent to play (i.e. Long Ireland) does not build long term talent bases within the host countries. Also aside from intercollegiate play I personally know that HK has benefited most from developing a post collegiate league combining HKU alumni and current students to push the level of play up across the board. Japan is lucky enough to have multiple Universities and HS prep schools participating in both leagues and tournaments, where HK’s lacrosse base starts and resides in a single university, HKU. The best way in my mind to grow the game in any region is through grass roots efforts, building strength in numbers. Any American laxer that travels outside our great nation, be it for a semester abroad or mission trip, has the opportunity to introduce the game to hundreds of people within just a month or two. As we all know once that stick hits their hands the game sells itself.

  6. Having spent over a year overseas coaching lacrosse in developing countries I have come to the conclusion that there are a few keys to getting a self-sustaining lacrosse program off the ground.

    – critical mass
    – economics
    – enthusiam
    – expertise

    Critical Mass: Simply put you should start with two teams that can compete on a regular basis. Having been in a situation where we could only equip one team it didn’t take long to figure out that this was a dead end. Having a rival team to compete against also adds to enthusiasm and gives everyone a reason to take their game to the next level.

    Economics: Lacrosse is an expensive sport to play and the Federation of International Lacrosse and corporate sponsors can only do so much. At some point folks in country are going to have to pay for their own equipment for this reason it makes sense to target affluent schools or countries that are above a certain threshold of per capita GDP.

    Enthusiam: This is a big intangible but however it manifests itself it has to be there. Young folks are understandibly naturally ethusiastic when it comes to new visceral activities such as lacrosse. However, if there is significant enough resistance from an older and entrenched sports community this can put a serious damper on things.

    Expertise: Finally there is expertise and that is where the readers of this article come into play. It is no doubt best to have a relative expert in lacrosse live in the country in which lacrosse is ebing developed. While there is a whole lot one can learn on there own certain things often need to be diagnosed in person so as new players and coaches don’t run into too many stumbling blocks or perpetuate the wrong techniques.

    If anyone reading this has a desire to live overseas and coach lacrosse I highly encourage them to do so. It can be a very exciting, interesting and rewarding experience. Some untapped countries that I think are ripe for the development of lacrosse are; Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus and Chile. Perhaps while teaching English as a second language you become the catalyst for the creation of team Astana.