Despite its long and important history in countries like the US or the UK, lacrosse is a very young sport in Spain. In fact, its presence in the land of wine was pretty much non-existent during the 20th century.
The only reason lacrosse managed to spring up in Spain was the love, dedication and effort the people involved in its inception put on growing the sport. Despite not being very long, the history of Spain lacrosse is intense and full of ups and downs.
Lacrosse first came to Spain in an official manner in 2001, when Jenny Paulin, a German woman who had represented her country at an international level, moved to Madrid, capital city of Spain, and decided to help the sport she was passionate about by creating a new team, the Madrid Lacrosse Club. Through the coincidences of life, she found Karl Seitz, an American living in Madrid who had been involved with lacrosse his whole life. From there on, an aggressive marketing campaign ensued, putting adverts in the newspaper and signs on the street (Facebook wasn’t much of a thing in Spain those days).
At the start, mostly foreigners who had been involved with the sport at one point or another joined the group, getting together every few days to throw a few passes and take a few shots. Little by little, some Spanish people, mostly friends of those already involved, started joining in, soon followed by those curious about “that sport where they play hockey in the air”. In this group, started one of the main figures of lacrosse in Spain, Beatriz de la Fuente, who has been one of the figureheads of the Spanish lacrosse community, together with husband and Men’s National Team player Jaime del Pozo.
Despite the domino effect at the birth of this sport in Madrid, the numbers were still very low and the obstacles were many. With no knowledge on the sport from the local authorities and a lack of a governing body, there was very little funding. The beginnings for this rag-tag group of pioneers took place in an abandoned field in the outskirts of Madrid. They had to take with them all the equipment, including balls, goals and creases every time they practised. When the abandoned field started becoming unmanageable, specially in the rainier months when it would flood, the team started looking for a new field. Of course, with their small numbers and innovative sport, they were met with resistance from field owners who would say that they wouldn’t rent it out to them because they would destroy the field with the sticks (yes, you read right). In order to help with officialising the search for fields and funding, the young club decided to register as an official sports club in the Madrid region in 2003. Of course, lacrosse was not recognised as a sport at a National level (it still isn’t) so there was little to no funding coming from any official body.
Although the start of the history of lacrosse in Spain took place in Madrid, other cities soon followed suit. Usually through a similar process, people learning the sport abroad or through a person who played in Madrid moving to another city, clubs started appearing in other cities such as Barcelona, Valencia or Sevilla, where some young students brought the sport to the city after an exchange program in the US.
In the beginning, the international support was very limited due to the lack of exposure. The FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) helped out by donating old equipment, while individuals from the US donated equipment on a one to one basis. However, the main contribution was the FIL accepting Spain as a participant in international tournaments without having a fully formed association. This is when Spain lacrosse participated in its first official international event, the 2006 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship where Spain finished 17th, beating Hong Kong or South Korea amongst others and playing against well established teams like Finland or Wales. This was the first participation in the national team of one of Spain Lacrosse’s living legends, Daniel de la Casa, who is currently the maximum goal scorer in the history of Spain by a large margin with 128 goals.
Spanish Women’s lacrosse didn’t actually break into the international stage officially until 2015, participating only in friendly tournaments through Madrid lacrosse or together with other national teams.
Its been a long time since the humble beginnings of Spain lacrosse, but in the next few issues we will try to show you us much of our history and, more importantly, our future, as we can.
To be continued…
BONUS: Check out our player profile on Spain’s Fernando Martinez Sierra at the 2018 FIL Men’s World Lacrosse Championships here.