Women's game going global, with Asia in a growth spurt

Funding, gear, training all deemed as essential


July 01, 2005|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

As president of the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations, Fiona Clark has traveled around the world encouraging and supporting the development of women's lacrosse. Next stop: Malaysia.

Asia has become one of the fastest growing areas for women's lacrosse with development under way in China, South Korea and Indonesia, as well as a Japanese program that has flourished since its inception in 1986.

Almost 30 countries have women's lacrosse programs, which might not sound like a lot, but that number is up from just a handful in 1994, said Tom Hayes, chairman of the International Lacrosse Development Committee, a joint committee of the IFWLA and the men's worldwide governing body, the International Lacrosse Federation.

"We've seen significant growth, considering the rest of the world does not have financial support through their educational systems the way we do. The rest of the world runs through a club system," said Hayes. "It's difficult for them to find the funds to start a new sport, so it takes a while."

The number of teams participating in this summer's World Cup at the Naval Academy rose to 10 with the addition of New Zealand and the return of the Czech Republic after a 13-year absence - up from eight teams in 2001.

Denmark and Hong Kong are associate members of the IFWLA. Clark said Ireland is about to become a full member.

Europe now has 17 nations playing women's lacrosse, said Hayes.

There are also programs in Argentina and Namibia. US Lacrosse recently sent eyewear and sticks to Guatemala, said Steve Stenerson, executive director of US Lacrosse.

A 15-year administrator with the IFWLA, Clark said one primary key is fostering growth for newcomers and emerging programs.

"There's no doubt coaches are the key to the growth," said Clark, a native Englishwoman who now lives in Australia. "We need to get coaches out there to develop the players, and we need to coach coaches in these countries, as well. Whereas we can send people in and leave equipment - give them the basics - coaching the coach is an important program apart from just coaching the players."

American coaches have helped build new programs and develop established programs. Three foreign World Cup teams have American coaches - Tracy Coyne for Canada, Denise Wescott for Germany and Kim Chorosiewski for Scotland.

Chorosiewski said part of her job is to help develop Scottish coaches. Wescott, whose team lags a bit behind Canada and Scotland, also has an American assistant, Amy McCleary.

In a nation such as Germany, which has 14 club programs, international experience is critical.

"We're getting better and better, but you're only as good as [the other teams in] your own country," said Wescott, adding that the United States is the only place coaches get paid enough to make a living.

Many countries need more equipment, Clark said.

New Zealand coach Adrian Burns, whose national team program is just 3 years old, said his players were amazed to see lacrosse goals in back yards around Annapolis. Players took pictures, he said, because "there are probably only about six lacrosse goals in all of New Zealand."

Many countries with established programs are focusing on the junior level to become more competitive at the elite level.

The Cup of Nations, an international festival for under-19 girls continuing through tomorrow in Annapolis, has teams from Japan, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and First Nations - the first Native American girls team - along with 40 U.S. teams.

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