Have you ever been interested in coaching lacrosse oversees? There are many opportunities, such as job opportunities over in Germany. Find out what German Lacrosse is like from our friend Wolfgang Grießl.
What German Lacrosse Is Like
What is the lacrosse scene like in Germany? Is it just about sport? Or is it also a social meeting place?
Lacrosse in Germany is a great mixture of both. It is definitely a social meeting place, but also a home for great sportsmanship and athletic effort. Most of the German lacrosse players start playing as a college freshman or during high school at the earliest. If you ask the players, you will find out that everybody describes his path to the lacrosse community as very unique and special. All teams in Germany are stacked with open-mined and dedicated personalities. The result is a very unique community with a lot of enthusiastic, young players in their beginning twenties who are bonded together by their passion about the game of lacrosse.
There are a lack of scholarships at university level, and there is no such thing as the NCAA organization with their leagues or divisions. We offer different benefits: studying is for free. And other than a university level league, there is a big club structure all over Europe where lacrosse is played from a young age to even the master’s level. This club structure and the community offers professional structures which are very well organized (like you would expect from Germans). With our club, we can usually put on two full teams with full practices, but there are some clubs that will struggle to get ten players for a game. The gap between the big clubs and the small clubs is huge, but there is also a big group of uprising clubs trying to challenge the big ones. To sum it up: German Lacrosse is all about the sport and the community. The players and coaches are driven by the mindset of growing the game and reaching next levels willing to compete at the national and international stage.
How many clubs are there? And how long has lacrosse been played in Germany? How old is your club? And how many players are members of your club? Provide us with a short history of your club!
Lacrosse in Germany is organized by the German Lacrosse Association (DLAXV). It currently consists of 62 clubs with nearly 4000 active players. With Lacrosse not being part of the IOC, the German Lacrosse Association (DLaxV) is not part of the German Olympic Association (DOSB). So, the DLaxV is run by volunteers and honorary office. But that will change as soon as the IOC gives lacrosse recognition again.
History about lacrosse in Germany goes back to two exchange students who experienced lacrosse in the States. After their return they founded a club in Berlin and a club in Munich. Founded in 1992, the LCM (Lacrosse Club Munich) is the oldest club in Germany with a history steeped in tradition. In order to show the mutual link between hockey and lacrosse, the LCM club fused with a hockey club to the now called “Hockey- und Lacrosse-Club Rot-Weiß München 1932 e.V.” in 2008. In 2015, a new artificial turf was built which includes lines for international men and women lacrosse. With around 250 players, the lacrosse section is the home of the majority of adult club members and the biggest lacrosse club in Germany. The HLC Rot-Weiß München is also one of the most successful clubs in Germany. Within the last ten years the national championship was won ten times — with the men winning four times and the women winning six. The club is the record holder in overall championships in Germany. A lot of the most successful national team players in field and box-lacrosse call Munich their home club.
How would a North American coach come over to Germany to work? Can the lacrosse clubs offer any sort of assistance with VISA requirements, or finding paid work?
If you’re not from the EU or an associated country, you need a residence permit of some kind (visa, residence permit, EU Blue Card, settlement permit or the permanent EU residence permit) to be allowed to work in Germany. In most cases, the Federal Employment Agency has to approve, too. The condition for this approval is that you’ve got a specific job offer and that there’s no preferential (e.g. EU) worker who could do the job. For a job as a lacrosse coach, this is no problem (find out more information here).
Your residence permit will be linked to your work permit. Other options to get a residence permit are to enroll yourself as a university student at or to take language classes.
As a club, we can always help with visits to the authorities, filling out necessary documents and finding a path through the jungle of bureaucracy. As for jobs, there’s obviously a wide range of differences between cities in Germany. In the small students’ towns, private tutoring, giving language lessons or working at a bar are options to be considered. In big cities like Munich, it’s certainly easier to find a “regular” job in the car industry, engineering, banks etc. Since more players in these bigger cities tend to be working already, it’s easier to find internships or jobs through contacts. Apart from that, clubs can pay a small salary, of course.
Important: Health insurance is compulsory in Germany. If you have a regular (i.e. subject to social insurance contributions) job, you’ll automatically have health insurance. If you don’t have a health insurance that is covering you for your time in Germany, you’ve got to take out one, which isn’t cheap.
Alternative: The club can offer you a job that is subject to social insurance contributions. This will reduce the amount of the salary you’ll be getting, but will ultimately be cheaper for you.
How have past American coaches made it work financially while coaching in Germany?
Since most clubs aren’t able to pay more than 500 €/month, you’ll need another source of income, be it an internship, a second small job, a regular job or some kind of scholarship. Our last coach was a different case, since he was married to a German, he had a work permit for any job so his Visa wasn’t an issue.
For an American or Canadian coach coming over to work with a club, what can they expect from the lacrosse teams in Germany? What is the dedication level? How often do teams practice and play games? Would the coach do anything in addition to coaching the senior men’s team?
Germany has a fast-growing community of lacrosse players. Even though we are trying hard to start at a U-16 level there is also a large number of players beginning at the age of 18-20. Most of the times they are switching from other team sports like soccer, hockey or handball. This is the reason of the high diversity of skill level of players between the age of 18 up to 30 years. One of the challenges of a lacrosse coach is to find balance in between these players and building two different programs:
- The semi-pro team which practices at least 2-3 times a week together with the coach. These players are willing to spend a lot of time at the field, in the gym and at the wall.
- The B-team which does not invest as much time and sometimes focus more on the social aspect of the club or lacrosse in Germany.
