This summer the Welsh men’s lacrosse team matched the performance of their football brethren by reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships. Mark Jones was a part of that Wales team and he spoke to us about lacrosse and their experience at the Euros.
KUDOS: You’ve just enjoyed a fine European Championships in which Wales made the semi-finals – was the overriding emotion after that defeat one of disappointment or pride in the run to the semis?
MJ: It’s always disappointing to be that close and miss out on a medal however I can’t let it overshadow our best ever finish. Given the general consensus had us finishing 11th I think getting to a semi-finals quickly proved a number of people wrong and showed the determination and hard work the squad put in.
How did playing in an international tournament like that differ from your more regular experiences of playing lacrosse?
It’s a lot more intense, both mentally and physically. Ignoring the fact it’s 7 games in however many days, there is very little time to prepare and also very little time to celebrate or reflect on a win. Compared to domestic lacrosse where you get a week between games with plenty of time for you to recover and reflect.
Most lacrosse players sample other sports before trying lacrosse – how did you get into it?
I was generally into a lot of sports as a kid and tried all sorts. I sought of stumbled into lacrosse as one of my brother’s friends was trying to start a team and I was asked if I was interested. After being sent off within 1 minute of my debut I was quickly hooked.
What is it for you that makes lacrosse your sport of choice ahead of other sports?
The intensity, skill and physical nature. Unlike some other sports I have played lacrosse requires a good combination of mental and physical skills. Given it’s a “smaller” sport there is a great camaraderie and nearly all my close friends originate from lacrosse. Also, what other sport gives you a metal stick and says hit the guy that runs at you?!
This feels like the beginning of a new era for lacrosse and the sport is growing exponentially in the US – do you think that growth can be replicated in the UK/Europe, and if so – how?
Most of the popularity / grow within the US is down to college lacrosse. Given that students can get their education paid for and then coached and play lacrosse at the highest level it’s no wonder it’s so popular. I am not sure UK / Europe could ever compete at this level however I am open to hear what the future entails.
Grassroots is vital to any sport. What is lacrosse like organisationally and structurally at grassroots level in the UK?
I think this largely depends on which club you play for and the level of commitment from its players. Like a lot of other clubs we used to use an LDO (lacrosse development officer), which are ex-US based college players who come over to coach and also play for a year. These LDOs support the club coaching as well as go into schools to raise awareness and hopefully get kids interested in lacrosse, and hopefully they then join our club. Thanks to government legislation around Visas this no longer happens, meaning the reliance is now back on the club and its players. As lacrosse has very little (if any) funding this remains a battle to raise awareness, provide equipment and facilities to support the growth of the game.
What do you think has held lacrosse back until now?
Exposure. Football will always remain the key sport in the UK and with lacrosse not being in the Olympics or having any media support it will always be difficult to grow the game.
To an outsider, lacrosse can seem a pretty brutal game – just how fit and tough do you need to be?
Think you have to be athletic and strong in any sport now. However, given the speed of lacrosse there is not much let up and any activity is generally intensive. We had a number of our Wales players averaging over 10k a game. The big thing for Lacrosse is mental toughness and being able to keep your concentration.
How would you sell lacrosse to someone looking to join a local sports club?
It’s a great physical game however there’s not many sports you get to go at each other for 80 minutes and then share a beer afterwards.
Where now for the Wales team after the European Championships?
Mostly now it’s reflection and taking some key learning from Budapest. One of the things we will have to look at is what we do to start our U19s back up and continue to upskill our players ready for Manchester. A number of our key players are now at the age contemplating retirement, so the question is how we fill this void.
KUDOS would like to thank Mark for taking the time to speak to us, and we wish the team every success in the future.
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KUDOS SPORTS – A LEADING SUPPLIER OF CUSTOM SPORTS KIT
KUDOS is proud to supply the kit for the Wales men’s lacrosse team – custom teamwear that is built for performance and worn with pride.