Lacrosse. Do you know it? No? If you are from America, you probably do. You may have heard of it in Europe, especially if you’ve been around our family! The sport is growing in popularity and participation. It is an intense fast-paced game of footwork, hand-eye coordination, agility, teamwork, contact, strength and grit. Using a stick topped with a mesh basket, a hard plastic ball is passed between 10 teammates on the field attempting to score on an opponent’s goal. Roots of the game originate nearly 1000 years ago played in various forms by aboriginal peoples of North America. It doesn’t get the television coverage or celebrity status of other mainstream professional sports in the States (or elsewhere) – but if the escalating growth for participation in youth programs is any indication – it may. Our big boy loves the game. Unfortunately with our move to Denmark, participation in a youth program was out of the question. They just don’t exist here. Lacrosse in Europe is growing steadily, but feels the same overshadowing dominance of football’s popularity here. And by football – I mean soccer. 😉 So what do you do when you can’t play youth lacrosse? Well – when you are 15 years old and nearly 6′ tall – you try and play on the men’s team. We are grateful that he has been supported by the Danish players here since Day 1. It never hurts to ask. For him, the opportunity to continue playing and growing in lacrosse these past 15 months has been a positive means of adjustment in our journey abroad.
Here in Denmark, lacrosse was formally established in 2003 with a group of guys who learned the game from their own time abroad, fell in love with lacrosse and wanted to continue playing back home. In the past 13 years, the Danish game has grown and now includes three established clubs spread across the country. They are – the Aarhus Tigers, in Jutland. The oldest club, that our son plays for is based here in the capitol Copenhagen. And last, but not least – the Odense Ugly Ducks (a nod to home town boy and Odense legend Hans Christian Andersen and local beer by the same name. Hans was not a lacrosse player to my knowledge.) On average, there are about 60 guys give or take, playing in the entire country. A normal year involves regular practices and several opportunities for inter-club play between the three teams. Bragging rights and sometimes a coveted Viking Horn goes to the team with the best record at the end of the season. Add on an annual self-hosted tournament like the Copenhagen Cup – and Danish lacrosse draws in competition via regional talent from Sweden, Norway, Germany, Poland, and England. Often able to attract an American team or two to come compete, makes the Danes no strangers to international levels of play.
Denmark is no stranger to playing lacrosse on the larger European stage either, having met some of these teams and players before. European Lacrosse Championships began in 1995, with six original teams. Euro’s were played nearly every year until 2004, when the European Lacrosse Federation adopted a four-year cycle, two years off the World Lacrosse Championship schedule. Denmark sent teams to Euros in 2004 and 2008, but experienced a decrease in membership and was unable to garner team support for a 2012 team bid. Until this year. Renewed enthusiasm, a belief in the growth potential for lacrosse within Denmark, along with outside support have fostered a new Danish Lacrosse Federation (DLF) team with eyes on the 2016 Championships in Budapest, Hungary this coming July.
This current DLF team is comprised of members from all three Danish clubs. The team is diverse and developing but dedicated. Ages range from 15 to 50. I lay claim to the youngest player, our eldest. All of them are amateurs, many students – none paid. They play for the love of the game. Trainings for the team are intensive full weekend affairs rotating once a month between the three different club bases. Led by experienced Kiwi laxer, Nick Ravenhall – the team is put through rigorous strength training as well as lacrosse fundamentals and drills from Friday evening through two full days ending on Sunday. Exhausted, but enthusiastic as European Championships are ever closer.
Coming up – the Danish team will travel to Manchester, England to play in the British National Championships at the end of April. This will be a good test for the team. Group draw has already been determined and Denmark will face Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Austria and Scandi neighbor Norway in first round play. Facing players from some of these teams in England first will give them a good idea where they stand as a team.
What Danish lacrosse has on their side is plenty of enthusiasm. Solely self-organized, their dedication to growing the sport is admirable. What they need is funding. There is no corporate or state-run agency support for their efforts. You can help support this underdog Cinderella story of a team. It doesn’t take much – click here to catch their crowdsourcing campaign and raise the Danish flag with our family as we cheer on Denmark in Budapest. Any and all money donated goes directly to the team for equipment, training, logistics and accommodation. Thanks for reading. EN! TO! TRE! DANMARK!