Few students are seen on the campus of Chuo University when it gets unusually quiet during the summer vacation. But its playfields brim with the vigor of student athletes. An attentive visitor to the school in early August might have found some of them playing an unfamiliar sport. They were practicing lacrosse. It is a sport in which players belonging to two teams shoot a rubber ball into each other’s goal using a long stick with a mesh pocket at its head. It is spelled bomokyu in Japanese which literally means a stick, mesh and ball. A ball shot by a skilled player sometimes runs as fast as 150 km per hour. Players also run after the ball at a breakneck speed. That is why lacrosse is known as the fastest sport played on the ground.
The number of lacrosse players is estimated at some 25,000 in Japan and 600,000 across the world. While women’s lacrosse is popular in Japan probably because players are usually dressed in skirts for their game. But men’s lacrosse is still little known. Chuo University has both men’s and women’s lacrosse clubs.
Tomotaka Kanno, a fourth grader of the Faculty of Commerce who captains the men’s club, spoke about his club during an interview with Hakumon Herald. He said, “Our club, nicknamed the Bandits, was founded in 1989. It belongs to the first division of the Kanto Collegiate Lacrosse League. All of our 110 members work hard every day to become No. 1 team in the league.” Kanno happened to take part in a lacrosse practice sponsored by the Bandits a few weeks after he was enrolled in Chuo. Fascinated by the sport and moved by the warmth of senior club members, he made up his mind to join the Bandits without hesitation. Looking back at the time, he said, “I felt this club may make my four years at Chuo really rich and fruitful.”
After three years of activity, Kanno now plays as the team’s goalie as well as captain. Commenting on his team, he said, “Members of the club who entered Chuo with me in 2013 belong to the generation that simultaneously experienced both the club’s promotion to the first division of the Kanto Collegiate Lacrosse League and its recognition as an accredited member of the Chuo Physical Education League. I thought we wouldn’t be able to become No. 1 student team if we remained indulged in a harmonious and friendly atmosphere as we did in the past. As captain, I have been trying to change my club into one that will be keener to win a match. I have also been urging my teammates to be conscious in daily life that they represent Chuo University when they play in a match.”
His pep talk seemed to be taking effect. All members of the Bandits were in dead earnest throughout their practice. They should have been so just ahead of this season’s first match of the Kanto Collegiate Lacrosse League scheduled for August 13. It will be the last chance for Kanno’s contemporaries to win the league championship. “We are taking on Seikei University who have a good capacity of balance. We haven’t lost to them in the official matches for the last two years. But we shouldn’t be overconfident. By smashing them, we will prepare for our next matches against leading contenders Keio University and Tokyo University scheduled in September,” he told Hakumon Herald.
Lacrosse is still an unfamiliar sport in Japan. However, you will have a completely different impression if you go to the stadium and watch the players play with great vigor and speed. Kanno was full of eagerness to win a match when he said, “I’ll show the culmination of my devotion to lacrosse in the past four years. Come and watch our matches. I’m sure even beginners will enjoy a heartburning excitement.”
ラクロスは一般になじみのないスポーツだが、一度競技場に足を運び、スピードと迫力あふれるプレーを見みれば、印象が大きく変わるはずだ。「ラクロス一筋、私の４年間の集大成を見せます。初めての方でも、きっと心燃える感動を味わうことができます。ぜひ、試合を観戦しに来てください。」菅野選手の眼には勝利への意欲がにじみ出ていた。(Written by: Hideki Kato)