Lacrosse Education in U.S. Helps Global Expansion of Sport

By Dan DeFrancesco

Colleges and universities in the United States offer wonderful educational opportunities for international students. Joe Tyers came to America for just that, an education.

An education, that is, in lacrosse.

"I came here to play lacrosse," Tyers said. "Going to school here didn't matter to me. After I played in the World Championships, I decided I wanted to come to the U.S. to play lacrosse."

Tyers, a 20-year-old exchange student at Plattsburgh State in New York, picked up the game when he was 14 years old. Born in Rochdale, England, Tyers was only 10 miles north of Manchester, considered the hot-bed of lacrosse in England. After seeing his cousin play, he decided to join his local club team. Tyers worked up the ranks, eventual making his state team, one of only three squads formed from all of England.

In 2008, still hoping to play the highest level of lacrosse possible, Tyers was selected for the Whales national team, representing them in the U-19 World Championship in 2008 held in British Columbia, Canada. Tyers was eligible for the team because of his Welsh ancestors. The team had its best outing in the country's history, going 5-2, with Tyers scoring a goal against South Korea.

After returning from Canada, Tyers decided he wanted to play lacrosse in the U.S. for a year to improve his game and give him the best possible chance of making the English national team. It just so happened that his school had an exchange program with Plattsburgh. After sending an e-mail to head men's coach P.J. Kavanagh, Tyers enrolled in a one-year program that would give him the opportunity to play lacrosse in the United States.

"Tyers had a great opportunity to play lacrosse in the U.S., and he took full advantage of it," Kavanagh said. "He positively affected our team well beyond the boundaries of the field."

Stories like Tyers' are becoming more common as lacrosse continues to grow globally. What was once considered a North American game has now expanded to the far corners of the world. The Federation of International Lacrosse, established in August of 2008, currently lists 68 countries in its membership. The FIL organizes the men's World Lacrosse Championship, World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, Women's Lacrosse World Cup, and both the men's and women's Under-19 World Lacrosse Championships.

Of the 68 members in the FIL, 25 are "full members", consisting of countries considered the most developed in regards to lacrosse. These members are from North America and Europe with a few exceptions. Eleven countries are "associate members" and represent countries that are still growing in the sport of lacrosse. Finally, 32 nations are listed as "emerging members"; these countries are newest to the game and have just begun developing teams.

England is currently in the forefront of lacrosse development overseas, according to Tyers. A perennial powerhouse in Europe, having won every European championship except one, England's youth program is the strength of its success. Most players first suit up at the age of 10 or 11, playing for their local club team. From there players work their way up to the feeder program, playing on U-14, U-16, U-19, second club teams, and finally first club teams. The program is similar to that of American modified, junior varsity, and varsity teams.

Youth coaching is often done by American and Canadian players who are brought over for a year at a time to help coach the U-12 teams. Usually selected a year or two after their college graduation, players are typically given housing, a car, and a salary that amounts to $200 a week in exchange for traveling around the country to run clinics at different schools for younger players.

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