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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thailand Lacrosse

Taking a step back from our own efforts, I wanted to spotlight one of the up and coming national team programs - Thailand Lacrosse.

Although they were not able to participate in this year's World Championships in Manchester, England, the Thai team is one of the most organized and active national teams I have encountered. On October 2, they hosted the Hong Kong team. At the end of the month, they will head to Honolulu for the Hawaii invitational. The team is arranging a trip to Argentina this spring. They are trying to line up additional South & Central American opponents, like Mexico. The team will host its own invitational tournament in June. In July the team heads to New Zealand for the Asian Pacific Championships.
Despite being a brand new team and not being able to participate in the 2010 Worlds, Thailand has managed to obtain some very nice equipment. To compliment their classic Nike uniforms, the team is sponsored by Maverik lacrosse. The Maybachs design allowed the team to continue their design theme with flawless execution. I have been told by team captain Payu that their new gloves (Empire) will be even better. Their helmet decal is my favorite in the sport; it looks amazing on their Pro7s.
Perhaps the most enduring thing about Thailand Lacrosse is the way its founding demonstrates the power of grassroots efforts. The team's story is similar to those found in places like Denver, Kansas City, Dallas, Omaha, and even Des Moines. This passage was taken directly from the website:

Deerfield, Massachusetts 1995. A young man far from his home in Thailand enters life as a boarder at a small school in Deerfield, MA called Eaglebrook School. It is there he learns the sport in which he is found 15 years later playing with a group of like-minded pioneers in the evening heat of beautiful Bangkok. This man’s name is, Prantarit (Payu)Nerngchamnong and this is the story of how Thailand got lacrosse.

Thailand’s journey to lacrosse was born from the return of a generation of Thai students who had studied abroad in the lacrosse-mad worlds of the United States and England. The nucleus of Thailand Lacrosse’s founding fathers met at Suffield Academy in Connecticut where Payu studied, and continued to letter in lacrosse, after he left Eaglebrook School. Though he did not play in college, Payu was nothing if not resourceful and decided to help found a club team for competitive lacrosse players who were unable to join any of the existing club teams in New York and New Jersey. The team was "New York Orca Lacrosse" based in Manhattan. Forming that team helped paved the way for Thailand Lacrosse and the experience he gained and the mistakes he made prepared Payu for the task that lay ahead in organizing a club lacrosse in Thailand.

Once back in Thailand, Payu kept thinking about lacrosse and starting a team. Eventually with 2 other Thai alumni of Suffield he began planning the founding of not only a club but an entire association with the goal to develop lacrosse in Thailand for future generations. This group envisioned men’s and women’s national teams competing on the international stage. Their inspiration was Japan who was the pioneer Asian country to have a team in the world game and their hope lay in FIL and its high level of activity in expanding the sport across the world. Payu and friends believed that it was important to set up a national governing body to create the climate for future development, not just having "a team from Thailand". Japan’s Yasuhiko Hayakawa is still a great help and supporter of the Thai effort.

Payu and his friends founded Thailand Lacrosse Association (TLA) in 2009 after years of research and recruiting others like themselves who had played lacrosse at a higher level and wanted more than just throwing a ball around in the evenings. Like everything else new, the reaction to lacrosse in Thailand had been mixture of doubt coupled with excitement. While many do not believe that a country that is dominated by soccer would be open to a rough western sport, there are those who welcome and reach out to support Payu and his mates in their quest of making the team and the sport a reality in Thailand.

One of Payu's strategies that is bearing fruit is his media campaign which is clearly getting the word out that there is lacrosse to be played. It is bringing in former Thai players, Ex-patriot players, and those who are new to the game. The result is that now twice a week the players are all coming out to throw around at the Arena 10 Indoor facility in downtown Bangkok. Several companies also reached out to help facilitate, and supported the team such as Maverik Lacrosse who donated equipment, IMPACT Arena, Exhibition and Convention Center who allow the team to use their 20,000 spectator soccer stadium in Meungthong Thani as their outdoor practice facility and home field. This where TLA hopes to host the second lacrosse game ever played in Thailand as well as hosting future lacrosse clinics. The first ever game was the 1974 USA lacrosse team who played an exhibition game at RBSC. The U.S. team presented RBSC with a plaque commemorating the visit, and that plaque is still hanging in the clubhouse today. Talk to FIL's Tom Hayes about that adventure. Tom continues to support lacrosse in Asia as he is currently spearheading the effort to help Thailand become a full member of FIL.

Even though I have no biological or historical connections to Thailand, I am proudly declaring that I am a dedicated fan of this team. I will cheer for the Thai laxers above all comers - at least until they day comes when they face the US...
If more nations showed the same level of initiative and passion as Thailand, the sport would prosper in unimaginable ways.

Tribe 7