Altrincham lacrosse star Tom Bracegirdle is spearheading a brave new world for the sport

Tom Bracegirdle 1 - Credit Rafaella Macintosh (1)
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A brave new world for the sport of lacrosse is being led by Altricham’s Tom Bracegirdle, who dreams of being an Olympian in seven years’ time.

The 27-year-old former Altrincham Grammar School pupil will captain Great Britain’s men at July’s World Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Games, held the year after the Summer Olympics, are the biggest single shop window for non-Olympic sports and Bracegirdle wants to capitalise.

“It’s a huge opportunity for the sport and for the Great Britain team,” he said.

“We’ve been to European and World Championships representing our home nations but not anything on this scale.

“It’s going to have a phenomenal impact in inspiring the next generation and to show the level of skill and athleticism in the sport.

“Lacrosse is a niche sport, people don’t really know what it is, so this is a game-changer.”

The former Altrincham Grammar School pupil will captain Great Britain’s men at the World Games next month

It’s an appropriate phrase for Britain’s captain to use because this game has changed – literally.

The rough and tumble stick-and-ball sport, dominated by USA and Canada, is traditionally 10-a-side with an arcane set of rules and rhythms.

As part of World Lacrosse’s bid for inclusion at the LA 2028 Olympics, the World Games will see a faster, ‘sixes’ format played internationally for the first time.

The new format – think The Hundred for lacrosse – promises more pace, more space for athleticism to show, more goals and stripped-back laws of the game.

“The traditional format can be hard to grasp,” Bracegirdle explained. “Flags are used to signal and friends of mine look at that and think, ‘what are they?’

“The sixes format streamlines the game and I think it’ll be easier to understand. You always get your traditionalists but the sport has been open to change.

“The feedback we’ve had is that people love to play and people love to watch it.”

Bracegirdle in action for Great Britain

The Great Britain squads are made up of architects, marketing managers, tradespeople and office workers who juggle the sport with full-time careers.

“It’s incredibly difficult to manage around work and life and it’s been a significant challenge for us to fit in training,” said Bracegirdle.

“You’ve got to be super dedicated in terms of fitting everything in and ideally, have a supportive employer.”

England won gold at the 2016 European Championships and finished fifth at the 2018 World Championships.

Despite the dominance of North American giants, Bracegirdle is setting the bar high for Britain on their Games debut.

“First and foremost, a medal has got to be what we’re striving for,” he said.

“You can’t go thinking it would be great if we managed to finish fourth. The format is a massive leveller of the playing field.

“It’s tough to compete with 23 Americans who play full-time and 23 Canadians who play professionally. When we’re talking about the top 12 players, the margins are finer.”

The biggest possible carrot lies on the distant horizon, a place on the Olympic programme for the 2028 Games.

“Even when I first started playing, it was always on the tips of everyone’s tongues, talking about Olympic aspirations,” said Bracegirdle, who started playing aged ten and would be 34 at LA 2028.

“LA is realistic – it helps that America are good at it, a chance of a gold medal will help in terms of getting it in. What an opportunity that would be.”

British Lacrosse is the national coordinating body for men’s and women’s elite lacrosse in Great Britain with a vision to inspire and generate enthusiasm, participation and pride in lacrosse across the country. For more information, visit www.britishlacrosse.org

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