The more I keep traveling, the more I realize the planet is a lot smaller than it seems. Lacrosse makes sure of that. When you’re a part of our community, borders and miles in-between start to seem non-existent as the game keeps growing. I told you about my recent trip to Hong Kong and the Japanese guys sticking by their motto that “lacrosse makes friends!” Now let’s look at what the rest of the planet is up to!
Australia & New Zealand
All of Australia is in high gear as lacrosse season approaches. The clubs will all kick off their seasons towards the end of April, and the U18 State Games are an excellent lead-in to the season. The best and brightest from around Australia have come together in Glenelg, South Australia to represent their region.
Other teams from this side of the world have also gotten in on this action, with New Zealand sending a men’s team in preparation for the World Championships, as well as a women’s teams from Waikato and from Auckland. The furthest traveled award goes to the Taiwanese program, however. Taiwan is on the come-up and has been locked in when it comes to taking themselves and their preparations seriously.
I personally love seeing teams traveling to get more experience. When talking bang for buck, playing in a highly competitive state-level tournament in Australia will pay huge dividends in the rapidly approaching World Championships.
These games are all available for YOU to watch as well! Excellent quality streams are available via our friends at the Australian Lacrosse Network.
The events are huge news in the region of course, but they can’t overshadow the much anticipated Australian 23-man roster being released. The Blue Division veterans have will face the toughest opposition to date, but I anticipate the Sharks have enlisted the right 23 men to meet the task.
Following the trend of 23-man roster releases, Germany has also made their final cut. Looking over the 23 names on this list is quite telling of a changing of the guard. Germany will enjoy a veteran leadership, but the real excitement surrounding the qualitative makeup of the German roster is the introduction of a lot of “new” faces. I used those fancy-pants quotation marks because they really aren’t new names, they’ve been around for a couple years in fact. I say “new” like this because for a number of the younger players, this will be their first Men’s National Team debut for the World Championships.
(Check out the FULL list of FIL rosters HERE.)
Germany is a leading power in domestic development, and the true fruits of investing in home-grown youth players will be tested in Netanya. This might be the first senior world championships for some of the young men, but they come tested in international play from the 2016 U-19 World Championships and European Championships. We see a number of veterans and rookies alike who also have enjoyed success on Germany’s national box teams.
The number of offerings to players in the European lacrosse theatre is rapidly rising to meet the demands of more and more teams looking for additional competition. While most countries and their governing bodies have successfully established domestic leagues, sometimes those leagues don’t service the needs of everyone. Polish and Dutch players have sought out better competition in the German leagues and the Bratislava Bats have participated in the Czech league for years now.
New Leagues, New Competition!
Following this trend, two new leagues have sprung up within weeks of each other, following a similar and equally practical model. Both of the following leagues look to service a geographical area, rather than contain playing options within national borders.
The Danube Lacrosse League is the smaller of the two newly formed leagues. There are four teams forming this new league: Tricksters Bratislava (SVK), Graz Gladiators (AUT), Budapest Lacrosse (HUN) and the Vienna Monarchs (AUT).
Given the geographic location of the teams, I can realistically see the Brno Ravens (CZE) and possibly one of the other Slovakian teams joining the league in the very near future.
The four teams will meet four weekends spanning March 24th – June 9th and each team will get the chance to host one weekend.
If you aren’t super familiar with maps (my hand is up for this one), a quick look at one really shows that there are a number of major cities in the region, all with lacrosse in various states of development. The formation of this league is a simple effort to help bolster the number of opportunities to play in an already bountiful region. It will be interesting to see what other teams will be interested in joining in on the action.
While the Danube Lacrosse League will look to service central/eastern Europe, the Baltic Lacrosse League will look to service the northeastern corner of European lacrosse. Five teams have signed on to play a three-weekend series in an effort to get more competition from new opponents. Overall, it’s one strong in effort to improve the level of play in the region.
The Helsinki Chiefs (FIN) have formed the league, with excellent neighborly cooperation from the other four participants. Mitava Lacrosse (Latvia), Russia Red Arrows (Russia), Riga Griffins (Latvia), and a combination team from Tallinn (Estonia) and Poland will all work together in bolstering lacrosse in one of Europe’s most underrated regions.
