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Playing International Lacrosse: An Interview with Kent Stags students

InQuire sat down with Kieran Garvey and Tom Roper, the Kent Stags 1st’s team captains and members of Canterbury City Lacrosse Club, to talk about their successes with the International Nick Kehoe Lacrosse Tournament at the start of May.

Garvey, fourth-year student and 1st Team Captain of the Kent Stags, has also previously been the President and Social Secretary of the Kent Lacrosse team. Roper is a second-year student who started Lacrosse in first-year and was made Vice-Captain of the 1st team last year. Neither of the Captains played Lacrosse before they began university.

The pair were scouted for the English Universities national team after trialing in a Southern regional tournament in April and moved onto joining the team, where they played over a weekend on the 5th and 6th of May, competing against national and international teams such Spain and Scotland.

Playing in long-stick midfield (Garvey) and midfield (Roper), the two played with a team of university students from other universities like York and Bristol, where they managed to make it to fourth place, a record ranking for the squad in the international tournament.

What was the experience of the International tournament like?

Kieran: It was literally the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of us all spending it together. It was all of the team joint together at the hip until bed time. I don’t think there were any boys on their own, just of the risk of oversleeping, we had to get up early. Most of the games started at 10 or 11am, so for us to warm up we had to be up and not timing badly, we had to be up at 7 or 8am. Most of us were up even earlier, because we couldn’t sleep because we were so excited. It was just an experience and knowledge. The sheer excitement of playing on an international stage. We brought the English Universities team to the highest rank they’d ever made it in the International tournament, and that was showing that we had a shot at playing at International level, which was a great feeling.

Where did you come overall?

Kieran: Previous years, they only made 6th or 7th place, but we were lucky, we had some very close games and made the final 4. We unfortunately got knocked out in the semi-finals.

Tom: We lost to Scotland, again. About three times that tournament. And then against Switzerland.

Kieran: We were battling for third place against Switzerland as a national team, which was a really fun game to end it on. Overall, we ranked fourth and made it to the top division out of 12 teams, which was a record for England Unis.

You’re both the captains of the Kent Stags 1st team, did you feel like the babies in the English Universities team?

Tom: I did (laughs).

Kieran: Definitely. Luckily, our team was great where everyone wanted to better their game, have the best outcome and didn’t let a loss get them down. It motivates them to improve, and that’s the mentality you want.



You both started playing at university, how does it feel knowing you’ve played at international level, even though you only started playing at 18 or so?

Kieran: I feel we trained a lot. We worked hard. You would be able to get to that in most sports if you put that amount of time in, at least that I know we do. It’s the drive knowing that, when we joined uni, everyone had the same level of experience and it gave us that drive to be the best at our game because it’s showing what you put in is what you get out. It doesn’t sink in at all. When we think about the progress we’ve made compared to the people who may have studied here or local universities. I think a lot of it is mindset. Most of it is the mentality. Every time we’ve lost a game, or every time I’ve been beaten, I’ll think about it and use it to be constructive and find the ways of bettering that. It’s competitiveness, not wanting to lose.

Tom: In my first year, I was training like two hours a day, and I was always at the 3G (at the Pavillion on campus). In second year, it was the same. Putting in the hours.

Kieran: It’s just frustrating when you can’t get something right. It’s a perfectionist mentality. You want to be able you can say you can do it.

Did you have much training as a team for the internationals?

Kieran: Not as much as we’d wanted. Every individual was training on their own, but we have universities all over the country.

Tom: From Bristol, Nottingham, Bath, Leeds, Manchester. So we weren’t able to train together at all.

Kieran: We weren’t able to train together without notice, but most of our players were Captains or key players of their team and they were very adaptive. We had that advantage. We were one of the youngest teams at the Nationals, and for athleticism, we had the fitness. Compared to some of these international teams, a lot of them were older men who had the skills.

