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Africa Lacrosse: Looking Forward In Time

With Uganda playing in the last World Championships, the recent announcement of a small regional club tournament (more on that below), and growing interest in more African nations, Africa Lacrosse is a hot topic for discussion. The continent is just beginning its lacrosse journey, and the next few years could prove pivotal in how the sport is received.

I caught up with Kevin Dugan, of Fields of Growth, who has been on the ground, and putting in massive amounts of work, to see where Africa Lacrosse is truly headed.

My first series of questions revolved around the current development model, and what could work. While many nations focus on a full-scale, full pads, international rules, 10v10 model, I’ve never been sold on the idea of that programmatic approach being the only way. Sure, it’s A way, but is it THE way?

Kevin fired back with an interesting response, which you can read in full below.

A Development Model For Africa Lacrosse

“When people ask me about a development model for the sport of lacrosse on the continent of Africa, I always talk about the need to be very pragmatic and geographically focused. It is just not practical to think that Uganda is going to be playing Namibia or Cameroon in an international friendly anytime soon. However, the possibility of an East African Lacrosse Federation, following a similar model as the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Association, is very practical, and I think it is highly probable, that this will happen in the next few years.

Uganda vs Ireland 2014 World Lacrosse Championship

“For development of lacrosse in emerging countries you have to work smarter, not just harder. We are going to bring the entire Kenyan U-19 team from Nairobi to Kampala for approximately $500, the cost of one plane ticket from Uganda to South Africa. All of the countries in East Africa have special immigration and business partnerships that make it easy and affordable for citizens of East African nations to cross each others borders without much difficulty. Busing around East Africa is easy and inexpensive. I think for lacrosse to grow in other areas of Africa, there need to be similarly focused regional associations formed. I would love to see a West African Federation, South African Federation, etc. Right now, East Africa has a lot of momentum.

“I am also a huge believer in introducing lacrosse in developing nations in a 7 v 7 format, but when I first started getting involved with international lacrosse development, I was always in a rush to play 10 v 10, to make things look “more official.” It wasn’t pragmatic and was really difficult to create a  10v10 model in a school setting in developing countries at enough schools to form leagues, and increase participation. Not to mention the above issues, it also wasn’t as much fun, and from a learning standpoint, didn’t make as much sense as 7v7. 

“Over the past year of starting an official high school league in Jamaica, I actually created a mini-rule book for our version of 7v7 lacrosse that I give to PE teachers and new players. In three pages it teaches them everything they need to know to understand 7v7 lacrosse. The rules are simplified, the penalties are simplified, and the lining of the fields are simplified. This is working very well in Jamaica and Uganda and with the help of the FIL, I’ve started to introduce it in Haiti.”

Keep Reading through to the end to see the 7v7 Rule Book!

The Uganda 7s Tournament

The above conversation with Kevin was sparked by the announcement of the first ever, and first ANNUAL, Ugarnda 7s Lacrosse Tournament. For year 1, the tourney will play host to all of the Ugandan club teams, a U19 team from Kenya, and an “American” team made up of Kevin, a couple Yanks, two Englishmen, and an Israeli. There will also be a women’s component to the tournament, and all the games will be played on Friday, August 13th at the Makere University Rugby Grounds in Kampala, Uganda.

It’s intriguing to see a Kenyan U19 team playing, and it’s also great that some long-time lacrosse players from around the world are also coming in to play, and support, the event. I’ve learned that the visiting players will be bringing 50 total sets of equipment with them to donate to local organizations, and that means after this event, even more people can pick up the gift of lacrosse.

Maybe this event turns into a “bucket list” tourney for lacrosse obsessed people… Maybe in 10 years it will have the same draw as the Berlin Open in Germany, or the Ales Hrebesky outside of Prague. But even if it never gets much bigger outside of the Africa Lacrosse nations, it will continue to do good things. This tournament creates a focal point for more than just Uganda Lacrosse. It opens doors and creates community, and I’m thrilled to see something like this come to fruition.

All of the above obviously assumes success in the long-run. Do I think that will happen? I think it’s likely! So until it goes wrong, I’m assuming it will go right. It may be a big assumption, but with guys like Kevin Dugan involved, I feel pretty confident.

7v7 Development Model Rule Book

Africa Lacrosse 7v7 field

Game Format: Games consist of two 15:00 minute running time halves with a 5:00 minute break for halftime. Each team gets one timeout per game. The object of the game is to score more goals then the opposition. Each goal counts for one point. The game begins with a face-off where both teams battle for possession. A face-off also takes place after each goal, and at the start of the second half. The length of the games can be modified for scrimmages, camp settings etc. If the game ends and the score is tied, there will be a 2:00 break, and an overtime period will begin. The first team to score wins.

Positions: Each team shall field two attackmen, two midfielders, two defensemen and one goal keeper.

Attackmen: Similar to a forward in football. The attackmen line up closer to the goal and do not cross midfield. They should be very good at shooting and have good skills with the ball in their stick.

Midfielders: Midfielders are known as the iron men of lacrosse as the play offense and defense on both ends of the field, they are also very involved in the face-off at midfield, which takes place at the start of each half and after each goal is scored. Midfielders need to be well rounded players with good fitness levels.

