From left: Rick Mercurio, FIL Clinician; Zhu Yongshuai (Jacky), President of Chinese Lacrosse Association; Bob DeMarco, FIL European Coordinator; and Amy McCleary, FIL Clinician. Best translation of the sign Jacky is holding: “Long bent stick with ball” or “LACROSSE”.
Developmental Clinician Report
By Rick Mercurio, Bob DeMarco and Amy McCleary
Rick Mercurio, FIL Clinician, plays “wall ball” at the Great Wall of China.
In the weeks leading up to our departure for China, we anticipated that the success of these clinics would be determined, in large part, by how much preparation, planning, communicating, and research we accomplished prior to arrival. Traveling to a country half way around the world, holding clinics in two cities over eight hundred miles apart, in itself is a logistical challenge.
The efforts of many dedicated people contributed to this achievement. First and foremost, as representatives of the FIL, we would like to extend our thanks to Tom Hayes. Tom spent countless hours communicating and mentoring us on the history, background, and structure of Lacrosse in China. He also shared with us his vast international experiences and insight into what needs and issues should be addressed in order to aide in the stimulation of growth and development of lacrosse in China.
Director of European Development and fellow colleague and clinician, Bob DeMarco, orchestrated every detail prior to and during our visit. His dedication towards the development of international lacrosse is contagious and motivational to all.
We would like to extend our thanks to all the members of the Chinese Lacrosse Association. Their hospitality, generosity, work ethic and our shared focus of the love of the game contributed to a lacrosse experience of a life time. Special thanks to CLAL President, Zhu Yongshaui (Jacky). It was evident that his focus is to develop lacrosse in all of China and for them to become competitive within the international community. He is one of the founding fathers of lacrosse in China. Jacky extended himself above and beyond. He was a gracious host. He spent a great deal of time with us while in Beijing, on the field, in meetings, and socially.We would also like to acknowledge the following people:
Mike Elefante, for his generosity, expertise, and assistance in helping with these clinics. Mike also took the long trip via train from Shanghai to Beijing to attend the meetings and help with the clinics.
Wen Jianghao, President of Shanghai Lacrosse, for his efforts in making sure that every detail of our stay in Shanghai was taken care of.
Zhang Ying (Danny), Captain of Shanghai Lax, for his dedication to assist in the translation and instruction of our coaching clinics. Danny was willing to learn as much as possible during our short stay so that he may further help in the development of Lacrosse in China. Danny also made the long trip to Shanghai from Beijing to attend the clinics in both cities.
Cao Luo yu (Clyde), President of Beijing Lacrosse. Clyde assisted us every step of the way during our stay in Beijing. He is and will continue to be an essential person in the development of Lacrosse in China. He wears many hats. He was our guide, translator, social director, and the only male Goalie at this point in Beijing.
Kristen Heimstead, FIL Clinician and Coach at Beijing Agricultural University. Kristen is an American living and studying in Beijing. She was part of our developmental staff. She also aided us in translating and negotiating our way through the city of Beijing.
Clinic Daily Reports
Saturday 4/13 – The Clinic was held at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. Wen Jianghao, President of Shanghai Lacrosse, met us to take us over to the University about 7:30 a.m. Taking taxis, we arrived about 8:30 a.m. and planned to start around 9:00 a.m. The facility was very good. We had a grass area which was adequate for instruction. Amy and Kristen quickly helped the students to line a half field, as we did the same for the men. We were instructed that we would be able use the turf field from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
After introductions and warm-ups the men and women players went to their prospective fields. The key points of emphasis for the first session of the morning were on individual skills and coaches’ evaluations of such. The staff was enthusiastic and motivated by the efforts of the players and their willingness to learn.
We then progressed from individual to positional skills. Many of the drills needed to be modified to adjust to a wide variation in skill level. Also, many of the players did not have full sets of equipment. Many of the men players would be outfitted with gloves and arm pads in the next session as Mike would issue the equipment purchased from STX.
After a short break we returned to the second part of our morning session. It was determined that the women players were not very familiar with the rules as they applied to situations on the field. For many, this was the first time they had ever played on a lined field. Therefore, Amy and Kristen placed emphasis on this, incorporating the knowledge of the rules in their individual and team instruction.
For the men we emphasized the structure of practice drills and how they related to real game situations. This was important because often practices may be run by the captains and there was a need for them to understand the components of organized and useful drills.
