I sit kneeling in the middle of the field and I look up at the scoreboard – Sweden: 19 China: 4 – the last game of our Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in England is over. I feel bruised, battered and, as the captain of Team China, I can safely say that was one of the toughest opponents we’ve ever faced. As I gingerly start to stand, my teammates form around me and I can’t help but notice one thing – everyone is grinning from ear to ear.

When I look back to our final game at the World Cup, I have an overwhelming sense of pride. Yes we were beaten – flogged even – by women twice our size, but it was a monumental moment for us. Six years ago lacrosse barely existed in China, but in our short time as a team we’ve been able to take a new sport, establish a community and bring China lacrosse to the world stage.

Of course the journey hasn’t been easy. In a country where badminton and basketball rule all, finding a group of women to not only play, but thrive in an obscure – at least for China – sport felt like an impossible feat.

The experience forging lacrosse in China and getting a team to the World Cup has helped shaped me in more ways than I could have ever expected, and today I want to share a few lessons I have learnt along the way.

lacrosse player china pose leader journey to world cup
It’s been a struggle to get from a training pitch in Shanghai to the green playing fields of England but our smiles show it’s worth it. ©changkuan.w

Take a chance on the underdog

I was the captain of my university basketball team when I was first introduced to lacrosse. Three of my peers approached me and asked me to join the new team, but I thought they were crazy. With no other players confirmed, there wasn’t much of a team to join. But what struck me was their confidence and energy – it was unlike anything I had seen in sport before. From that moment I had two choices: keep playing basketball or break out of my comfort zone.

When I look back at my choice today, I realize that taking that risk with lacrosse has resonated in all of my future life decisions. At work or on the field today, I am always more likely to look for those who don’t have the best resume in the pile. Instead, I look for those who have drive and perseverance. These are the hungry ones that work harder and will stick by you to the end.

Without passion, you’ll never grow

In those early years, our team numbers fluctuated. At the start of the first year our core group of four grew quickly to 20, but by the end of the year we were back down to four. This became a pattern, but the constant dip in numbers didn’t stop us. Our small group of four was passionately working towards a shared mission and that energy was contagious. By the time I left university that passion had spread and our network started to expand across Shanghai. With a solid roster of 30-40 women, we began playing in international competitions and it really started to feel like something big was brewing.

I admit, there have been times when my passion has faded, but when this happens I simply take a step back and remind myself of the groundwork we’ve covered. To stay motivated, it’s important to keep track of your achievements along the way. And just as importantly, when a teammate, friend or colleague does something brilliant as well, you need to cheer, applaud and shout it out loud to the rest of the world. The game has ingrained this in me.

women planking workout lacrosse china
Our roster of players in Shanghai has varied over the years but we keep our core strong.
women team arm in arm lacrosse china
Building the right attitude in training keeps us ready for our battles on and off the field.
women running down a hill lacrosse journey to success
We are always ready to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep moving.
women lacrosse team standing together team spirit
Our 2017 World Cup is over but we are already looking forward what we’ll achieve in four years’ time.
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It’s okay to pick yourself up again and again… and again

If you read my opening statement, you’ll realize that our team doesn’t sweat the losses. And this attitude stems from my first real lacrosse game. It was against a college team from Japan who were visiting Shanghai in 2012. We took the field full of confidence, but we were soon crushed. With a final score of 0-43, it was a massive blow to our egos. After the match, one of my teammates said something to me that struck a chord:

As soon as she said it, the words sunk in and this is the mantra our team carries to this very day. I even find myself using it off the field, too.

Whether it’s a project at work, a new hobby, or a game at the World Cup, we’re not always going to achieve greatness. You need to be ready to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving.

After that last game at the World Cup, we took the opportunity to connect and network with the other teams and coaches – it was one of the most valuable experiences for us. From here we will take our learnings and continue to push forward. In four years I am sure that Team China will be back at the World Cup and stronger than ever. If we’ve managed to grow this fast in the last six years, just imagine what four more will do.

14 COMMENTS

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by nitesh 25.07.2017
Dear Ariel - first of all congrats on your achivevement! It's big and thanks so much for sharing your story... it's a great learning for me that how important it is to count your wins and enjoy success along the way... and then contemplating what more you can do with all the experience.
Good luck in the next world cup!
Nitesh
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by Ariel Luo nitesh 27.07.2017
Thank you! Seeing what's better makes us a better team, sure we'll work hard and play in higher lever next time[Fighting!
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by Kim Scheffler 25.07.2017
Beautiful, heartfelt and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I'm cheering from Philadelphia area for Team China women's lacrosse.
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by Ariel Luo Kim Scheffler 27.07.2017
Thank you! We have so many people cheering for us which give up energy to move forward even more, best wishes to you too!
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by Jenia 26.07.2017
Hey Ariel, thank you so much for sharing! I love the sentence: "It's not about the win, it's about the effort you put into the game!"All the best for team China!!!
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by Ariel Luo Jenia 27.07.2017
Thank you for cheering team China! Loving this sport make big impact on each players life, we are more confident and stronger, that's what matters!
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by Larry 26.07.2017
Very very well said. I coach some young HS age ladies in the Berkshires/western Massachusetts USA who are from Shanghai n others are from other parts of China. To say you n your team's entry into the world championship was a surprise is an understatement.
Congrats on all your efforts. You are one of the pioneers n you have laid the groundwork for the future.
Thank you.
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by Ariel Luo Larry 27.07.2017
Thank you! What you're doing is impressive! Sports are so important in building kids' personality but has been overlooked in China always. Are you coaching lacrosse? Tell the girls to join our league game when they get back China :)
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by Julia Moll 28.07.2017
Wow, amazing inspiring story with true learnings behind. I was not even aware that China has a professional lacrosse team, not mention a Women's! Well done, and you and your team should be very proud!
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by Christopher Enckell 01.08.2017
Thank you for sharing!
There is a lot of things you mention that was similar to the Swedish team back in 2013. Back then we lost every game and finished dead last. However most of our players had the best experience of their lives during the World Cup and in our preparations for WC17 we were more players and better than ever before. I wish you all the best for you coming endeavours! I shared your article with the Swedish team and feel free to reach out if you want to share some more experiences between the teams.
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by David Gordon Gellatly 09.10.2017
Best attitude ever, wish these girls every success !
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by Sean James 25.10.2017
This was a excellent article not just one of motivation but one that develops drive in others. I'm proud of you and your team for your development and accomplishments. Good luck on all your future endeavors and keep growing and show that women can play just as well if not better then men!
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by Scarlett 26.10.2017
Hi Ariel,

I'm so glad to see the establishment and growth of a woman's lacrosse team! My hometown is Shanghai, China. I am a current high school in the U.S. and have played lacrosse for two seasons. I'd love to hear more about you about lacrosse and that would be great if I could come and visit someday. :)

Scarlett
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by Joseph 28.07.2018
I don't usually leave comments but I just wanted to say well done, Ariel. We live in a world where you perform or perish. It's nice to know that there are people out there who value the effort put in. Good luck with the lacrosse and everything else.. May it always be about the effort and the sense of fulfillment.
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