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UPDATED: Will China Lacrosse Be An Immediate International Superpower?

Watch out now!

UPDATE: Below you can find the original post on Chinese Lacrosse, and their potential future in the world lacrosse scene.  We know they’re working with Japan to develop their internal lacrosse programs, but it looks like they’re also getting some help from some serious international game growers as well, in Andreas Rossband and Mike Elefante.

Mike and Andreas reading LAS in shanghai
Mike and Andreas reading LAS in Shanghai!

Andreas was one of our refs during the first ever Grow The Game Invitiational in Thailand last Summer, and he’s a German ref with lots of international experience, and a serious love for the game.  He’s a GTGer, tried and true.  So we can only assume the same of Mike E as well!  Great to have these two guys interested in lacrosse in China.  We’ll post more updates on China as they come in.  If you missed this post the first time, it’s worth a read!  China lacrosse is for real already!

In Chinese culture, 2012 is the year of the Dragon, so it should come as no surprise that this would be the year that China would announce their plans to field an international lacrosse team, and join the Federation of International Lacrosse.  The dragon is often a symbol of power, strength and good luck in Eastern mythology, and China will need all of those things if they want to compete with the world within the sport of lacrosse right off the bat.  But at the same time, they have a lot going for them already.

So where can China fit in to the world lacrosse scene right now?  And should the rest of the lax world be worried that a new national side is going to come out and dominate?

We look into both of these big questions below…

Can China Compete?

Currently there are 27 Full Member Nations in the FIL.  There are also 19 Associate Member Nations and 23 Emerging Nations associated with the FIL, and there is a nation on every continent (except Antarctica) that is playing the game.  Flash back to 1998 and there has been a HUGE growth in interest internationally.  Adding countries like Austria, New Zealand, Poland and Singapore to the mix has been fantastic, but none are on the same level as China for many reasons, and that’s why the addition of Chinese Lacrosse could be such a game changer.

FIL lacrosse countries
What a map!

One can look at the pure numbers of people in each country and see why China is such a big deal.  There are over 1.3 Billion people in China, and this fact alone will allow them to compete with any nation on Earth athletically.  They have a huge pool of potential players in ANY sport, and more people interested in athletics than they could ever satisfy.  So without question, the supply level is there and can not be questioned.

But what about the talent level?  We all know lacrosse is an athletic sport, and that China can compete there, but lax also relies heavily on skill, and that takes time more than anything.  So where are the Chinese right now when it comes to skill development?   Well, it turns out that lax isn’t exactly new in China!  They’ve been playing the game in Shanghai and Beijing since the early 2000s and late 1990s respectively.  And there are already over 300 members of the Chinese Lacrosse Association, with plans to reach over 3,000 members in only 5 years.  The Japanese Lacrosse Association has been extremely helpful in getting the game going in China, and will continue to Grow The Game across Asia.  We’re interested to see how the Thailand Lacrosse Association gets involved as well, because even though their program is young, they have made GIANT steps in a very short period of time.

So it’s not like China is starting from scratch here.  In fact, if you consider that some of the guys playing in Beijing in the late 1990s could be my age (31) or older, it means that there could even be a quickly developing SECOND generation of Chinese Lacrosse players already!  China didn’t sign up for FIL Associate Membership without a plan or some infrastructure, in fact it seems like quite the opposite happened: China developed internally first.  And now they are ready to come out and play.

So will China be able to field an international team right away?  You betcha.  And where will they fit in?  Well, that’s a little tougher to say.  I don’t think they will be on the same level as top Asian team, Japan.  That much is for sure.  Japan has depth, lots of developing players and a long history with the game.  For the next 10 years they will be the top team in Asia… I’m pretty sure of that.  But after that, China could very well fit in anywhere, and that is what makes this so interesting… we know VERY little about the full development of their program.

China could easily come out and be the bottom Asian lacrosse country.  It’s totally possible when you look at some of the Asian lacrosse teams out there.  Japan is established, Thailand is rapidly improving (and has some real talent!) and Singapore tends to load up with Ex-pats who have a long history with the game.  South Korea is in and out but has fielded a competitive team in the past.  India, Malaysia and Indonesia are still developing, and China would have to be favored over them once they come on line.  But out of the countries that play now, China could be the weakest… but only for now.

Traditionally, when the Chinese have made an investment in a sport, formed a national body and gotten involved in the international game, the sport sees a huge boost in popularity and participation.  Usually, this most often occurs with Olympic sports like basketball or swimming.  And if you look at Chinese basketball and swimming, you will see a meteoric rise in competitiveness.  They might not be “the best” right away, but they compete.  So when it comes to the question of “should other countries’ lacrosse teams fear the Chinese?”, the answer is YES.

So prepare yourselves, international lacrosse teams.  It’s about to get a lot more competitive out there!

And the equipment issue is really  non-issue.  Tons of lacrosse pads and products are made in China, and they do not have the same patent laws as we do here in the US and Canada.  The CLA could get a ton of gear quickly and cheaply.  It’s a non-issue.  Sponsorship may be an issue, but if their team is supported by the state, then they will get all the support they need.

Should The Rest Of The World Be Worried?

It’s tough to say yes or no here, but I’m going with an emphatic YES, at least when it comes to winning and losing games.

Now, this isn’t some sort of “Red Menace” scare.  I’m NOT saying the world should be worried because it’s China.  I’m only saying the world should be worried (as well as happy) because the Chinese are going to be good down the road!  The worry will initially come from countries like Singapore and Latvia, but quickly move on to teams like the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.  2014 might be a bit of a stretch, but I could easily see that happening in the next 5 years.  And then in the next 10 years?  Look out Japan, England and Australia.  in 20 years, even the US and Canada could be threatened with a loss by a top Chinese national side.

In the paragraph above, I definitely hit on “worry”, but I quickly mentioned people being happy as well, and I think this is an important aspect to remember, and place added importance on.  Personally, it will make me EXTREMELY happy to see China play lacrosse.  I love seeing the game grow, and I love international sports.  I also love the exchange of culture and ideas that goes hand in hand with international sport, and have high hopes that lacrosse could help build stronger bridges between the East and West.

China is yet another land of opportunity for lacrosse.  The only difference here is that the opportunity is probably bigger than it is anywhere else.