Just a few short weeks ago, France announced their 22-man roster for the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships to be held in Netanya, Israel. Among the group, an unknown rookie is grinding his way into French Lacrosse history. Kiéven Bengel, is one of the newest faces working with the French national team. Recently he earned the respect of his fellow countrymen and caught the eyes of the coaching stuff, earning him a place on the roster as a midfielder and face-off specialist.
Leading up to the big event we will be getting to know more and more players from around the globe. Since many of us aren’t too familiar with Kiéven’s game, it’s only proper to introduce the world to the new face-off athlete for France… before we see I’m fighting through the trenches in July!
Get to Know: Kiéven Bengel, Face-Off Specialist
MD: Hi, Kiéven. Congrats on making the French National Team. Can we start with how you discovered lacrosse?
KB: Everything started in April 2013 in University when I was 18. I moved from France to Germany for my studies, and with this new start I really wanted to try a team sport. I first wanted to do volleyball, but in our University it is difficult to get a place more popular sports, since there are too many students.
When I was looking for an alternative, I discovered lacrosse in the list. I didn‘t know what it was so I watched some videos on YouTube. I got really interested and wanted to give it a try. (I never thought in that moment, that it would take me so far).
Seems like a similar path for most European lacrosse players. From there, where did your lacrosse career take you?
So the first semester I learned the basics and I was so motivated that, after six month, I signed in the club “Karlsruhe Storm Lacrosse“. Being in the club gave me the possibility to play in the second division, and quickly after, in the first division in Germany. I earned most of my experience from the training in Karlsruhe.
Karlsruhe was quite new in the lacrosse game (the club opened in 2007), but we had a good team and everyone was extremely motivated to reach the playoffs. We trained three times a week, and there was nothing that could’ve stopped me from going to every single one of them.
I also gained a lot of experience during the try-outs for the German U19 National Team, but I didn‘t make the first cut since I was too old for the U19 European championship in Budapest. Every summer, I also played in many tournaments everywhere in Germany (Berlin Open, Würzburg, Freiburg, Bremen …). It is really cool to meet other lacrosse players, improve yourself, and have a lot of fun! I also tried box-lacrosse during a tournament in winter once, but I guess I prefer playing on field.
Since 2017 I am also trainer of our new youth team, which is also slowly growing in Karlsruhe. Currently, I am continuing playing in Karlsruhe and prepare myself for the second half season games. At the same time, I am helping some motivated people to found lacrosse Strasbourg (close to Karlsruhe in France).
Being so new, lacrosse is probably still very fresh for you. Do you remember scoring your first goal and what are your best memories of lacrosse?
I can remember it really well, it was on my very first game. It was a friendly game in Ulm. I was on the crease and I got a pass at a right moment from X. With a quick stick the ball was in the goal. After the game I was forced to run naked around the field to “celebrate” it. That is a little tradition here in Germany at least.
There are so many good memories when you play lacrosse. Always a lot of fun during tournaments. The moment when I scored my first goal in the 1st Division was also a really good one. It was the first time I played for the 1st Division and I made a long shot right in the lower corner. I also really enjoyed the national camps where you improve yourself and meet new friends.
Starting a little late, how did you get into facing-off?
I quickly got involved in the face-offs. Since the beginning I was interested in doing it and I became quickly my teams face off specialist. Soon I became the face-off guy for our 1st team and I didn’t have any competition anymore.
Sometimes there are special trainings organized in other cities. Once, in Stuttgart, where a special trainer (coming from the US) gave tips and explained a lot. The national camps were also the best to improve my face-offs and play against good opponents. I really like face-offs, I see it like a mini-game inside the lacrosse game. The only thing I hate about doing it, is the fact that the lacrosse head breaks really fast and instantly it is not possible to play with it anymore.
But the greatest satisfaction is aways when the team scores the fast break right after winning the ball on a face-off. And everyone knows how important face-offs are in a game!
Once you locked the role down, how did you get involved with the French National Team?
Since the beginning of my studies, I never heard a lot from France Lacrosse. I just knew that there were few clubs in France and sadly none in Strasbourg. The first time I heard about the French National Team was 2016.
It was a friend who asked me why I didn‘t try to be part of it. I hadn‘t thought about it and the team was already made up for the European Championship, but I thought why not attend the next try-outs. I liked the idea of representing France, coming back to my country and meeting French players. Even in big tournaments in Germany, I never had the chance to meet French players.
The try-outs begun 2017. I couldn‘t come to the first one because of my exams, but in June I played for the first time with French people in Paris. I was excited to see how they play in France, how they call the drills, and excited finally to play in my native country. I made the first cut and was invited to Scotland and the US for the next ones.
What are you looking forward most about the World Championship?
Like I explained before, I am really excited of playing in some different places and meet many different people who share the same passion. In Israel the game level will be extremely high and I think this will be a lot of fun. Of course I am curious how I will manage the face-offs and how I will manage the heat during summer times in Israel. It will be the first time in my life to play in a Wold Championship, and I am excited but also nervous.
Do you think lacrosse will continue to grow in Europe and what could help?
I hope that lacrosse will continue to grow in Europe. I think it is a really interesting sport, also easy to watch. I guess and hope that there will be more TV-Shows/Movies with lacrosse in it and more Information about it.
I think more new clubs will be founded and also more youth teams. Maybe in France it will be possible to have an interesting 1st division and that in Germany a 3rd division could open. I hope to help build a strong team in Strasbourg too, to continue growing the game.