Josh Phillips never thought much about his British heritage until a teammate on the Senior B lacrosse team in Nanaimo where he was playing at the time suggested his birthplace could earn him a place on England’s national box lacrosse team. If such a thing even existed.
It turns out it does.
Phillips will be taking time away from his duties as the goaltender for the Coquitlam Adanacs senior team to guard the English net at the first European Box Lacrosse Championships in Turku, Finland, July 8-15.
For Phillips, who was born in Blackpool but came to Canada at a young age, the chance to pull on a national team’s jersey comes with a large dose of adventure. And expense.
Box lacrosse is still a relatively young sport on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the field game is more developed, so there’s not much funding available. Players, including 10 from Canada, will have to pay for their own airfare and accommodation. But when Phillips and his new wife crunched the numbers he said the pros far outweighed the hit to their bank account.
“It works out to be too good an opportunity to get to see how they do things in Europe,” said Phillips, 26.
What he expects to see is 14 teams from Israel to Ireland playing a competitive brand of lacrosse that’s more heavily influenced by the field game than it is in North America.
“They’re getting more competitive every year,” said Phillips, who had to submit a resume and references of his lacrosse accomplishments to earn his roster spot.
That’s due in large part to North American players like Phillips heading over as ambassadors for their game, working with nascent club teams, playing for national sides to familiarize them with its fast pace and aggression.
Phillips said the accessibility of box lacrosse is driving its growth in new frontiers.
“Anyone can just pick up a stick and ball,” said Phillips. “You can pick up the game at any age if you have the desire.”
And he hopes his own story arc as a journeyman player who knocked around Intermediate and Senior B leagues before finally landing with the Western Lacrosse Association Adanacs three years ago will be an inspiration.
“I just hope I can go over there and show there’s all kinds of different skill levels,” said Phillips. “If you keep working at it and you have that drive, the sky is the limit.”