This past weekend, I traveled up to Suffield Academy in CT to practice and play with the Thailand Lacrosse Association’s team. Obviously, I did a live photo blog.
If you’re curious what my relationship with the TLA is, well… We host the Thailand Lacrosse blog on our network, we are going to Thailand in a week to play an exhibition game there, and I’ve become good friends with Payu, who is spearheading the effort to make lacrosse in Thailand as popular as it is here in the States. I was asked to play for the team because they were a little short on numbers (it’s a long trip and still the busy season for lax!), and the opportunity to see inside a relatively new international program was one I would not pass up!
I might not have an ounce of Thai blood in me, but being asked to play for a team representing their country was a huge honor in and of itself. The TLA really tries to run a professional operation, and I sincerely doubt many other new programs would be able to pull something like this off. That isn’t a knock on those other new programs whatsoever, as I fully understand the constraints that so many new lacrosse nations face, but more of a tip of the hat to the TLA.
Yes, it takes money to make something like this happen, but it really requires time and effort more than anything else. And the blood, sweat, and tears the Thai players and staff put into the event was evident all weekend long.
On Friday, we held a walk through where we went through basic offensive and defensive principles and sets. We started to cover rides and clears, and focused on installing the basic elements of a team package. Seeing as a lot of these guys hadn’t played together that much, there was a lot to cover. Players had varying experience levels from some high school lax to a couple guys who were playing, or had played, in college.
Chazz Woodson and Sean Lindsay, TLA development officers, were on hand coaching and playing and setting a good example on attack.
Steve Hess (Loyola) led the defensive work for the team and always seems to be smiling, and Rick Mercurio, former Coach at Sachem HS on LI, oversaw the whole practice and provided great leadership. I enjoyed spending time with Rick all weekend, as he is an absolute vat of lacrosse knowledge and stories.
Some of the younger Thai players had never experienced this kind of set up and theoretical instruction before, and this is exactly why this game was SO important. Numbers-wise, Thailand will have enough skilled and experienced players to put together a team for Denver in 2014. There is no question about that. But, if the TLA truly wants to compete, they have realized that they need to start working towards that goal of “team” right NOW.
Players do not become great overnight, and showing the younger and newer players higher levels of competition early on will bring them along quickly.
Once these current players are ready to really play at a high level, and play as a team, the Thailand International men’s team will be well stocked. And then the real growth inside the country will start to take off in a major way. Why? Because it won’t just be Development Officers from the US coming over to promote the game… it will be THAI NATIONAL TEAM PLAYERS… coming HOME, and then staying home, to promote, and coach, the game.
Both are viable paths, and the FIL uses the prior quite often to get new programs going. But the latter is just more sustainable, and is really the second step. What the TLA is doing right now is laying the foundation for future success, and they’re building it strong.
The game itself was lopsided. CVLC played as a team, won a lot of face offs, moved the ball well and slid efficiently. For the Thailand team, it was still a great experience. Everyone got to see just how hard you have to run, how quickly you have to move the ball and how much you have to communicate to be successful. The experience of playing International Rules was also extremely beneficial as players saw how no horn, different penalty rules, running time and a couple of other changes can really make the game of lacrosse a different experience.
CVLC was classy from minute one til the end of the game. Everyone played hard but kept it clean, and a healthy spirit of competition was in the air. Suffield Academy, the Thailand Lacrosse Association and CVLC all represented themselves, and each other, extremely well, and the weekend was a huge success.
I’d like to personally thank the TLA, Payu, Suffield Academy, CVLC and all of the fans (and Christina Marchisio for the excellent photos!) who came out to take this game in. It meant a lot for this young international program, and it meant a lot to me too.
I do what I do at LAS because I believe in the growth of the game, but to be able to be a part of it, and experience it for myself again, was an honor and privilege I’ll never forget.