Therefore, there are at least two different levels of dedication. Sometimes the B-team is very competitive as well, but because of the opportunity to move up into the A team there is a lot variability in the roster from year to year and the dedication level you can expect.
In addition to the Senior teams, the coach should be interested in growing the game throughout the younger players. In our opinion, this is the most important aspect of building a successful senior team. Establishing high school programs, recruiting young players for the youth team, taking part in the local youth leagues. Even though there are dedicated players who are willing to coach the youth there should be a mutual interest in the youth program and an initiative to start projects, encourage older Players to take part in these and build a responsibility in them to report back to the head coach. Experience with youth programs should be a key factor as a German coach.
Coaching semiprofessional and B-team players with a lower level of dedication needs a lot patience, tolerance and an understanding that there is a big difference in between American/Canadian sports programs to European programs. But, the top-level players in Germany stack up to some of the world’s best players. It really can be a high level of play here. That does get disregarded or not acknowledged enough, but there are some absolute world class players here.
What are your club’s specific goals for a coach? What are you looking for in terms of coaching style, experience? How long do you want the coach to stay in Germany for at a minimum?
The biggest thing here for any coach coming over to understand is that the culture of German athletes is different than that of Americans. You can’t coach a German player like you do an American. Germans want a lot more explanation and ask a lot more questions where as Americans are taught to never question the coach, etc. It is a big difference that I think had hurt some guys in coming over here. All the club and national coaches that have failed in Europe here have failed to adapt to the culture of their players. So, it is very important to get socially involved in the club. You have to be an instructor for practice teaching basics and important skills but also be a leader for the team preparing for a championship in terms of developing team chemistry, strategy and scheduling. A coach should at least stay for two years that he has enough time to settle personally and push the success of the work he puts in that program with his own philosophy.
For coaches who still want to play a little bit, do they have tournaments and other avenues for them to stay involved in lacrosse and stay active? Is it easy to travel and play all over Europe if a coach is living in Germany? What makes the European lacrosse community so special?
In addition to the regular season, there are a lot of tournaments in Germany by itself. Most of the tournaments take place in summer, between June and September. But, some are also in the winter, which are mostly box-lacrosse like. The level starts from beginner (Passau Open, Bodensee Cup in Konstanz) and goes up all the way to tournaments where national teams and top international travel teams participate (Berlin Open). The more professional and bigger tournaments are played on full-field size and with a full roster. Smaller tournaments are played at half field and only require a roster of 8-13 players.
Some of the fun tournaments are located at rivers or lakes and are perfect to spend a summer weekend. Play lacrosse, have fun and get to know new people. Mostly after one or two weekends you recognize people at the next tournament and it is a great way to stay in contact with people not playing in your league or even your country.
Beside the tournaments in Germany, all countries close to Germany offer a huge number of tournaments. That starts at Amsterdam Lowlands in the Netherlands, continues in Denmark, Austria or Switzerland and ends in Czech Republic with many box lacrosse tournaments like the world-famous Ales Hrebesky Memorial (AHM). Distance is never too far and accommodation is never really an issue, a cheap hostel close to a field, sleeping in the car or camping next to the lacrosse goal.
So, it is very easy to stay involved in playing in the summer time. There is pretty much a tournament every weekend in the summer. Some like the tournaments in Berlin and Amsterdam can be a little expensive with hotels, etc., but most offer free camping on site. There are some programs like the “Showstopper Team” and “Gin and Juice” from the UK who put together talented teams for most big events. The tournament culture is really special for John German and European Lacrosse. The community in Germany, as well in Europe, is very family-like. Almost everybody knows everyone and having fun together is the highest value of tournaments in Europe. It’s a small community but the tournaments are all like family reunions.
Editor’s Note: So, now that you know about what German Lacrosse is like and how to get involved, read our interview with former HLC-RW Munich head coach Adam Marshall for perspective on what things are really like for coaches.
Interview with former HLC-RW Munich Head Coach Adam Marshall
How was your experience when you did coach Munich or general coaching in Germany?
My experience coaching in Munich, Cologne and Essen was challenging, but very fun and engaging.
German lacrosse players play for the right reason – for the love of the game, the camaraderie of their team and because they enjoy competing. I made friends for life, learned a new culture, and got to win some games as well, and I’m thankful to everyone who made that possible. It has also developed to coaching on both national team men’s staffs between field and box, which has been a lot of fun and very meaningful to show the rest of the world what we can do here.
How was your Impression about the Level of Lacrosse in German?
The level of lacrosse in Germany is constantly changing and extremely varied. My first impression was that it could get a lot better — which it has. Through the effort of players who want to improve themselves and their teams, coaches who have come over and done a great job, this hard work over time has improved German Lacrosse dramatically at all levels. Even more importantly, the leaders bringing more athletes in to the game have made a dramatic difference here, and we’re seeing that the in the last few weeks in Prague at the European U20 championships.
Would you do that step again to come over to Coach in Europe again? Why?
If I had to do it all over again, absolutely. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I’d do it because it gave me a very unique experience not many get to have, and beyond that I got to see a lot more of the world, being based in Europe.
How did you contribute to grow the game here in Europe or Germany in the past?
Most obviously through coaching my teams. I tried to encourage as much participation as I could by helping with introducing lacrosse to school children through camps, as well as clinics at schools. I have organized a few equipment donations for Germany and Bulgaria.
What is special about the lacrosse community in Europe or Germany that you don’t have in North America?
It’s hard to not have fun in German Lacrosse. While North America is the highest level of lacrosse, which definitely has its merits, sometimes it feels like the fun is missing. Also, in Germany, one can have a very long career playing at the highest level of German lacrosse. Unfortunately, only the best in North America really get to play beyond their college years in any meaningful competition.