YORKTON - When it comes to box lacrosse Canada remains a juggernaut, the national team not having lost a game in World Championship play.
But, that doesn’t mean other countries are playing the game without hopes of one day challenging the world elite, Canada, the United States and the Iroquois Nation the perennial podium dwellers.
One of those national teams hoping to get better is Switzerland where Canadian Brian Tyacke as head coach is trying to build a program, essentially from the floor up.
Tyacke ended up in the head coaching job in part because he showed an interest in growing the sport in Germany first.
“I moved to Germany just over 10 years ago,” explained the New Westminster, B.C. born Tyacke in an interview in late December when he was home for the holidays.
While in Germany Tyacke became involved in box lacrosse helping a team in Berlin get better organized and ready to attend tournaments in Europe.
“Shortly after that (around 2015) we were at a tournament in Prague,” said Tyacke. “. . .This tournament in Prague is the biggest box lacrosse tournament in Europe.”
That tournament would prove a door opener for Tyacke. He was approached by the general manager of the Swiss team and asked if he would be interested in coaching the country’s national team.
“I said why not? Let’s give it a shot,” he said, adding it was a good opportunity to transition to the bench, and close enough to Germany he could fly in on weekends to coach the team.
The sport in Switzerland existed before Tyacke arrived, but barely.
“It was there, but I would say it wasn’t very well organized,” he said.
The biggest thing was that players rarely picked up a lacrosse stick when young.
“Guys didn’t start playing until the end of high school, or university,” he said, adding in Canada players are often playing by the time they are five, six, seven. “… They grow up playing here (in Canada).”
The lack of experience and the lack of games played impacts skills, game IQ, and that is what Tyacke must help develop.
That difference is a huge hurdle for Swiss players who simply do not have the experience on the floor of teams from countries where box lacrosse is more ingrained as a sport.
Tyacke added in Switzerland, the field game, while still a minor sport, is more popular than the box game, and so he is working on converting players to the indoor game.
While some countries recruit from abroad to populate national teams for world events, Scotland and Israel among those over the years, Tyacke said Switzerland has chosen to focus on talent in country. A Canadian could play for the team but must live in country “helping develop players.” They can’t just fly-in for tournaments.
“We make do with what we have,” he said.
The approach means the Swiss team is not looking to be on the podium just yet.
“We’re not going for the gold medal. It’s just about growing the game,” said Tyacke.
Even within Europe the Swiss are still working to be among the top teams.
“The Czechs are number one right now,” he said.
But, Tyacke sees growth in his Swiss team. He pointed to the 2015 World Championships where he said the team was “blown out.” Four years later in Langley, B.C. “we were losing games by one or two goals . . . The progress is there.”
Of course that wasn’t playing Canada or other top teams either.
“It would be fun to play them (Canada) for a quarter, but we’re not on the same level at all,” said Tyacke.
Closer to home for the Swiss team they will be readying for the European Championships in August, an event showing the growth of box lacrosse in the region. Tyacke said they are anticipating 15 or 16 countries involved in August. Four years ago it was 10.
So what does Tyacke hope the Swiss achieve at the Hanover, Germany event?
“I think for us a good tournament would be in the top-seven. The top-five would be exceptional.”