The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen USA Poland
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Talking Olympic Lacrosse with Steve Stenersen, FIL VP & US Lacrosse CEO

While in Poland for The World Games, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunities to sit down with a lot of great minds in the lacrosse space. Today, I’m here to talk with Steve Stenersen, Vice President of the Federation of International Lacrosse and CEO of US Lacrosse.

The reason is simple. I just want to know more about FIL’s work in trying to get lacrosse into the Olympic Games.

Q&A with Steve Stenersen, VP of FIL & CEO of US Lacrosse

Brucie Morris: Hi Steve, thank you for agreeing to talk to the Lax All Stars blog on The World Games. At what point did FIL decide that coming to TWG was the way to go?

Steve Stenersen: The first step for the FIL was to apply and be accepted as a member of the IWGA, which occurred in 2013. We were invited to participate in the 2017 games in Wroclaw soon thereafter and jumped at the chance to showcase women’s lacrosse as part of a program that includes athletes from more than 100 countries competing in 31 different sports.

What work has been done by FIL to prepare for this step?

Recognition of the FIL by world sports organizations such as the IWGA, SportAccord and AIMS is an extensive process that requires significant effort over a number of years. FIL board members Ron Balls and Tom Hayes have spent countless hours meeting with officials from the IWGA and other international bodies, preparing extensive application processes and managing our relationship with these organizations.

The submission of our application for provisional recognition by the IOC last August is the latest effort by the FIL to introduce and showcase our sport throughout the world.

What has been the rule change with the most impact so far at TWG 2017?

I think most would agree that ten-a-side is the biggest change in rules for this event. That change was driven by the practical limitations by the IWGA relative to maximum number of athletes they can accommodate at a World Games. Squad sizes for this event were capped at 15, so a change in the number players allowed on the field was logical.

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen Japan Canada
Photo: ShutterLax.com

Coincidentally, trial ten-a-side rules were approved by the FIL members at our General Assembly just last week. Certainly, any evolution of rules (men’s or women’s) can be controversial, but it’s my view that we need to appropriately evolve rule sets that both preserve the best of men’s and women’s lacrosse…and better position our sport for increased growth and visibility throughout the world.

We plan to survey players from the participating teams to get there thoughts on their experience playing ten-a-side in Wroclaw. Ironically, I think we sometimes forget that this game is ultimately for the players, and their input is critical to our rule decisions.

Have there been any discussions over lacrosse at TWG 2021 in Birmingham, Alabama?

We’ve had some wonderful discussions with the leadership of the 2021 Birmingham World Games while in Wroclaw. They are very supportive of including both men’s and women’s lacrosse in the 2021 event program, but it’s ultimately the decision of the IWGA leadership.

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen Australia Poland
Photo: ShutterLax.com

IWGA board members have visited our women’s competition, and they will write a review of the competition from their perspective…and share those results with us.

If the FIL is fortunate enough to be invited to showcase both women’s and men’s lacrosse in Birmingham in 2021, there is no doubt that we will have to accept similar rule changes for the men’s competition, as well, such as reduced squad sizes.

I’m sure we will be discussing the potential of a reduction in the number of men’s players allowed on the field and game duration, as well.

What impact do you think Jim Scherr, the new FIL CEO, will have on the organisation?

The FIL, nor its predecessors have ever had the resources to hire full-time staff, until now. There’s no doubt the organization will benefit greatly from Jim’s experience and leadership.

In the short term, we’ll be working with Jim to transition administrative and operational roles from volunteers, as well as develop our operational plan and evolved priorities for the next year.

Does the FIL have a goal year to attempt an Olympic Games bid?

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen USA Great Britain
Photo: ShutterLax.com

Achieving formal recognition of the FIL by the IOC is certainly one of our goals, as is advancing our organization’s status within the international sports bodies of which we are currently fortunate to be a member.

Inclusion in the Olympic program is separate from IOC recognition…and a challenging path. However, we believe that the FIL can position lacrosse well over time to be considered.

What further targets and developments do nations need to achieve to strengthen our Olympic Games bid?

The sport has grown significantly throughout the world in recent years. Increasing international participation is essential to our Olympic aspirations, and we plan on investing more significantly – as resources allow – in international development. Particularly in Africa and South America…continents where lacrosse is only just emerging.

In regards to rule changes, can you clarify explicitly what the IOC are looking for in regards to the different versions of our sport? Specifically on equipment and contact.

The number of athletes per team is a primary consideration, as are the venue requirements for competition, the duration of a game, and the pace of play.

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen Japan Canada
Photo: ShutterLax.com

The IOC is looking for sports that are exciting and attractive to younger audiences, and we believe lacrosse is well-position to meet that criteria.

Looking back to the Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Guildford. What lessons have FIL learnt about operations and growth of a World Cup to match other premier world events?

The English Lacrosse Association did a wonderful job hosting this year’s World Cup. The challenge facing the FIL and our members is how to evolve the world championship to maximize the profile of the sport in a format that is manageable and profitable.

FIL membership recently agreed to cap the number of teams participating in a World Cup to 30. This is a sizable reduction from the 38 that competed in the 2014 men’s world championship and an important step to address this challenge.

What has your favourite memory been from the past three weeks of international lacrosse?

Too many to count! At the world championship, it was great to see several first-time participants. The Haudenosaunee were able to overcome immigration challenges to attend. Intensity of the semi-final and final games has never been greater. England capturing bronze on home soil was special.

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland Poland women's lacrosse Stever Stenersen
Photo: ShutterLax.com

At the World Games, seeing Poland take the field for the first time in women’s competition was the best.

Do you have anything else to add?

I’m so proud of and thankful for the athletes, coaches, support staff and officials coming from every participating nation. Particularly those who traveled from England to Poland to compete in the IWGA World Games so soon after the FIL world championship.

They all have made an incredible commitment to represent our sport and their respective nations, and they have done so with distinction. They are now a very important part of lacrosse history.

The World Games Lacrosse Wroclaw, Poland women's lacrosse Steve Stenersen Australia
Photo: ShutterLax.com

More from Wroclaw

Thank you very much to Steve Stenersen and the FIL for taking time to sit down with me.

I’ll have plenty more stories, interviews, and insight from The World Game through the week! Keep your eyes peeled and minds open.

The World Games Blog