Each month our Sports section will feature one of UWE’s Sports teams. In October, Tom Williams met with UWE Lacrosse.
Lacrosse as a sport isn’t exactly in the mainstream. It is almost never televised in the UK; the sport is not played professionally and is played at very few schools around the UK. But that doesn’t mean people don’t want to play it. I sat down with the UWE Lacrosse Club President Alex Atkinson, men’s captain Rory Myles and the women’s captain Charlotte Shaw to gain their perspectives on the sport in general, the state of UWE Lacrosse and to find out more about the club’s activities, including beyond the actual playing of the sport.
The sport finds its origins in Native American culture, but like all modern sports it has changed in many ways. The basic aim of the game is to outscore your opponents by shooting the ball into the other team’s net using a stick. The game is played for a total of 80 minutes and is divided into 20 minute quarters. Whilst the basic aims of the game are the same, in terms of contact and physicality the men’s and women’s games are worlds apart. Rory described it best by saying: “Basically, they’re two different sports,” which was met with nods of agreement from Alex and Charlotte, with Alex adding “the only thing that are the same are the size of the goals.” The men’s game is full contact which requires players to wear a helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, elbow pads, sometimes rib or chest guards and most importantly a box or cup. As for the women’s game all stick and full body contact is not allowed, so as a result there is no personal equipment needed, aside from the stick. The physicality of the women’s game is limited to “pretty much just the stick” according to Charlotte.
The game sees 10 players on the pitch at any given time, with 1 goal keeper, 3 defenders, 3 mid-fielders and three players in attack with each team being allowed another 13 players in the squad as substitutes. These subs can come on at any time and there are no limitations for the number of times a team can substitute people. Once a player is off the field they are able to return to play in order to keep the intensity of the game up, thus making it an incredibly fast paced game to play.
Lacrosse at UWE in the past has not been the strongest, but this beginning to change. Last season the number of people playing for the club was very low and as such the teams struggled and unfortunately were relegated a division, something which Charlotte elaborated on by saying “We were definitely in the wrong league. We were playing against teams who have been playing for years, but most of our team picked it up last year.” But low squad numbers is now a thing of a past with 200 people expressing interest in lacrosse at the Freshers Fair and then over 100 of those people turning up for the first training session of the year. As a result of this the club is able to put out two men’s teams and two women’s team, but they will not be treated as a “First Team” and a “Second Team.” Something that came across from the interview was that there is a massive focus on inclusion in the UWE lacrosse club and having a very strong team spirit, something which seems to be ingrained into game itself as Rory says “you have to trust the person you’re playing with” and Alex backing this idea of team unity adding “most of the time it’s about giving it to someone else.” The physicality of the game often leads to sin-binning; whether it is because of a mistimed tackle or having unsafe kit, with smaller infringements leading to being sent off for 30 seconds and larger ones being for up to 3 minutes. Despite the physicality of the men’s and women’s game (all three of them agreeing with each other when Rory jokes that the women’s game is “more aggressive, mostly because they’re not allowed to physically take out their anger on the pitch”) there is a lot of respect between teams, with Rory comparing to rugby in the sense that it’s a very physical game “but at the end we always shake hands and have a drink together.”
The teams have been putting a lot of effort into becoming more formidable team, something they feel they are more than capable of, especially because of their coaching staff. The men’s coach Guy Oldring is also the coach of the England Universities team and the women’s team recently recruited Pete Wilson to help the team go from strength to strength. This season the men’s team is aiming high as their ambition is to be promoted to the league they were in last season, which they feel they can certainly achieve due to all the hard work they have been putting in and will continue to. As for the women’s team, their aim for the season is a little simpler as they want to win a game this season. This is something that they seem far more confident about than last year, especially with their new coach.
Off the field the UWE lacrosse club is very active and social. Something that was evident as all three of them had been out the night before on a lacrosse social, although this in no way impeded their ability to talk so passionately about their club. They do have organised socials but because they’re all such good friends they tend to socialise with each other beyond these club organised events. Alex even mentioned that a lot of “2nd and 3rd years often join the society partly because they’ve heard how good the socials are.”
The main thing I took away from the twenty or so minutes I spent with Charlotte, Alex and Rory is how passionate they all are about their sport and the lacrosse club. They even joke about taking foundation degrees or staying on to do a Masters at UWE so they can continue to play for the team and socialise with their teammates. Alex used the word “family” when describing the lacrosse club. The team trains from 16.00-19.00 on Sundays on the astroturf at Frenchay and welcome new members at any time of the year. Their home matches are played in Filton at the sports and leisure centre at Elm Park, a full list of which can be found at bucs.org.uk under the lacrosse drop down menu.