Editor’s note: Thailand Lacrosse President, Payu was recently interviewed in the March issue of the Prestige Magazine (Thailand Edition), the focus of the interview was on his reasoning and the effort to grow the game of lacrosse in Thailand. The following contents were taken from the article in the Prestige magazine.
STICKING TO HIS GOALS by Vipasai Niyamabha
Real estate developer and founder/president of the Thailand Lacrosse Association Prantarit Nerngchamnong tells Vipasai Niyamabha how nice it is to no longer be Bangkok’s only lacrosse fan.
Lacrosse, America’s oldest team sport, has made a comeback. Enjoying increased popularity in the West over the past few years, the sport’s appeal also seems to be spreading quickly around the rest of the world. Coverage of lacrosse can now be found in the sports section of many international newspapers, while the ancient sport has also found audiences in one of the world’s most modern media – YouTube (with some over two millions hits). Which is all of special significance to Prantarit “Payu” Nerngchamnong, founder and the first president of the Thailand Lacrosse Association (TLA) – who finds himself no longer Bangkok’s only lacrosse fan.
“My big brother (sort of assigned mentor) at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts, was the captain of the school lacrosse team,” Payu begins. “So I decided to have a go at the sport, under his introduction and guidance, and got hooked right away.”
Sitting in the Premier Lounge of Novotel Impact overlooking the Yamaha stadium, the home field of Thailand’s national lacrosse team, the TLA founder recalls how, as a 10-year-old, he left his hometown in Chonburi to attend a private boarding school on the other side of the world.
“There were compulsory sports activities each season, so I was able to try something new. When Spring came, it was time for lacrosse. I played from grades 6 to 9 at Eaglebrook then continue on at Suffield Academy thru 12 grade, and have been passionate about the game ever since.”
Before taking on any new sports, Payu had to obtain permission from his parents. He recalls sending them a photographs of the equipment, which included a crosse or lacrosse stick, a long-handled stick used for holding a small rubber ball. They were very amused and wrote back saying it looked exactly like the long stick strung with loose mesh that was used for gathering mangoes in Chon Buri” he say with a smile.
His late mother Sunattee, supported Payu in his passion for the sport from the start, right up until she passed away in 2009 (right before the founding of TLA). “When she saw I was so passionate about lacrosse, she encouraged me to make something special out of the sport I loved. She helped me plan the lacrosse project from the very beginning. All that is happening now is what she and I had planned together. She is still my driving force. She taught me never to give up,” he says.
Taking over as chairman of his late mother’s real estate development group, Payu has been forced to focus on business at hand. Despite the challenges, he say setting up the TLA has been worth every minute, as it’s a tribute to his beloved mother.
“Last year; the Federation of International Lacrosse, or FIL, the lacrosse version of FIFA, approved TLA as an official associate member. I owe special thanks to Tom Hayes, the FIL Director of Development and also the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, who support Thailand lacrosse in our quest.”
For Payu, lacrosse is a face-paced team sport, but one that does not require raw athletic ability like football or hockey. “The game is about stick skills, strategy, and finest. The lacrosse stick is used to catch, cradle (carry), and pass the ball, and strike at opposing players to repossess it. The objectives is to shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal to score,” he explains, adding how much fun it is to watch the game and how easy to follow even for those seeing it for the first time.
“From the start, I’ve tried to make lacrosse accessible to more people, not just to those who have attended boarding school abroad. Twice a week, the team practices at Arena 10 in Thonglor to promote interest in the sport and attract newcomers. We’ve even recruited a new potential players this way. We’re also building a lacrosse community through social media like Facebook, Twitter and it gives us incredible exposure.”
Payu is only too aware of the team’s need for more experience through, and was instrumental in launching the Thailand vs. Hong Kong Friendly Cup back in 2010. The team won the ‘Friendly Cup’ against Hong Kong national team in the first ever lacrosse game to be played in Thailand (and in 2011). ”I’m now Singapore Lacrosse’s interim president also, and I’m hoping to create a community for the sport in the region so we can grow our teams together in the years to come,” he says.
The TLA president admits lacrosse is a hobby that is taking up more and more of his time, often at the cost of his regular work. He devotes himself to the sport, from training to marketing, etc. and say he has no regrets at all. ”There are objectives to reach and I’m doing my best as a catalyst to achieve them. Although the game may not reach its ultimate success in my lifetime, I’m grateful to have had the chance to do my part in establishing lacrosse in my motherland.”