‘There’s nothing more special than wearing a jersey with your country’s name on it’: lacrosse hall-of-famer Kyle Harrison promotes pride in the sport while in Hong Kong
The 34-year-old American says the city could one day be represented in the US Major League
Three-time Major League Lacrosse all-star Kyle Harrison saw it all in his prime: the awards, the national team call-ups, the hall of fame inductions.
But the 34-year-old American was amazed after seeing his signature gloves being worn at a three-day training camp for local elite and junior players in Hong Kong at the weekend.
“I just texted my mum because I saw kids wearing my signature K18 gloves,” said a delighted Harrison after rounding up a lacrosse session at Club de Recreio in Kowloon.
“I never would have thought I’d see them in Hong Kong. That’s the stuff you dream about; getting off a plane in Hong Kong, coming to a lacrosse field and seeing people wearing my equipment.”
A post shared by Kyle Harrison (@kyleharrison18) on Jan 11, 2018 at 7:04pm PST
Harrison rose to stardom in 2005 after leading Johns Hopkins University to the NCAA championship and winning the coveted Tewaaraton Award for his individual performances. The midfielder went on to represent the US national team in 2006 and 2014, and now plays for Major League team Ohio Machine after a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury.
Now an “older guy”, Harrison feels it is his duty to also take up an ambassadorial role in a sport that provided him with so much.
“Lacrosse combines the best aspects of all other sports. If you like the physicality of [American] football, the offensive scheming of soccer, the athleticism needed for hockey, the hand-eye coordination of baseball ... this is one of the few sports that puts it into one,” he said.
“Once you start playing and being around people who can coach it, you gravitate towards it. The shooting and dodging is fun, and once the stick work starts to make sense, the more fun it becomes.
“The coolest part is that most people in my position feel tasked with getting more people involved in the game. We’re all just trying to push this thing along.”
Harrison never expected he would become a professional, let alone have his name etched in the sport’s history books. Like father, like son.
“Growing up, I played basketball, lacrosse and soccer,” said Harrison, son of pivotal lacrosse player Miles Harrison, who played on the first all-black college team in the NCAA.
“The craziest part is that being a professional lacrosse player was not my dream. I wanted to be an athlete for sure, I just didn’t know what sport I wanted to play. The fact that I’m in Hong Kong teaching the sport is a blessing.
“My father has a pretty serious history in the sport. As a kid, I don’t think he pushed it on me as much because he didn’t want me to feel pressured from everything he accomplished.
“But as I got older, I started to understand my family history and what he meant to the sport – I just gravitated towards it.
“Diversity is a hot topic in our sport. As an African-American lacrosse player, it’s my job and duty to push diversity in the sport and do all I can to get more folks involved.”
After spending sessions with the Hong Kong University men’s and women’s lacrosse team and dozens of less experienced players, Harrison is certain the city’s lacrosse future is bright; we may even see local player feature in the major league one day.
“Absolutely,” said Harrison. “I think in the next decade – with all the work [Hong Kong men’s coach] Scott [Browning] and the coaches have done – there will be some playing major league or division one. We’ll hear about it.”
A post shared by Kyle Harrison (@kyleharrison18) on Jan 13, 2018 at 3:25pm PST
“The sport is obviously new here but it’s one of the few places where it’s a completely level playing field. You can be overweight, skinny, tall, short, strong, weak, but you have to develop the stick skills in order to be productive.”
Lacrosse – at its core – is a stick and ball sport, and Harrison made sure the new generation of Hong Kong lacrosse players remembered that.
“When it comes to the basics and fundamentals, they never go away,” he said. “What I’ve been most impressed with is that they do exactly what they’re supposed to do when I give them advice.
“Whether you’re a player in Hong Kong or you’re in the US national team, we’re doing the same fundamentals; 20 minutes of stick work, 10 minutes of ground ball work ... that stuff is important, no matter how high you take the sport.”
For those still trying to crack the code of how to balance studies, sport, and social life, however, Harrison conceded there might not be enough room for all three.
“It’s all about prioritising and time management,” he said. “I was able to have the success I had in college because I did my job in the classroom and did my job on the lacrosse field. Everything else was irrelevant.
“It wasn’t a fun life for four years, obviously your social life is going to suffer, but you just have to be laser focused and make the sacrifice.”
With the Hong Kong Lacrosse Open approaching at the end of April and the men’s team preparing for the quadrennial world championships in Israel this summer, the local lacrosse scene is thriving more than ever, and Harrison has some pearls of wisdom to impart.
“Make sure you don’t take it for granted, because when it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said. “I didn’t go through the whole tryout process for the national team, but [representing US] is something I look back on fondly.
“There’s nothing more special than wearing a jersey with your country’s name on it,” Harrison added. “These are the situations where when you’re 50 years old with your kids, you’re showing photos of you playing against other countries.”