If there is one thing that is true about Jamaicans, it is that they love winners. With that in mind, they should pay close attention to the men’s Lacrosse team competing at the 2023 World Lacrosse Championship that kicks off on Wednesday, June 21, in San Diego, California. Our male lacrosse team went four years unbeaten between 2018 and 2022. That run ended in July last year when the team went down 6-5 against Puerto Rico in the final of the Pan American Association Regional qualifiers in Colombia. Jamaica beat the host nation 7-2, the US Virgin Islands 5-4, and Peru 7-2 on their way to the final. Despite not getting the gold medal, the team was among the first qualifiers for the upcoming championships.
Jamaica will be in Pool D, where they’ll face the likes of Germany, Switzerland and Poland in that order on consecutive days beginning on Thursday, June 22. A day’s break on the Sunday is followed by the final game of pool play against New Zealand on the 26th. After Pool Play (similar to the group stage in other sports) the top 14 teams advance to the next round – the top two teams overall get a bye for the First Round [after pool play]. Winners continue to advance to the Quarter finals and beyond. There is a third place game that precedes the final, both are set for July 1. Meanwhile, teams that fail to qualify are not knocked out in the traditional sense. Because the tournament serves to both crown a champion and determine the world rankings, teams that are not still vying for a medal continue to play placement games until June 30. By virtue of finishing 13th in the last edition of the competition, Jamaica now holds the rank of 13th in the world.
Jamaica’s national lacrosse team made their debut at the international level in 2018. They participated in that year’s Men’s Lacrosse World Championships in Netanya, Israel. Although the team faced formidable opponents, they showcased their skills and enthusiasm for the sport finishing a respectable 13th out of 46 teams. Since then, Jamaica has continued participating in international lacrosse tournaments, including regional qualifiers and exhibition matches.
There is optimism and belief heading into the Championships due to the growing number of quality players available in the diaspora, ballooning to around 200 players, of which there are roughly 80 serious competitors. In 2018 when the team played at their first championships, there weren’t nearly as many players available, nor was the team training and playing at such a high level. The coaching staff is spoiled for choice, with players at the professional, collegiate, and club level. Additionally, they can build a representative team that hails from Jamaica, the United States, Canada, and England.
Mark Wilson, the current team coach, has said that the aim is to position the group as one of the world’s top teams to garner the necessary recognition, be viewed as a viable team, and garner the required support in Jamaica as an Olympic programme. As good as the team has been on the field, Jamaicans must give plaudits to those behind the planning, organization, and funding of the team’s success. The Jamaica Lacrosse Association (JLA) was established in 2014 to promote and develop the sport on the island. The organization has been working to introduce lacrosse to local communities, schools, and universities, and they have made considerable strides in building a foundation for the sport.
Jamaica’s lacrosse program has also benefited from the involvement of Jamaican-Canadian professional lacrosse players. Players with Jamaican heritage, who have excelled in the sport abroad, have shown interest in representing Jamaica internationally. Their experience and expertise have provided valuable guidance and inspiration to the emerging lacrosse community on the island. The growth of lacrosse in Jamaica is an exciting development, as it provides opportunities for local athletes to engage in a new and dynamic sport and potentially compete at higher levels internationally. With continued support and investment, Jamaica’s lacrosse program has the potential to flourish and contribute to the global lacrosse community. Corporate support and investment in sports in Jamaica usually follow when companies see a return on investment based on fan support that provides branding opportunities for them. Therefore, the more fans that buy-in and support the team, the likelier the team will have fewer struggles garnering donations and sponsorship deals that will further the growth of the sport locally and help the team to prepare and attend more competitions.