China's lacrosse team prepare for Denver

Updated: 2014-05-28 11:34

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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 China's lacrosse team prepare for Denver

Jonathan Bailey (right), a member of the Chinese national lacrosse team, defends an opponent during a game in June 2013. Provided to China Daily / China Lacrosse Association

When it comes to the topic of sports in China, few begin the conversation with lacrosse. But Chinese interest in the game is growing, thanks to the work of some dedicated players and a growing international presence.

Lacrosse has been in China for several decades, according to the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), but the sport has yet to find a resonance with young Chinese athletes.

"Lacrosse is still relatively unknown in China,” said Charles Tsiang, budget manager for the China Lacrosse Association. “There are scattered clubs where students pick up a stick and want to play, but there is little organized league activity. We have held events in Shanghai and a few other places to show the young people the fundamentals of the game. We want to take that instruction further."

China Lacrosse Association, the governing body of lacrosse in the world's second largest economy, is a nonprofit group that provides opportunities to discover and participate in the sport through clinics and coaching workshops.

The organization is also responsible for fielding the Chinese national team, which will be represented at the 2014 FIL World Championship in Denver, Colorado.

China Lacrosse supporters in North America have started a fund raising campaign via international crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The team's goal is to raise $30,000 from online donations supported by sales of gear and apparel. Proceeds will help cover travel and other expenses - a total that nears $80,000. A substantial portion of the burden is still funded by the players and parents.

The roster for this year's Chinese national team will be chosen from a candidate list of 35 players, representing more than 15 provinces in China and a number of top-tier collegiate athletic programs. The group will be pared down to 23 in June.

Tsiang's son Michael - a member of China's national lacrosse team and a rising senior and lacrosse player at Villanova University in Pennsylvania - said the problem with lacrosse in China is it's still viewed as "almost more of a hobby than as a competitive sport".

"The kids are passionate about lacrosse in both the US and China, but the game is not played at the same level yet," Michael Tsiang said. "The difference in intensity is due to a lack of competitive game opportunities, and that is a development challenge for China."

The 2014 FIL World Championship, an event hosted by the FIL and US Lacrosse, will take place from July 10-19 in Denver, with 38 countries participating in the event. China is set to take part in the tournament as one of nine new participants.

US Lacrosse, founded in 1998, is the national governing body of lacrosse in the United States. With more than 400,000 members and close to 70 chapters nationwide, the organization is dedicated to providing programs and services that promote the game of lacrosse.

The FIL is the international governing body for the sport, established in 2008 through a merger of the male and female international lacrosse associations.

China joined the FIL in 2012 as the seventh Asian country to link up with the sport's governing body. Despite the late entrance, China's potential as a market for lacrosse "is limitless", according to Brian Logue, director of communications for US Lacrosse.

For some, the opportunity to promote the sport is the main reason to be playing in the first place.

Dylan Bassham, a sophomore lacrosse player from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, said the time he spent in China allowed him to make connections and help grow the sport.

Tsiang, budget manager for the China Lacrosse Association, said one of the keys for the promotion of lacrosse in China is “to have a core group of experienced players who love the game and know how it is played at a competitive level.”

“They can show others the game and get leagues organized,” he said. “We don't have that yet, but we hope the experience at the World Championships will give our guys a big push forward."