Our third session of the morning moved to the Universities turf field. The field was divided in half for both the women and men, enabling us to go the width of the field to incorporate some transition play.
We took a short lunch break. The students had arranged for us to have some Chinese take-out (really). By the way, if you didn’t know how to use chop sticks, eating became a challenge. I related to the players how frustrating it was for us to use chop sticks but that we were getting better with practice, much like it must be frustrating to them to learn some lacrosse skills and they too would get better with practice. They enjoyed the analogy.
After lunch the women remained on ½ the turf field and we moved back to the grass area, as another club was scheduled for the turf. As the clinic progressed, and the men now had gloves and arm pads, we moved towards team skills, including simple offensive and defensive techniques. Rick set up a basic offensive with cut and replace concepts. Bob set up a man defense with 6 v 6 defensive team positioning and simple back up slides.
The clinic was very successful and there was a sense that much was accomplished and learned. After debriefing and review we went over the plans for the next day’s clinic to be held at Shanghai University.
Sunday 4/14 – The clinic was held at Shanghai University. We arrived at the front entrance to the University and walked through part of the campus to the athletic fields. The Campus was beautiful and it was apparent that the student players that were hosting the clinic were very proud of their school.
The field was a well maintained large grass field. It was the University’s main athletic field. The students worked very hard to get permission to use it for the clinic. We were met at the field by the players with buckets of lime, balls of mason cord and plastic soda bottles that they had modified with holes to work as field liners. Don’t laugh they worked pretty well. We quickly went to work with the assistance of several players and some of their friends and began to line the fields. Amy and Kristen lined a sideline to sideline modified full women’s field and Bob and Rick did the same for the men. We all thought about how this experience brought us back to our humble beginnings.
We began the clinic once again with brief introductions as some of the participants were deferent from the day before. The format for the morning would follow the previous day’s clinic, more or less. However, the drills varied in degree of difficulty. Our objective for the day was to advance to more transition and extend the drills out, since we had more area in which to work. We explained that we were going to challenge the players to progress towards 6 v 6 scrimmaging and in the afternoon play a full field competitive scrimmage. The clinic went extremely well. The players were exhausted by the conclusion but remained very excited and motivated. More importantly, it was very obvious that they were having fun and enjoyed the day’s event.
Mike and his girlfriend Carley graciously invited the staff, the team captains and some of the team leaders to their apartment that evening for a barbeque. That evening we shared many stories and experiences. Many conversations kept coming back to how welcomed we were to be there and how thankful they were to the FIL for sending us there to work with them. I kept thinking back about how lucky we are to live in a time where we could as Americans, visit China and share our sport with such wonderful people.
Beijing Coaches Clinic
Wednesday 4/17 – Rick demonstrated individual stick handling skills and Bob demonstrated defensive positioning. We also used a large pad on a stand to illustrate offenses and defenses. Rick had his laptop and used portions of one of his PowerPoint presentations to show some drills and also how to plan a practice. Amy gave a tremendous demonstration on women’s stick handling skills, defensive positioning, drills and a detailed explanation of the major rules of women’s lacrosse. Jacky video recorded the clinic for instructional purposes.
Sunday 4/22 – We met with Chinese lacrosse captains and team officials in the morning. After tea and beverage orders were placed, introductions were made. All the teams in China were represented, along with the administrators of the CLAL. One of the special guests that Jacky had invited was Daisy. She was a 1998 graduate of the Peking Sports University and played lacrosse there. She was able to give us some good insight into the history of women’s lacrosse in China. Daisy explained that while she did not presently continue to play on an organized team, she along with her teammates from college get together every four years to play.
Each captain was given the opportunity to express the status of their team and some of their concerns and issues. In turn we were able to give them some suggestions and information to possibly help them.
At 11:30 a.m. the meeting was adjourned and we headed over to the Beijing Language and Culture University to conduct our clinic, which was scheduled from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Upon arrival we were directed over to a turf field.
After brief introductions and warm-ups the men and women players went to their prospective areas. There were about 25 men and 25 women in attendance. As in Shanghai, we planned to instruct progressively as skill level, and needs determined. The drills were to vary in degree of difficulty. Our objective for the day was to advance from individual skills, to position skills, to transition skills and then to team play. Once again, it was so great to work with these players, as their level of motivation and enthusiasm was so intense. We spent the last part of our session on basic offensive sets and defenses. They were very interested in this as it seems they had very little if any knowledge in this area.
