A new sport sweeps Lacrosse the country
Noel Ciocon (The Philippine Star) - August 31, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines Lacrosse Association (PLA), the 50th member-nation of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), participated in the 2014 World Lacrosse Festivals as part of the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado last month. It is the mission of the PLA to introduce, develop and grow the sport of lacrosse in the Philippines.

Lacrosse was officially introduced to the Philippines in September 2013 by PLA president Ron Garcia and PLA director of outreach Justin Manjares, and since then several lacrosse clubs have been founded, including the Manila Lacrosse Club and the Silliman University Lacrosse Club.

Player representatives of these pioneer lacrosse programs, Maruh Legaspi and Marco Meily of the Manila Lacrosse Club and Don Japheth Teves of Silliman University Lacrosse Club, competed in the festival with Team Philippines in the Elite Division which included several teams from Japan, Thailand, Ireland, Portugal as well as US club teams. Philippines Lacrosse finished with a record of 2-2 and placed seventh out of 16 teams, with international wins against Tokai Japan and Portugal.

“It was a great experience for the Philippine Lacrosse Association and the growth of lacrosse in the Philippines,” says PLA president Garcia. “We were able to raise awareness of our mission and vision with the international lacrosse community, but more importantly, bridge the gap between the developing players and programs in the Philippines, with lacrosse played at its highest level internationally. The experience that Maruh, Marco and Don received will be invaluable to them as they develop as players and leaders in the Philippine lacrosse community, and ultimately grow the game in the Philippines with the excitement, passion and pride that can only be gained through first-hand experience.”

Playing lacrosse for the first time in full gear with veteran lacrosse players in an international competition, as well as observing the play of the best players in the world, it was a learning experience for the new players that will truly help grow the game in the Philippines.

“I learned a lot about lacrosse,” says Legaspi of the Manila Lacrosse Club. “I gained a deeper understanding of how lacrosse is played in the United States… how to respect my teammates and to have good communication on and off the field. I met a lot of friends from different parts of the globe and their stories inspire me to exert more effort in improving myself while growing the game of lacrosse in my country.”

A sense of pride and nationalism was experience by all players, but especially the players from the Philippines.

“It is with great honor and pride that I was chosen as one of the members representing the Philippines team in the 2014 World Lacrosse Festival,” says Teves of Silliman. “Joining in this big event for the first time in history…put lacrosse in the Philippine map.”

Internationally, lacrosse is experiencing rapid growth, with new countries obtaining membership in the FIL every year. In the Asia-Pacific region, current member nations include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and, most recently, Malaysia.

The FIL became a member of International World Games Association (IWGA) in May 2013, and its ultimate goal is to have lacrosse return to the Olympics in 2024.

“Filipinos should try the sport because, unlike basketball, in order to be great at it, it does not require you to be insanely tall or have a huge physical presence,” quips Meily of the Manila Lacrosse Club. “I love lacrosse because in my opinion, it combines aspects from all sports. The field is set up like a football pitch, the fast pace resembles that of basketball, the stick handling and agility is like hockey, etc. I believe that Filipinos yearn to try out and play a new sport and I believe that lacrosse is the perfect fit for them.” 

Lacrosse has been introduced to the Philippines and it has taken hold in the hearts of the pioneer players that have embraced the sport. It’s the role of the PLA to foster growth of lacrosse in the Philippines by providing funding and resources to instruct and educate new players and coaches and give all ages in the Philippines the opportunity to learn and embrace the sport.

Toward this end, the PLA has held clinics in Bacolod, Cebu and Tacloban.

We want to give all Filipinos the opportunity to represent the Philippines with pride in international competitions.

Our goal is to continue to develop lacrosse in the Philippines over the next four years in preparation for fielding a national team to participate in the World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England in 2018.

In addition to the programs in Manila and Dumaguete City, lacrosse has also been introduced in Bacolod City and Cebu City. With the additional locations and the experience gained by our home grown players, this vision will be a reality

The author is the vice president of the Philippine Lacrosse Association.

Visit www.philippineslacrosse.org and www.facebook.com/PhilippinesLacrosse for up-to-date information on the progress of lacrosse development in the Philippines.

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