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Meet the Fighting Pastries - Hours Apart, Short on Time, Ready to Compete

Meet the Fighting Pastries – Hours Apart, Short on Time, Ready to Compete

It’s 2018 and we, the Danish Lacrosse – Fighting Pastries, are now on the home straight towards participating in our first FIL World Lacrosse Championships since 2010. We’re so close in fact that the groups have now been drawn and we’ll be facing Ireland and China in our first two games.

So what are we doing to prepare for the trip to Israel to play a lot of lacrosse games in a short time span in high temperatures? We’re getting fit and training.

Hitting the Road

Denmark isn’t a very large country, so the physical and economical barriers to training together as a group are not as large as they would be in geographically larger countries like Australia or even Germany. That being said, we only have two small lacrosse clubs in Denmark and they are a 3 hour drive apart, with a few toll bridges in between, so just playing a game of lacrosse, not even 10v10, takes some juggling. Really it takes an eye for logistics to figure out who is sleeping on whose floor, who’s going in Nicolai’s car and who is catching the train (usually the students are forced onto the train or bus because they get a discount).

Once we get all the lacrosse players in Denmark together, which is pretty much our National Team, we then don’t have anyone else in Denmark to play against/scrimmage with, so we need to travel to get real game experience. This gets expensive and can’t be done too often due to our playing base being mostly uni students.

We have some games scheduled between now and Israel, including a trip to Poland for the annual Silesia Cup. We’re also lucky enough to have some teams coming to Copenhagen to help us prepare including Tennessee Wesleyan University. But to keep costs down, we axed a couple of the training camps this year and the guys were individually asked to take care of their own preparations including strength and conditioning to get in shape for the World Championships.

From the Pastry’s Mouth

Five of the Fighting Pastries will give their own thoughts on preparing individually and a bit of background on what they have been up to between camps and games. Let’s meet some of the squad, shall we?

Michael Benabaye-Harild

Michael Benabaye-Harild
Photo: Images by Ronim

Name: Michael ‘Little Buddy’ Benabaye-Harild
Age: 21
Position: FO
Hometown: Odense

My name is Michael Benabaye-Harild, but on the team I’m known as LB or ‘Little Buddy’. I’m a half Dane, half Filipino, but full good guy. I am a student at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense where I study Business Management. During my lacrosse career I’ve changed positions a lot – I started as an attackman for my first season, then I played long pole for a couple of years, then I figured out that I could score goals and play D by being a midfielder, so I did that for a while.

It turns out midfield required more running than I had expected so I tried to give face-offs a shot and that is where I found a good fit for me.

Playing at the 2016 European Championships taught me a lot. I was a pretty sturdy kid growing up and I had always been accustomed to throwing my weight around to gain an advantage in sports. Winning the face-off and trying to slowly barge my way to the goal didn’t work for me at the international level – playing at the next level was an eye opener.

I moved from Copenhagen to Odense in 2016, just after I played for the Fighting Pastries at the European Championships. Living in Odense has made it tough to train for lacrosse to be honest. I am the only player in the city while the rest of the Fighting Pastries are mostly together in Copenhagen and Aarhus (around an hour and a half drive east and west respectively from Odense). Because of that, I’ve had to get pretty creative with training. It’s always either wall-ball on my building, while trying to not break any windows, or doing face-off drills in my backyard. I find training alone extremely repetitive and a bit boring, so I started playing American football with a buddy of mine at the local club in Odense just to mix things up and have some fun while getting fit.

Other than that, I spend a lot of time at the gym doing the training program that our team’s fitness trainer has given me. The whole team is doing more or less the same program, but for me I’ve been focusing more on the cardio aspect of it, since I’ve always been pretty bad at running. Outside of lacrosse and school, I am working part time and saving money to actually participate in the World Championships.

Almost every weekend I get up at 3am, catch the train an hour and a half to Copenhagen to work the weekend at Dunkin Donuts because I haven’t been able to find work in the town that I live in. It is a pretty rough existence and it’s not the most economical way to live using all that money on transport for work but hey, it helps me scrape by every month and will get me to the World Championships in Israel to compete alongside the rest of the Fighting Pastries

Rune Gottenborg Jensen

Rune Gottenborg Jensen Denmark Fighting Pastries lacrosse photo by Images by Ronim
Photo: Images by Ronim

Name: Rune Gottenborg Jensen (Captain)
Age: 29
Position: Defence
Hometown: Aarhus

My name is Rune Gottenborg Jensen and I play on the fun end of the field (defence) for the Danish National Team.