The league’s inception is a product of the hard work and dedication from a number of individuals, but Helsinki Chiefs’ organizer Mika Wickstrom has been the driving force behind this project. In a recent press release, Wickstrom goes on to say:
”Lacrosse is a community where everyone that I’ve met around the world has a great desire to improve the game of lacrosse. This desire is very much present in the Baltic sea region and all the help that I’ve received from Riga and Tallinn has been priceless for the founding of this league.”
The release also goes on to project eight teams from six nations in the near future.
We wish nothing but success to the Danube Lacrosse League and the Baltic Lacrosse League in their inaugural seasons. The development of regional competitions such as the New Year’s Cup in Budapest (Hungary), the Hong Kong Open (Hong Kong), and the Scandinavia Cup (Norway) are all examples of local homegrown offerings for developing nations and players to get significant amounts of experience, with equally important low cost to the players.
South American Updates
Continuing with the trend of local domestic competition, we’ll shift our next topic all the way left to South America. Six teams of women from various South/Central American clubs recently took to the field in Medellin, Columbia in a tournament geared towards good neighbors and simply getting more girls playing more games.
I quite honestly don’t have all that much more information than what I could find available online, but that isn’t really the point. Who won and who lost and by what margins is irrelevant. The game is making great strides. Teams, clubs, tournaments, and leagues are springing up all over the world, and through the continuous efforts of the workhorses and diehards on the ground, these are all examples of SUSTAINABLE growth as well!
A New Rivalry – Going on Tour
Lastly, we’ll look forwards two weeks. The powerhouse rivalry of Israel and England will continue on in Israel this April 11th-16th, ahead of the upcoming 2018 FIL Men’s World Championships. Round 3 is always a promising ticket, but this is unprecedented. A five-game, five-city tour of Israel will be played in Kiryat-Gat, Ashkelon, Herzliya, Jerusalem, and of course, in the World Championships host city of Netanya.
Israel has not yet named their 23-man squad, while England was one of the first to announce their roster back in December. Israel will also play the aforementioned German National Team in Dresden, April 21-22, as well as a three-way scrimmage with the New York Lizards and the New York Athletic Club two weeks prior.
You Can’t Afford to Miss these World Games
For more information on attending the largest World Championships in history, check out the World Championships website for ticketing and hotel options. We told you how to get there, what to do when you’re there, and that we want you to play while in Israel too!
If you’re going to Israel, it would be crazy to not play lacrosse while you’re there! Furthermore, you can attend just as a fan… or you can help Grow The Game by interning with one of a handfuls of national teams or the entire event itself. Come get the most bang for your lacrosse bucks by playing with LaxAllStars in Israel this July!
These are just a few quick updates about the latest and greatest in the international lacrosse community.
There are plenty of others, surely. These are just the few that came across my fictional desk. If you are doing big (or small) things in your neck of the woods, share it with us! It’s always fun to have an email or text about games being played in Uganda, or the baby steps towards lacrosse being taken in Cyprus, or roots being planted in Nepal! If you’ve got something spectacular to share, tell your story!
Grow YOUR Game
While we have so much emphasis on this summer’s holding of the men’s World Championships, it’s important to recognize the ground we’re breaking on the smallest of scales. Seeing the pinnacle of the sport is one of the greatest blessings we can enjoy, and we’re treated to at LEAST one international championship every summer now. It’s important to celebrate the highest level of competition, but we’re also obligated to appreciate and support the development domestically.
Teams are popping up, clubs are growing stronger. Men, women, boys and girls are ALL seeing increases in participation – which really is the only gauge I truly care about when discussing growing the game. If we want to be an Olympic Sport, the first thing we need to do is deserve to be there. Making lacrosse accessible and lowering the barrier to entry for thousands of kids and adults in EVERY country must take priority.
My thanks go out to anyone and everyone who’s handing someone their first stick this week, this month, or this year. My thanks go out to the guy driving nine gear bags and a water cooler to a dirt field, twice a week, so that your twelve kids can practice. To the officials who not only call slashes, but EDUCATE the next generation of players who will become coaches, hats off to you!
Whatever you’re doing, I appreciate it. Even if it’s just reading this article, you know more about the world than you did ten minutes ago. If you’re spreading the good word about the good work they’re doing in Estonia or Columbia, my thanks.
Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. We’re winning.