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Indoor Lacrosse On The Rise In The UK

The influence of indoor game (box lacrosse) in North America is undeniable, the influx of indoor players bringing their unique skill-set to the NCAA is having a marked effect on the way field lacrosse is being played at both the international and collegiate level. Here in the England the indoor game has always been a niche version of our sport. Team England have competed in the last four World Indoor Championships, however there is still limited opportunity to play the indoor game here in the UK.

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The creation of the Tasko Cup has certainly helped raise the profile of the indoor game in England. The tournament is hosted at the Solent Arena in Portsmouth and has become an annual pilgrimage for players all over the country. Outside of the Tasko Cup there was still limited opportunity to play indoor lacrosse on a more regular basis.

This is all about to change however with the creation of a new indoor league founded by Team England defender Alan Keeley who helped England to a 5th place finish in Syracuse, New York last month. We interviewed Alan and discussed his hopes and expectations for the future of indoor lacrosse in a country where traditionally field lacrosse has reigned supreme.

Hi Alan, Could you tell us a little more about you and your Indoor (Box) Lacrosse background?
I was introduced to the indoor version of the game (Box lacrosse) in 2007 by a Canadian ex-pat called Jamie Tasko, who was looking to form an English box Lacrosse team to compete in the World indoor Championships in Halifax, Canada. My first box lacrosse game was with the London Knights at the prestigious Alex Hebresky Memorial tournament in Prague, which is the biggest international box lacrosse tournament in Europe, if not the world. The London Knights have been competing annually ever since and I have attend almost every year since 2007. I have also played 3 seasons of European Lacrosse League (ELL) a European semi-pro box lacrosse league which attracts the best box players from Europe and North America. I competed for England Indoor Lacrosse team that is at the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Syracuse, New York.

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Where did the idea of creating an indoor league come from?
I have always had an ambition to set up a domestic box league here in England ever since I returned from Halifax in 2007. However it became apparent that there were a numerous hurdles to overcome before this could happen, with the main obstacle being, finding a suitable venue to play a legitimate league from.

The other things that were needed to set up a league were buying proper box goals, sourcing at least two full sets of goal keeper equipment and finding shot clocks. There also needed to be enough interest from people to play for the league to work. Fast forward 8 years and I feel all the pieces of the puzzle have come together to make it work.

Where will the league be played, and what format will it played in?
The league will initially be a small 4 team league with all game being played out of a rink in the Midlands. The games will be played on a Sunday mornings or afternoon over five Sundays between November and March.

Teams will play a round robin league finishing with a championship game between the top two teams.  The teams will be assembled via a draft system of registered players and which will allow for balanced teams

The rink is in the middle of the country so it is accessible to players from both NEMLA and SEMLA and it is my hope that having games on a Sunday will mean there will be fewer clashes with the field lacrosse calendar and thus attract more players.

What benefits could playing the indoor game give to players who play the outdoor version of the game?
There are many transferable skills that would benefit a field player if they played box lacrosse, the most obvious of these is enhancing their stick skills. While it may be true that box players only use their dominant hand when playing. What they can do using the one hand is far superior to many field players and the reason for this is the lack of time and space that you have when playing box lacrosse.

I have heard it been said “that box lacrosse is lacrosse in fast forward”  and when I was introduced to the game that is what I immediately picked up. With the 30 second shot clocks, every time you are on the floor you are concentrating, making split second decisions and working your backside off because one lapse can mean the difference in scoring or stopping a goal. Being able to throw a perfect pass from any position and catching and finishing in the tightest of spaces are not the only benefit the indoor game can give to a field player.

Many NCAA teams are now introducing a lot of two man play into their offence which is the bread and butter of box lacrosse play. Adding this facet of offence to a team will make you unpredictable and give you an edge. You only have to look at teams like Albany and Denver to see the results not to mention Canada’s domination of USA at last year’s World Championships in Denver.

What are the major challenges facing the growth of the indoor game?
The main challenge in establishing the indoor game in England are the lack of venues. As box lacrosse is traditionally played in Ice Hockey rinks in the summer when the ice has melted and we just don’t have the facilities. However recently there has been a boom in roller hockey with small rinks popping up all over the country. These rinks ,while not perfect are a great place to play legitimate box lacrosse. The other main challenge is funding. At this moment in time all the goals, equipment, floor time has been paid by individuals and The London Knights team. For the growth of the game we will need to find some sponsorship or funding to help with the costs.

What are you hopes for the future of the indoor league and the game in general?
The goal is to initially establish the league so that it runs a full season successfully. I would like the league to grow to a multi team league and become an anual league that complements the English field season. The dream is to have different regional leagues  which will then send their champions to a national championship tournament similar to the Presidents Cup the Senior B Canadian championships.

Where can potential players find more information about how they can get involved?
If any players are interested in playing please contact me via email a.keeley@hotmail.co.uk. I will be confirming dates with the venue soon and will also be sending out registration forms for the player draft asap.

Read more about Team England’s performances at the 2015 Indoor Lacrosse World Championships in Syracuse, NY – HERE

Photo Credit: Lee Hill & Lacrosse All-Stars