I’m a 29-year-old student living in Aarhus, home of Aarhus Ravens Lacrosse. I’m currently studying to become a marine and technical engineer, where I’m on my second year, with “only” two and a half years to go.

If we are to talk a bit about my life out of studies, it mostly revolves around lacrosse, with the occasional visit to friends and family. And of course, spending some time with my girlfriend every now and then.

I started playing lacrosse in the summer of 2012, when one of my boarding school friends forced me to come join a few practices and gave me a long pole to create havoc with. I guess that the start of my lacrosse-journey is quite similar to many others. However, the club I joined was not your typical lacrosse club. When I joined the Aarhus Tigers, we were around 5 members, and a lot of our time was spent recruiting, with varying results. When I first joined the club, I lived in another city, which left me with over an hour of transport to join practices. I quickly realized this would not work and I moved to Aarhus instead.

There might have been a few other factors in my move, such as school, friends etc… but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story.

Moving to Aarhus and getting more involved with the club brought me to my next discovery, the friendships. I have heard a lot of people saying that lacrosse has a community like no other, and in the beginning, I thought, “yeah, right! That’s what every sport says.” However, I have never experienced a community so embracing as the lacrosse-community.

Let me give you an example – and for this to make sense you need to know that in 2010, just after becoming a firefighter, I developed epilepsy, causing seizures – anyway, sometime in 2013 we travel to the Amsterdam Lowlands tournament. It’s a full weekend of lacrosse, and in the first game of the Saturday, I fell over, on the field, with an epileptic seizure. This for starters scares the crap out of everyone on the field. Before I come around and realise what has happened, an ambulance has been called and a player from the opposing team is speaking to the medics and offers to go to the hospital with me to ensure that there is no language barrier (since I don’t speak Dutch). Since the seizure is not something new for me, I tell him not to worry about it and I go to the hospital for a check-up, accompanied by a teammate.

Returning to the fields a few hours later, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people who care that I’m okay. I don’t know around 70% of the people who came up to me and asked me if I was alright, or if I need anything. I will admit that in the moment, when I was about to tell the 30th person the same story, it felt kind of annoying. However, now around 4 years later it still makes me smile thinking about that time.

Moving up to more current events, I’m now in the process of preparing for the World Championship in Israel 2018. And as a returning player, who also played the Euros in Hungary I have some idea of the physical requirements for such a tournament. Since this will be in Israel over the summer, it’s going to be a challenge to be fit enough to cope with the heat. For me personally, the challenges I face regarding fitness are mostly cardio related. I have always been a big, strong dude, measuring nearly 2 meters (roughly 6ft) and weighing in around 120 kg (+/- 260 lbs), when we started.

This meant that for me the strength requirements were not that hard to make, however I’m dragging around a lot of weight, which means that I needed to work a lot on my cardio. Luckily there is a lot of motivation to be gathered from the team, with the coach throwing out challenges, and teammates posting their workouts on social media.

Those things are what gets me out for that little extra cardio and keeps me going for just a little longer on the treadmill. I live in the part of Denmark where there are very few National Team players, which also means that we are quite thinly spread, making it very difficult to have a workout partner. However, our National Team Manager, Jane Shultz, is a member of the gym I go to, and she really helps motivate me to get in that extra workout in.

Alex Eisold

Alex Eisold Denmark Fighting Pastries lacrosse photo by Images by Ronim
Photo: Images by Ronim

Name: Alex Eisold
Age: 30
Position: Midfield/LSM
Hometown: Aalborg/Baltimore

Hey guys, my name is Alex and I have been living in Denmark for over two and a half years. I relocated to Denmark from Baltimore, MD, USA for work and plan to stay for another few years. I only found out there was lacrosse in Denmark, after I had already moved, when I saw a LaxAllStars article about the Fighting Pastries at the 2016 European Championships in Hungary. I started playing lacrosse at the age of 12 in Baltimore and continued playing through high school, eventually on to the club lacrosse team at the University of Maryland. Afterwards, I was involved in some local tournament teams and lacrosse clubs around the aread. I now play for Aarhus Raven Lacrosse, which is an hour and a half drive from where I live, so I don’t get to attend club training much. My position is midfield, but I also have experience playing long pole middie and defense.

