Lacrosse in Uganda? You Bet

News Release

 From Canadian Men`s Indoor Lacrosse Team

 Sunday, May 22, 2011

 LACROSSE IN UGANDA? YOU BET

     PRAGUE _ There are some amazing stories about how lacrosse is spreading around the world.

     Tom Hayes of Clifford, Pennsylvania, is director of development for the Federation of International Lacrosse and he knows all the stories because he’s involved in them. He’s 70 now and he’s been promoting the sport for a good part of his life.

     Here’s one of them.

     Ricardo Acuna was watching TV in Argentina when a lacrosse game came on. He loved it. He contacted Hayes to ask if a clinic could be arranged. Meanwhile, they improvised.

     “They made their own sticks out of bamboo and strung them with string and took tennis balls and injected them with water,’’ Hayes recalls. “Plastic piping was used to form goal posts and that tape that police use at crime scenes was used to mark out lines on the field.’’ 

     Real sticks and equipment eventually arrived, lacrosse thrived, and Argentina had a team in the world field lacrosse tournament in England last July.

     And then there was this missionary who went to Africa.

     Kevin Dugan, now director of lacrosse at Notre Dame, was in a mission program during university and landed in Uganda with a lacrosse stick. It drew quite a bit of attention. He returned the following year with 50 sticks, field lacrosse equipment followed, an association was formed and earlier this year Uganda became a new member of the Federation of International Lacrosse.

     “In 2014 they’ll be in Denver with a field team (at the world championship),’’ says Hayes. “Kevin said to me, `Coach, I’ll tell you, they’re not going to be very skilled but we’ll have the best athletes there.’’’

     Hayes talks about these things to a curious reporter during the 2011 world indoor men’s tournament. Canada defeated Slovakia 27-1 on Sunday. A lot of work remains to be done there, but Slovakia has only been a FIL member for seven years. Its programs are in their infancy.

     Hayes and a handful of others set up a governing body 40 years ago comprised of five countries. World field tournaments were held every four years. Now, with the recent amalgamation of men’s and women’s governing bodies, all lacrosse is under one umbrella. There are 42 members today.

     The indoor game has taken off since the first world men’s tournament in 2003. There are eight teams competing this year. Hayes predicts more European countries will take up boxla.

     “I see indoor developing in the same way field developed,’’ says Hayes. “In 1992 we only had nine teams playing field. Here we are in 2011 so in 20 years we went from nine to 42. We hope that all these countries will evolve into the indoor game. Twenty years from now we should have the same number playing indoor.’’

     Hayes reels off Poland, Latvia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, possibly Japan, Korea and Thailand when asked where the next indoor teams might come from.

     “The difficulty is we’re not a rich sport,’’ says Hayes. “We have to depend on the nation itself to grow the sport.

     “We provide them with clinics, grants, events. Once they start a sport it’s up to the passion of that program to keep the sport going. Some do a better job than others. We have so many new member countries that it can be a juggling act to keep them going.

     “But what I’ve seen in the past is that it is the sport that sells itself. Give a kid a stick and that’s it. It’s getting the sticks to all these kids. We try to do the best we can. We have a lot of outreach programs. We have 42 countries and I have another 42 I’ve had contacts from. Our key right now is driving towards the Olympics. We become an Olympic sport and there’s no limit then.’’

     Olympic sports get most of the funding from governments while others, such as lacrosse, are out in the cold. Lacrosse was an Olympic sport in 1928 and in 1932 and Hayes hopes for its return.

     A big step will be taken in August when the FIL applies to become the 105th sports federation in Sportaccord, which used to be known as the General Association of International Sports Federations. The International Olympic Committee doesn’t pay attention to sports that aren’t in Sportaccord, and it requires an applicant to have at least 40 members. Uganda and Israel put FIL over 40 this year. The FIL hopes for a decision on its application to Sportaccord at that group’s convention in Quebec City next year.

     “If you’re not part of this group, you’re not getting into the Olympics,’’ says Hayes. “We’re trying to take the steps to that now.’’

     Membership in Sportaccord would mean preparation of an application to the IOC in 2013 or 2014. Thus, re-entry into the Olympics couldn’t happen for lacrosse before 2020 probably no sooner than 2024.

     It might be viewed by some as a farfetched notion but the groundwork is being done behind the scenes by Hayes and other FIL executives, including current president Stan Cockerton of Oshawa.

     Get the hose out, men, and we’ll fill up a few more tennis balls.

 Team Canada media contact: Neil Stevens at loose47@live.com

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