Malaysia’s Minister for Youth and Sports Datuk Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (right) shakes hands with President of Malaysia’s Lacrosse Association, Jake Marr, during the Malaysia International Sport Expo.
It has been likened to sports ranging from the fictional quidditch of Harry Potter fame, to hockey, but Jake Marr insists it is “anything but”.
The Malaysian Lacrosse Association president instead touts the many great qualities of the game, which he fell in love with overseas, and says he is focused on building up the sport here.
“I was in university in UK, when I saw the sport, signed up for it, and fell in love with it,” said the strapping young man, who had at one time represented the City of Stoke in lacrosse.
Lacrosse is a contact team sport played between two teams of 10 each using a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse or lacrosse stick, the head of which is strung with loose mesh designed to catch and hold the lacrosse ball. The object is to get the ball into the opponent’s goal.
Besides the physicality of the game, especially in the men’s variant, the togetherness and openness of the game appealed to Marr.
“Do you know it is one of the few sports that embraces male and female teams? In England, there is also a league for mixed lacrosse,” said Marr, adding it is rare that a sport is widely accepted with a mixed variant, where men and women play the same game on the same field.
Action and history
Marr said he leans towards the men’s variant because it is more physical as well as fast-paced. “It’s nice to watch. Games can be constantly high-scoring and offer fast-paced action. Some sports are not guilty of that, and I won’t name names!” he joked.
He claims that lacrosse is one of the oldest sports in the world – dating back to as early as 1100 AD. “The only other sport that is older is wrestling,” Marr pointed out.
Lacrosse is believed to have begun among Native Americans as a form of ‘war games’.
“Two tribes would settle disagreements through this sport which could take days or weeks to settle.
“Of course, the game evolved into what it is today, became competitive and in the last 15 years, has grown exponentially,” said Marr.
At the turn of the millennium, there were 25 countries where lacrosse was played. Fifteen years later, Malaysia became the 51st nation to play lacrosse and Taiwan is soon to be recognised as the 52nd.
For the Native Americans, lacrosse still remains a very big part of their spiritual culture, according to Marr.
The end goal – a Malaysian lacrosse team
Back in Malaysia in 2012 after completing his studies in the UK, Marr thought it was strange there were no tournaments or at least a network for lacrosse locally.
“In the UK, leagues are common. Here, there is no lacrosse community even. It is going to take time and effort finding people to embrace a sport they have never heard of before,” shared Marr.
There’s also the administration side of things – building lacrosse’s profile, getting people accustomed to the fledgling lacrosse community here and what it wants to introduce, and much more.
“Which is why I set up the association,” said Marr. “In July 2014, it became the recognised body for lacrosse in Malaysia.”
Marr also foresees a lot of work to be done at the grassroots level. “We want to implement this at schools as well. Some schools are interested because it is unique and diverse. The only issue we have is teachers who are hesitant to come on board, because they have never played it themselves.”
That said, Marr observed that Malaysians love their sports. “I firmly believe once we get a foothold, there will be exponential growth.
“Based on Singapore’s and Thailand’s experience, I would say it would need three to four years to set up a league or a sports club community.”
But there are many hurdles to overcome. “Our profile is not big enough yet, and to firmly achieve our goals, we would need something to take us to the next level,” Marr admitted.
The end goal of course, is to form a Malaysian team that could compete at a national level, which Marr firmly believes is possible.
In the meantime, “we try to make ourselves a very welcoming community, so anyone who wants to try out lacrosse or just wants to get fit, we can teach them,” said Marr, who added that folks from all fitness levels are welcome.
Getting to the next level
Since getting its start in January 2014, Malaysia’s lacrosse community has grown from just three people to a committed community of 20 dedicated individuals.
“We are always looking for more, even those who can help us behind the scenes. Any help to increase our profile is always welcome, and all supporters are massively appreciated.”
On a parting note, Marr added that another reason to love the sport is seeing how aggression is limited to the field.
“Rivalries do not extend further. Because we know that not very many people play this game, so when we see other players, there is a sense of mutual respect that exists between us.”
Cat Yong is Editor-in-Chief of Enterprise IT News.