You didn’t know the English Universities team at all, so how did it differ from playing with City or Kent?

Kieran: A lot of the game is having an open mind and showing that you’re adaptive. That’s our roles as captains, we have to have patience and understanding, and being able to listen as well as lead. I think the first thing we noticed was the intensity and expectations of us. Not trying to steal the glory, you had to be a team player. Any time we had an opportunity and you thought it was yours, you had to think twice and see if your team had a better angle. It was a more selfless tournament for us at the international level, we were playing very safe. If you slipped, you were punished for it by the opposition.

Tom: Communicating with the other players was really important, that’s what I felt really helped me mesh in with the other players. Talking to them during the game and outside of the game as well.


What comes next?

Kieran: We’re still in touch with the English Universities team. We’re all looking into doing some alumni and some tournaments where we can enter as a team to represent as an English Universities squad. We’re the English Universities Squad of 2018.

Tom: I’ve still got two more years that I can play for that team, so I’ll hopefully go back next year and the year after.

Kieran: You have the benefit of them knowing who you are. You don’t have to create that presence again for yourself. It doesn’t mean you can just slack though. There are so many more players coming in, who can take over.

Tom: People can take your spot. You have to keep it up, in a year or two you can improve so much more.

Do you think Kent is able to create more players at a higher level like you have?

Kieran: With Canterbury City being a recent upgrade in Lacrosse and Kent as a region, that has given more opportunity to. I couldn’t promise if Kent could create more players or not, as long as it depends on who you recruit, the mentality they have and what they want to get out of the sport, whether it’s their own achievement. Some people come to play it as a university pass time and drop it completely after.

Tom: If they have the mindset of wanting to improve and being the best, they can be, it can be easily done.

Kieran: It’s to do with the full support of bodies like Kent Sport and Kent Union. For us, they’ve been great. In future, as long as they support all sports equally, giving the funding and the sports scholarship programmes. With information to get to that, and promoting that more, I think we’d definitely produce a lot more higher sports skills from Kent. We have in the past, with no resources but with certain individuals’ dedication, and we have resources that just need to be tapped into.

So, you think there is an element that comes from the university?

Kieran: I think the sports culture at the university is a big impact on it. If sports wasn’t appreciated at all, we wouldn’t want to play, what would we get out of it? You still want the team morale. The whole hype for Varsity against CCCU is a big morale for most of our team.

Tom: The university is important, but the main thing for me, is the individual and how much work they put in, and how much they want to improve.


What encouraged you to trial for the regional and national teams? Kieran, you just said you joined Lacrosse as more of a hobby, so what changed?

Kieran: When I first joined I didn’t consider any sports society. It was the fact that it was a new community, and at the time they had the same mentality, and who I could get along with. But then, it changed when I was a fresher and I said “I want to be doing that. I want to be playing for the 1st team and representing the university”. When it came to regionals and nationals, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable. You keep progessing, even how far we’ve made we still doubt ourselves. Every time we make a squad it’s a good satisfaction. What you put in is what you get out.

Tom: For me, I always took sports seriously before university, so I knew I wanted to join a sports club. Lacrosse found me. (laughs)

Tom, your Dad played for the English Lacrosse squad. Do you think that swayed you?

Tom: He played a couple games with the English squad, and he actually studied here too. When I came to UKC, I wasn’t in the mindset for Lacrosse, I was in the mindset for Football or Rugby, as I did it in sixth form. I went to one of the taster sessions, enjoyed it, loved the group of lads and that’s what made me do it. It just helps having someone to throw about with when I go home.

Tell us how you feel about the experience of playing on an International level as a whole.

Kieran: It’s really eye-opening. Playing the South is all I know, so playing internationally taught me a lot, how to improve and I want to do it again. Keep it up.

Tom: Seeing all the other players and how good I could possibly get really motivated me to actually improve in my training. I wanted to be as good as them. And the fresh stash was good too. (laughs)

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