Editor’s Note: Welcome Bobby Kwan back to the stage. This is a guest post from our friends across the seas in China! We love to see how the game keeps growing! All photos provided by China Women’s Lacrosse.
We talked about the Chinese men’s team already. Now it’s time to give some updates on what’s going on with China Women’s Lacrosse! It’s awesome how quickly the game is growing in Asia. It’s only a matter of time until there are some real hotbeds centering around China. Read on to catch up with their director of women’s lacrosse, Morgan Benaszek, on the recent advancements on the ladies’ side.
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Q+A w/ Morgan Benaszek
Hi Morgan! What’s the current state of the game in China and how is it developing?
At the moment, lacrosse is mainly in China’s major cities of Shanghai and Beijing. With more involved coaches and players, the participation and formation of players and teams have helped evolve the game into what it is today.
Today, China Lacrosse has around 300 participants in both major cities and expects to grow greater throughout the next couple of years.
In the past 7 years, the women’s lacrosse program has steadily picked up speed. There are many committed female players, who have been receiving coaching and training from foreign players.
There are 6 different women’s lacrosse groups, either at universities or with the city league, that are practicing regularly (weekly practices throughout the year) in Beijing and Shanghai.
In January 2012, China became the 44th member to join the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). China Lacrosse aims to develop a lacrosse organization that will provide support, identify lacrosse initiatives and help promote the development of lacrosse in China.
With great pride, we assembled our first Men’s Team China to participate in the 2014 FIL Men’s Lacrosse World Championship Games in July 2014 and are currently developing and training a Women’s team to represent China at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup (RWLC17). China Lacrosse hosted the first ever Greater China Cup tournament this past January, with teams from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
That’s a lot of progress! So why are some parents still hesitant to support their kids playing the sport?
The primary reason why parents are hesitant to support their children playing lacrosse is because Chinese culture generally considers sports to be secondary to education. More time spent on sports means less time spent on academics. Another reason is due to the contact nature of the sport, which is viewed with a more skeptical eye than other mainstream sports in China like soccer and tennis.
Despite reasons for hesitancy from Chinese natives on a contact sport like lacrosse, there is marked growth in the sport within recent years. There is also a recent cultural shift towards recreational sports in the country; parents are starting to see value in the development of teamwork and sportsmanship skills at young ages.
That makes sense. Could you tell us more about the Women’s Chinese National Team?
A Chinese women’s team has played together since 2013, with their first international tournament appearance at the 2013 APLU games hosted in Beijing. Since then, the Chinese women have been participating in international lacrosse tournaments, such as the Hong Kong Open and the 2015 APLU tournament in Thailand.
The Chinese players are from extremely diverse backgrounds and regions within China. Some discovered and started playing lacrosse at their universities in Beijing or Shanghai. Other players are of Chinese decent, but grew up and play lacrosse in the USA. We also have some other players, who are at American high schools and got introduced to the sport there. Team China is a pretty young team. They have a passion for lacrosse and have a lot of room to grow over the next 8 months.
Tryouts for the 2017 team were held this past summer (both June and July) in Shanghai. Coach Jesse Porter and I select an initial roster of 30 players, which will be cut down until reaching the final 18 player team that will represent China in the World Cup.
What are you most looking forward to at #RWLC17?
This group of women has great potential to develop into excellent lacrosse players. There are quite a number of athletic girls who were recruited from university basketball groups. In only a few years, many of them have picked up the sport and ran with it. Now they play competitively with foreign women in Beijing and Shanghai, where they are able to hold their own.
The road to the 2017 World Cup will be a long one. It will involve lots of practice, conditioning, teamwork and patience. I believe Team China will put up a good fight against many of the other newer teams.
For many of the girls, representing China at this international sporting event is a dream they have been working towards since childhood.
Hualing Yu, one of the initial team roster players, said “lacrosse for me is more than a sport just for fun, it carries my dream, a dream I’ve been dreaming since the first time the tears ran down my face when I watched Chinese athletes compete in the Olympics. I want to fight for my country, like a warrior and as a team. Lacrosse has changed my life and I believe it will surprise me more in the future. I am extremely excited for 2017, where my dream will come true!”