Bringing lacrosse to Bhutan
PELKHIL SCHOOL: “Hold the lacrosse stick in your right hand, place your foot in front of the ball, pick it up, run around the post and shoot,” so taught Tom Claytor, the sports instructor, with a white lacrosse stick gripped in his right hand.
That was at the training session on lacrosse at Pelkhil school in Thimphu yesterday.
Lacrosse, the Native American contact sport that requires padding, is played, using a solid rubber ball and a long-handled stick, strung with loose mesh, designed to hold the ball, is commonly played in the US and Canada.
To start with the session, the participants were given a lacrosse stick and a ball each, and taught how to scoop the ball with the mesh-tipped stick from the ground and then swing it.
The balls sometimes fell behind them, when trying to swing it forward, and sometimes it landed in different directions that sent many participants giggling.
The participants played a practice match, after receiving basic training and instructions on how to play the game. Most participants failed to catch the ball hurled at them. When one player carried the ball in his stick, others tried to shake it off the stick using theirs.
Sonam Tandin, 15 said he was comfortable scooping the ball from the ground, throwing and receiving it.
“I can’t hold the ball in the scoop, because the ball tends to bounce back,” he said.
Some of the participating students, who got hit by the ball on their hands and body, said the white ball, the size of a lawn tennis one, hurts.
Pelkhil school principal Umesh Kumar said they were planning to take up the game as a new club, since Tom Claytor agreed to leave about 40 lacrosse sticks of USD 100 each and 40 balls with the school.
“Once students are comfortable with the game, we’ll try to get more equipment, with some safety gear, like gloves, helmets and chest guards,” he said.
The school board director Karma L Dorji said the school already had about 15 clubs, including basketball, volleyball, table tennis and futsal.
“If successful, lacrosse will also be introduced as a new club,” he said.
A bush pilot, Tom Claytor, who makes films for the National Geographic channel, said lacrosse was an elite game in America, and played in top private universities and colleges. The game, he said, was first invented by American Indians 600 years ago.
“The game is older than my own country,” he said, adding he played the sport for the varsity team for four years at Colby college in Maine, USA.
“During my visit to Bhutan in the past, I saw people of different villages playing archery tournaments and, as lacrosse was also played between villages in USA during ancient times, I thought Bhutan may like this game as well.”
Asked for the reason for bringing the sports to Bhutan, the bush pilot said most Americans don’t understand Bhutan, and the game is expected to serve as a bridge between two cultures.
He said the game has spread in countries like Thailand, Singapore, Hongkong, China and Australia.
Tom Claytor said lacrosse was played between two villages, sometimes in a field of 10km, with about 100 players in each team.
“As it was actually a training for war, some played to death those days,” he said. “However, it’s a fun game today, that both men and women enjoy playing.”
By Nima Wangdi