RAF Marham Lacrosse Joins Forces with the USAF

The RAF Marham men’s lacrosse team has just finished its second season in the South England Men’s Lacrosse Association (SEMLA) East Div 3.  This season has seen the addition of players from the USAF at RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath, adding another dimension to the team both in terms of playing lacrosse and cultural differences.

The introduction of USAF players to the RAF Marham team undoubtedly benefited both the RAF and USAF Airmen as well as the English Lacrosse league. All other teams in the league are civilian and cover the area from Northampton to Canterbury to Reading and places between. Numerous teams and coaches commented on the strength, determination and team spirit that RAF and USAF players show. Truly a ‘Coalition’ team, they have been superb ambassadors for their respective Air Forces within the civilian community both on and off the field of play. The RAF and USAF relationship and its benefits have been recognised with the Community Relations Award from the RAF Mildenhall’s British-American Committee to recognise the efforts of UK and US individuals and groups who have enhanced community relations.

As with all sport these days, the team’s season was very unsettled due to the on-going operations that the military (UK and US) are involved in. However, the season (Oct-Mar) was completed, ending with a three match winning streak. Many of the players, both RAF and USAF, were new to the game this year but soon gained basic skills and produced performances beyond their experience. What it proved was that you do not need to have been a lacrosse player since your youth in order to start playing lacrosse in the RAF; anyone can start as a beginner and soon master the basic skills. The age range of the team goes from 19 to 50 (that’s me!) but the majority are in the younger age range.

Buoyed by the success of the season, a team was entered into the minor section of the SEMLA 6’s Tournament, which took place at Old Walcountians Sports Club, South London in May. With eight teams in their section and all of them stronger teams who played in the league above the RAF/USAF team, it was an outstanding performance to get through the ‘round-robin’ stage and then make the final of the knock-out stage. The final was lost by two goals to Spencer 2 Lacrosse team, who were the Div 2 Champions this year; although disappointing to lose a final it was a fantastic performance throughout the day and a fitting end to the season.

Many of the Marham men and women lacrosse players went on to represent the full RAF Lacrosse teams at the Inter-service Championships at the beginning of June, hosted by the RAF Lacrosse Association at RAF Halton. After a week of intensive training both the men and the women competed to become Inter-service Lacrosse Champions.

So what of this season? The men’s team is again a joint team from RAF and USAF and the season starts on 1st October. The women’s team is growing too, but both teams welcome new players. Training each Thursday at 1730 beside the gym (astro or rugby pitch depending on the weather), you are invited to come along and try your hand. No equipment or previous experience is needed, just an enthusiasm to give something new a go – once ‘bitten by the bug’ you won’t look back but just look forward to the next match.

For more info on the men’s and women’s teams contact Cpl James ‘Hodge’ Hodgson at the gym or for the men’s team contact SAC Ben Edwards on 07872 565445. For the women’s team contact the OIC, Flt Lt Sasha Sheard at 31 Sqn ops, or Flt Lt Kirsty Nichol in ATC. There are also opportunities for personnel to become referees and umpires for lacrosse. It can be a quick rise to regional and the International level as an official, at which stage you can be invited to officiate at tournaments around the world with expenses paid. For more info contact Cpl Hodgson or visit the English Lacrosse Association (ELA) web site a http://www.sportcentric.com/vsite/vtrial/page/home/0,11065,5106-163779-180996-34653-159497-custom-item,00.html.

Written by Flt Lt Joe Gallagher

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