Editor’s Note: Please welcome Mark Schindler, of Nexus Lacrosse, back to LAS! Nexus is a proud LAS partner, and Mark has wowed us in the past with training tips and drills, and some great perspective on the game. Now he’s back with a journal on a recent trip to Germany to Grow the Game!
Many things in this world are culturally specific. From language to food to social customs, the uniqueness of the people and places around us is what makes traveling so much fun. However there are also certain things in life, a smaller number to be sure, that span nearly any and all world cultures – smiling when you are happy, the word “taxi”, etc.
Lacrosse, as I recently found out, might actually be better suited for inclusion in the latter category. The North American-dominated sport is growing internationally and next summer it is anticipated that there will be 40 countries represented at the World Games in Denver.
This Summer, I have traveled to Germany with a group of students to help grow the game. We traveled to four different cities (Frankfurt, Berlin, Hannover, and Cologne) to conduct youth and coaches clinics (and do some sightseeing) in hopes of doing our part to spread the good word of lacrosse.
Germany has a vibrant youth and adult lacrosse community already, dating back to the early 1990’s when they fielded their first men’s national team. But not unlike the new pockets of talent in the US, youth lacrosse in Germany is outgrowing the number of quality coaches and officials who can provide the framework for the game.
Thus, we embarked on a trip to do our little part.
The clinics in Germany were like any youth clinic in the US – drills to develop basic skills, a progression of activities that built upon the previous drill, and finally a game or short-sided scrimmage of some sort to let the kids run and have fun. The clinics in Frankfurt, hosted by the SC 1880 club, were great. Approximately 70 kids over two sessions came to the field as novices, and hopefully many of them left with an itch to play this new sport.
The men’s team clinic in Mainz, a university town outside of Frankfurt, was a great opportunity to see the hard work and discipline of men who were still learning the game. They played as hard is if it were the championship game, and it was just a normal Monday night practice for them.
Attending the German Youth Championships in Hannover was a great experience as well. As one American player stated, “this feels just like a summer tournament at home,” and it did. The multi-field venue provided opportunities to watch games all day long, the congregation of teams in various locations where they staked their claim to the little bit of shade between fields was no different than the pop-up tents manned by parents at the Summer Sizzle in Baltimore. The atmosphere was filled with energy as the boys teams would support their club’s girls team and vice versa.
I must also remark that the level of sportsmanship between and within clubs was incredibly high.
The level of talent was varied, with clubs from Berlin and Hamburg distinguishing themselves from the others – obviously drawing from a larger talent pool and benefiting from more experienced coaches. Over 40 players attended our clinic for the U12 players, an age group that the national federation is hoping to include in next year’s season.
The most interesting aspect to the entire trip, the clinics and tournament included, was that the atmosphere always had a decidedly “lacrosse” feel to it. What does that mean? Aside from the expats who spoke English and reminisced of lacrosse in the States, the culture and energy of the events was no different than at home.
Little kids from various teams shot on empty goals between games. Older players listened to music or flirted with players from other teams. Some parents stood back in the shade while others hovered over their kids on the steaming turf to make sure that everything went as (they) planned. Some players wilted after 30 minutes and others were only just getting started after 2 hours of training.
Kids are kids, and lacrosse is lacrosse.
Likewise, and more interestingly, the vocabulary of the players and coaches was also no different. To stand on the sideline and simply listen to the game would likely give you an indication that you were in Germany, however much of what was said was in English. One young girl from Hamburg, who not only plays for their U16 team but also for their women’s team (she was perhaps the most talented player at the tournament) talked with me about how players don’t want the game to be translated. They don’t want the rulebook or the gear or the coaching terms to be translated into German. They want to use the English terms.
I asked her why she felt that way and she said that it’s more true to the game. She said that lacrosse is lacrosse, and that since it’s originally a North American sport (although technically a French term) she felt that it was somewhat disingenuous to translate terms like “slash” or “dodge” into German.
Let me quickly add that this girl is fluent in German, English, Russian, and is taking Latin and Ancient Greek at her “gymnasium” (school). So she knows a thing or two about language.
I found it interesting that there really is a universal language of lacrosse. Yes, the game itself is pretty much the same (some international rules are different than NCAA, although they’re closer now with the NCAA changes) but so is the structure surrounding it.
Whether you’re in Germany or in the US or likely anywhere in the lacrosse world: kids love to just play and rip on cage, helicopter parents will always hover, and a “butt end” is still called a “butt end” – even in German.
Mark Schindler is the Founder and Program Director of Nexus Lacrosse. A product of the nationally recognized St. Paul’s School (MD) lacrosse program and the current varsity head coach at Mercersburg Academy, Mark has committed to restoring the foundation of the current lacrosse market by establishing Nexus; a new enterprise designed to provide premier, developmental lacrosse opportunities for elite pre-varsity players.
Based upon a foundation of traditional lacrosse principles that includes fundamentals and discipline, Nexus Lacrosse and its programs is focused on providing college-level skill, technical, and tactical development for players who currently play at the highest level within their age group.