Jacky had once again arranged for Emerson to interpret and he also participated. Jacky had also arranged for the sessions to be videoed for instructional purposes. This was a great idea as they would be able to refer back to these videos after we had left.
At the conclusion of the clinic we debriefed the players and exchanged our appreciation of each other’s company. We challenged all the players to continue to help in development of Lacrosse in China. We concluded by expressing to them that they were now part of our lacrosse family and hoped that our paths would cross again in the future.
Photos from the Clinics
General Overview of Lacrosse in China
As in many of the countries that we have visited, one must understand the country’s culture, history, economics, government, and especially as in the case of China, the structure of its educational system in order to understand the growth and development of lacrosse there.
Western concepts culturally and otherwise are not always fully compatible. As mentioned before in similar reports, we do not claim to be experts in any of these matters. However, certain observed key factors may help to illustrate the situations as they exist. As we observed in Russia, the same holds true in China, there is really no “suburbia”. Basically, there are cities and there are rural farm lands. All of the present players live in the main cities of Shanghai and Beijing. No players own cars. All transportation is via mass transit, bike, taxi or walking. The cities are huge and very crowded. It could take up to an hour for a player to reach a common game or practice site. As in most major cities, field space is hard to come by. Most venues are at the universities. However, because the players are extremely organized and dedicated they make it work.
The educational system in China is important to understand in the development of lacrosse and sports in general in China. The government requires that students attend a minimum of 9 years of education. Six of those years are on the primary level. Mandated aptitude and entrance exams determine which secondary schools you will attend following your primary education. Entrance into “Key Schools” or “Academic Schools,” will more than likely determine if the student will continue onto the universities (Universities only re-opened in the 1970’s following the ending of the Cultural Revolution).
A typical school day for primary and secondary students will be from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. There are basically no after school sports or activities in most of the schools. Time does not allow for it. If at an early age the student shows athletic prowess and abilities, it will be determined that he or she will attend one of the several “sports universities.”
It is within the sports universities that the government will acknowledge and provide funding and training for a specific sport. Basically, those sports are Olympic or worldwide professional sports. At the other universities, sports exist as clubs of interest by the attending students. There is no funding or official recognition by the university.
Structure of China Lacrosse
Presently there are approximately 150 players (men and women) representing seven Universities from the cities of Shanghai and Beijing. In Shanghai there is the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Tongji University Siping Campus, Tongji University Jiading Campus, and Shanghai University. In Beijing there is Tsinghua University, Beijing Agricultural University and The Beijing Language and Cultural University.
Jacky is the CLAL President and contact Representative to the FIL.
Each City has a President Representative of the CLAL. Wen Jianghao is the President of Shanghai Lacrosse and Cao Luo yu (Clyde) is the Pres. of Beijing Lacrosse. Each team also has an appointed team captain for the men’s teams and the women’s.
There is also a CLAL Board of Directors with each member assigned to specific duties. For example, Mike Elefante is a Board member that is now assigned with the responsibility of “International Advisor.”
Mike also assists in coaching, instructing, and advising the Shanghai Lacrosse teams. In addition, he also runs an “Ex-Pat” (Expatriate) league. It consists of two Club teams. The “River Pigs,” and the “Silver Bellies.” These two clubs are scheduled to play each week and gather afterwards to socialize. The players are both Chinese and Americans living and working or studying in China. They also, when possible, attend the Shanghai practices to assist in instructing the Chinese players. Some of the players also coach youth players of Ex-Pat’s parents.
Lacrosse was introduced to China by a Professor at the Beijing Sports University in 1997. A student of his at that time embraced the sport and he continues to carry that torch today. The student was, Zhu Yongshaui. Lacrosse in China continues to grow in popularity and success under the leadership and direction of Zhu Yongshaui (Jacky) and his supporting administration. The players, coaches and all those involved with the CLAL are extremely dedicated and motivated individuals.
Our staff was overwhelmed by the response to our clinics, coaching and suggestions for improvement and development. Our time together was too short. We, as the FIL representatives, would be extremely proud and delighted to see Lacrosse in China to continually grow and succeed. Nothing would make us prouder than to see China represented at the 2014 World Games.
About the FIL
The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) is the international governing body for men’s and women’s lacrosse. The FIL currently has 47 member nations and sanctions five World Championships (women’s and men’s field, women’s and men’s U19 field and men’s indoor.) The FIL is responsible for the governance and integrity of all forms of lacrosse and provides responsive and effective leadership to support the sports’ development throughout the world.