The China Women’s National U20 Team, forged across an ocean, is ready to show its balance and growth in Hong Kong, China

China Lacrosse has continued its steady growth since becoming a member of World Lacrosse in 2012, inching its way up the rankings in world championships over the past quadrennial. 

While not as established as some of the powers in the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Union, China has embraced development from the ground up within its own country, while also making the most of its player pool eligibility. 

The upcoming World Lacrosse Women’s U20 Championship in August – staged in Hong Kong, China – is another opportunity for China Lacrosse to show its growth and balance with one of the most diverse player pools in the event. 

Head Coach Ted Sawicki, who lives in Canada, has participated in more than 10 World Lacrosse championships and started his involvement with China Lacrosse in 2017. Two of his daughters who were born in China played with the senior women’s team in its first ever appearance at the women’s championship, held in England that year.  

Then Sawicki, who had been an assistant coach with Lacrosse Canada, joined China Lacrosse to coach its teams, and helped put together a team to compete at the 2019 Women’s U20 Championship in Canada.  

That team had a lot of North American players with Chinese heritage, and the players from China were concentrated from one program at a school just west of Shanghai. China finished 14th out of 21 teams.  

Sawicki coached again in 2022 at the women’s championship in the United States. After having finished 22nd in 2017, China improved to finish 19th in 2022, with a group of older players on the roster from Shanghai who had played in both championships.

TOWSON, MARYLAND – JULY 7: China plays The Netherlands during the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship at Towson University on July 7, 2022 in Towson, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume)

“The important thing in an event like that is for the women from mainland China to take back great experiences and share them with the community,” said Sawicki. 

In just a short amount of time, the growth in participation from 2017 to now has skyrocketed. 

Many of the players from the first 2017 senior women’s squad have formed their own programs in different areas, as have other administrators in China Lacrosse. The game has spread to Chengdu, Beijing and Shenzen, notably in addition to Shanghai.  

“When I reflect back to seven years ago, the amount of youth programs and their spread is so different,” said Sawicki. “At this point, the number of boys and girls playing the game is astronomical. Most of the women who started Shanghai Lacrosse are still coaching now, and each one of them is spreading the game to 100 kids.” 

Sawicki notes that one of China Lacrosse’s strengths is always reflecting organizationally on how to improve and build a governance model that follows other countries in the world but is functional within the framework of China. The approach so far has been to start at the grassroots level and hand out as many sticks as possible. 

Players nurtured in the programs started by those 2017 senior players are now competing with the U20 squad. Other players in China are beginning to forge their own pathways, such as one who grew up in England, or another who will attend a prep school in Canada. 

The roster now has a balance of players with experience in North American high school and collegiate lacrosse, and players from China who are ready to step on the field. 

“We’re learning and growing, but we have a group that is solid and can surprise some people,” said Sawicki. “We want to continue to place well, but importantly we want our group to embrace the game, and leave feeling successful in that regard.” 

China Lacrosse is hoping to aim for the next band of spots in the rankings, and to improve a few spots from the 2019 Women’s U20 Championship. 

It will take a collective effort from a group that is bilingual with a blend of cultures, and is located in two halves of the world.  

“We want our team to be inclusive, be friends, to know their role and trust each other,” said Sawicki. “There’s an opportunity to build the bonds of being teammates, and ultimately the national pride you experience at these world championships is special.” 

China Lacrosse has competed recently in the Hong Kong Open and had a group closer to its U20 roster compete in the Super Sixes – Hong Kong event in December. Another group will compete at the Heritage Cup in May in the United States ahead of training camp in the summer.  

Despite the challenges of uniting a team across an ocean, Sawicki believes in the group, and that confidence and pride can help them perform well. 

“There has been a sense before at world championships when you see the other top countries that we are the new kids on the block and we were still very proud,” said Sawicki. “Those established countries have confidence, which we need, but when we sing our song and are loud, our team can get the fire they need to perform well.” 

“We’re also excited to be playing in Hong Kong, where we might have the second most fans in attendance – that is going to fire the group up because it’s special to be close to home,” Sawicki continued. “It’s different at a world championship when you’re playing from where you’re from or your roots. It’s just different.” 

Ultimately, this event can help continue its growth of the game with the exposure and experiences gained in Hong Kong paying dividends for the youth programs in China. 

The meshing of ideas and connecting of cultures through the game has always been key for China Lacrosse. The team competing in the women’s U20 championship embodies the best blend of talent so far for the organization and an exciting window into its future.

TOWSON, MARYLAND – JULY 7: China plays The Netherlands during the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship at Towson University on July 7, 2022 in Towson, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume)

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