It can be difficult to train with the rest of the Fighting Pastries due to my physical location in Aalborg, Denmark, which is over 4 hours drive from Copenhagen. However, I have been making an effort to get to the local game days when they’re played in Aarhus and I have been able to participate in a tournament with the national team in Kiel and several weekend long training camps with the squad over the past 6 months or so.

In order to prepare for the upcoming World Lacrosse Championships in Israel, I mix sprint/agility work, stretching, powerlifting and high intensity interval training. There are no other lacrosse players around my town, so I get to spend a lot of time wall-balling which brings back childhood memories!

2018 will be my first major international tournament with the Fighting Pastries and I am looking forward to competing with the guys in Israel.

Mads Hedeager Wille

Mads Blyte Denmark Fighting Pastries lacrosse photo by Images by Ronim
Photo: Images by Ronim

Name: Mads ‘Heat’ Hedeager Wille (Captain)
Age: 21
Position: Midfield
Hometown: Copenhagen

My name is Mads, I play for the Danish National Lacrosse team and I’m 21 years old. I live in Copenhagen and have played lacrosse locally for Copenhagen Lacrosse for 4 years. I first got into the sport while taking an exchange semester in America during high school and decided to continue playing once I returned to Denmark. I’m currently in the middle of a gap year, in which I’ve been traveling to Asia, Israel – to play in the Israeli Premier League, and the US. But my current transient lifestyle isn’t free, and neither is lacrosse, so I’m working at a hotel at the moment and doing trials to enlist in the Danish military.

Putting student life on hiatus has given me some great opportunities to train and play lacrosse. I’m working odd hours, so team practice on Monday and Wednesday nights can be difficult to attend some weeks. But I recently moved right next to a gym, which makes it a lot easier for me to find time to lift and train. I’ve been working a lot on my balance and strength, since that’s what I felt I lacked at the European Championships, and also to combat injuries.

I sometimes struggle finding the motivation to practice or go to the gym, especially before or after a 10 hour night shift, but it is an honour to represent Denmark and wear the uniform while competing against other players who have also been working hard to get there.

I was recently named as one of the two captains for the Fighting Pastries, this is a role that I take seriously and something that has motivated me to work even harder on and off the field to prepare for the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel.

Nikolai Blyt

Nikolai Blyt Danish lacrosse fighting Pastries Photos by Ronim
Photo: Images by Ronim

Name: Nikolai ‘Bluey’ Blyt
Age: 20
Position: Defence
Hometown: Odder (A small town 20km south of Aarhus)

Hey, I’m Nikolai and I live in a small town called Odder, in Jutland. The 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Israel will be my first major tournament with the Fighting Pastries. When I’m not playing lacrosse I am studying journalism.

I really enjoy training and fitness, my girlfriend is also into strength and conditioning so she helps keep me motivated. To prepare for Israel, I have been training 5-6 days a week with a mix of lifting and cardio. Prior to the first round of tryouts for the team in 2017, I trained for a Nordic Race (long distance obstacle course) which got me in great shape to hit the ground running for our tryouts, which was playing at the annual Kiel tournament in Northern Germany.

I also use quite a bit of time watching game video and lacrosse in general online, basically any game that I can find on the internet. I find that watching a lot of lacrosse helps me stay fresh on the plays and game movement. Every time we cover a new concept with the National Team, I then keep an eye out for it happening during games that I find online.

This might be my first time putting on the National Team uniform for Denmark, but I am determined to work hard and make sure I am ready for the intensity that comes with playing international lacrosse. Quite a few of the guys in our group are returnees from the 2016 team and only two of those players were a part of the team the last time we were at the World Championships in 2010. I have picked their brains regarding what the level of play is like and what I should concentrate on to be ready. Hopefully I can tick all the preparation boxes between now and July. See you in Israel!

You can follow the Fighting Pastries’ progress towards the 2018 World Championships on:

Twitter: @danishlacrosse; Instagram: @danishlacrosse; Facebook: /danishlacrosseteam

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