One of the oldest team sports in North America is starting to take root in Colombia, thanks to a small group of lacrosse fanatics who are working to develop the game here.
The original game, played by tribes in North America, could last for days and involve up to a thousand men from different tribes or villages.
It was then picked up by European colonists, before becoming popular in Canada, the UK and the United States.
Here in Colombia, the sport has grown rapidly since the foundation of Colombia Lacrosse in July 2012. There are teams in Bogota, Pereira, Cali and Medellin and over 150 people signed up to play.
One of the coaches behind the sport’s growth is English-born Lotty Lawrence, who moved to Colombia two years ago and came across the growing sport while living in Pereira. She began working with men’s programme coach Miles Makdisi and then moved to Bogota to set up the women’s programme.
After the men’s team successfully took part in World Championships in Denver last year, Colombia Lacrosse is now focusing its efforts on taking the women’s team to the U19 Women’s World Championships in Scotland in July 2014.
To achieve this goal, Lotty is setting up a women’s league in Bogota in conjunction with fellow coach Millie Canter.
Lotty is passionate about the impact of the sport, explaining, “I have always believed that team sports do amazing things for children who don’t feel like they fit in anywhere. Lacrosse is unique, and for our young Colombian girls, it is becoming an identity.”
– The aim is to get the ball into your goal. It is a non-contact sport – you can’t block an attacking player with your stick or hit people.
She goes on to say, “We are training with kids from all different backgrounds. Lacrosse provides a space for everybody to play as equals. It’s not about what school they go to and where they’re from, it’s about how fierce they are on the field and this to me is the most important thing.”
For the players, especially those from poorer backgrounds, it’s a chance to experience something new. As one player says, “You are the first people to show us that we can be different and achieve things. It’s very different for girls here in Colombia.”
In order to ensure the sustained growth of the sport, Colombia Lacrosse are training Colombian coaches. “That’s of huge importance for me, we have to be sustainable in order to make all the work worth it,” Lotty adds. She is currently working with two Colombian players, Adriana and Johana, who will take over as coaches in the future.
At present the school league only exists for girls, and is completely free of charge due to the help of a generous sponsor in the US.
The group is also working towards creating a camp where kids from the USA can come and help out coaching whilst they take Spanish classes. Lotty explains, “We are really trying to create jobs for Colombian players and a summer programme like this would achieve that.”
In the long-term, Colombia Lacrosse hopes to build a Latin American tournament as the sport grows in popularity across the continent. But for now, they’re setting their sights on success in Scotland.
We practice at Colegio Nueva Granada on Mondays from 6-8pm and Thursdays 4.30-6-30pm. Anyone welcome to come
By Freek Huigen