Defenders: The defense, like the attackmen, line up closer to the goal and mark an attackman. Their primary role is to limit the offense from scoring goals and to help move the ball to their team’s offensive zone.

Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper is the last line of defense, and similar to a goal keeper in football, they work to block shots from entering the goal. They have special pads to protect them from the ball and have a bigger stick to help block shots or “make saves.”

General Rules:

 Ball leaves demarcated field of play: Similar to football, if the ball goes out of bounds, the team that last touched the ball gives possession to the other team. Contrary to football, there is no “throw in” the team that gains possession enters the field of play, waits for the official to blow their whistle, and then can run with the ball or pass to a teammate. *During a restart 5 meters of space must be given to the player with the ball.

 Ball leaves demarcated field of play due to an attempted shot on goal: The ball will be awarded to the player that is closest to the ball when a shot goes “out of bounds.” This is why you will see players chase the ball on a missed shot to try and be closest to the ball when it leaves the field of play.

 Substitutions: There is no limit on the number of substitutions that can take place during a game, however, they can only take place after a goal is scored, or in between play when the ball goes out of bounds (Officials should stop play and wait for the substitutions to finish before blowing the whistle).

 The “Crease” (circle) around the goal: The goal keeper and his defenders are the only players allowed in the crease. If the offense enters the crease the official will blow the whistle and award the ball to the opposing team.

 You cannot touch the ball with your hands, however you can kick the ball with your feet.

 Warding: If you have possession of the ball, you cannot use your arm/hand to “ward” off the defense. If you are called for “warding” the official will give possession of the ball to the opposing team.

 Offsides: You must have 3 players in your defensive zone at all times, and two players in your offensive zone. These 3 players in the defensive zone are typically the two defenders and the goal keeper, however a defender or the goalkeeper can cross the midfield line and enter the offensive zone if a midfielder stays back or “onside” for them. The two players in the offensive zone are typically the attackmen, however they can go to the defensive zone if a midfielder stays back for them.

Rules regarding contact: Lacrosse is a game that does involved controlled physical contact, and is a very safe game when the rules are followed.

 Stick Checks & Slashing Penalties: A stick check is when a player tries to dislodge the ball from his opponents stick by hitting the opponents stick with his stick. Stick checks become illegal penalties when the stick strikes the ball carrier in the helmet, or on the arms or body with excessive force.

 Cross Checks: A cross check is an illegal check that involves using the shaft of your stick to initiate contact in an illegal manner.

 Unnecessary Roughness: This occurs when the official deems that a hit takes place with unnecessary force or with the intent to harm.

Rules regarding pushing / body checking:

o Body Contact when the ball is loose / on the ground: You can “check” and “push” players within 5 meters of a loose ball, but you must do this from the front side of their body. If you push a player from behind, the official will blow the whistle and award the ball to the opposing team.

o You cannot use your “free hand” to ward off the opposition during ground balls. You must have two hands on your stick when fighting to pick up a loose ball. If you use your “free hand” the ball will be awarded to the opposition.

o Body contact when your opponent has the ball: When you are defending a player with the ball, you can use body contact to limit the ball carriers ability to advance closer to the goal in the offensive zone, however, when pushing the player, you must keep two hands on your stick and hold the hands closer together. If you push your opponent in the back while they have possession of the ball, a “Pushing” Penalty will be enforced.

 Holding: If you are using your stick or arms in a hooking or holding manner to impede the progress of the ball carrier then a “Holding” penalty will be enforced.

 Tripping: If your stick or feet purposefully cause an opposing player to fall or have their progress slowed, then a “tripping” penalty will be enforced.

Enforcement of Penalties:

 If an infraction takes place during a loose ball (neither team has possession of the ball) then the official will simply award the ball to the team that was fouled.

 If an infraction takes place while one team has possession of the ball, then the official will throw a yellow flag and yell “flag down.” Play does not immediately stop until the team with possession of the ball loses possession. After possession is lost the penalty is enforced and the team that was fouled is awarded a 3 v 2 penalty shot.

 Yellow Card: If the official deems an infraction to be intentional, excessive in force, or unsportsmanlike, then a yellow card is issued in addition to a 3v2 penalty shot. Two yellow cards and you are expelled from the game.

 Red Card: If the official deems a player to be using consistently excessive force and a style of play that is dangerous and out of control a red card can be give and the player is expelled from competition immediately and a 3v2 penalty shot is awarded.


How simple is all that? Pretty darn interesting and amazing, huh?

I am really impressed by how Kevin and his crew of dedicated lacrosse game growers have maintained the integrity of the game but also simplified it, thereby allowing more people, in more places, to enjoy the sport. The rules for lacrosse were often decided the day before a game by Native American teams for hundreds of years. To think that we can’t diverge from the 10v10 standard today is ridiculous. Props to these guys for trying something different. I hope it works, and believe it can.

Having experience with developing lacrosse in urban areas, I can say for sure that other models can work. If what’s happening in Africa Lacrosse right now bears out fruit, it could help to change our game yet again, and for the better.