Douglas Kisinger Thompson is standing on the sideline watching his team training. They’re practicing different moves and defense formations – over and over again. It’s a chilly Saturday afternoon and you can see the players’ breath as they sprint back and forth across the field. Kisinger Thompson’s cell phone rings; he has an upcoming away game to organize. He moves away from the field of play. In the background, he can hear the players brusquely rebuking one another. “Lacrosse can be a rough game, both physically and verbally,” he says as he moves to answer his phone. A couple of minutes later, he’s back on the sideline. The team is warming down. He high-fives and exchanges a few words with each player as they leaves the field.
Kisinger Thompson has been at SAP since 1995 and is currently a member of the SAP HANA Platform Applications Team. In his spare time, he manages Germany’s National Women’s Lacrosse Team. Lacrosse? In some countries, it’s a national sport. In Germany and other parts of Europe, however, the game that’s played with a long-handled stick strung with a net still has a reputation as a niche sport.
Lacrosse has its origins in North America
Lacrosse originated on the east coast of the North American continent. As far back as 400 years ago, the indigenous peoples played a game that was similar to lacrosse. They called it “baggatway,” which means “little brother of war.” For the Native Americans, lacrosse was a way of strengthening bonds within a community and of settling disputes between tribes. In the mid-nineteenth century, the modern form of lacrosse became increasingly popular in Canada and gradually spread from North America to Oceania.
Next page: The rules of the game
By the beginning of the 20th century, lacrosse was even an Olympic sport, but was subsequently dropped from the list of official disciplines. According to Kisinger Thompson, who was born in Denver, USA, the sport is chiefly played at colleges and universities in North America. “Lacrosse has been a major college sport for a long time, whereas in Germany, it’s only been played for about the last 20 years.” Currently, about 40 clubs offer the sport in Germany. And Kisinger Thompson is skeptical that lacrosse will ever achieve the level of popularity that it enjoys in North America. “There are obstacles to that happening,” he says. It’s a complicated game and the equipment is very expensive, which is why it is often seen as an elite sport. In my view, it is these factors that are preventing lacrosse from reaching a wider audience.”
Lacrosse is played with a solid rubber ball and wooden stick, called a “crosse,” that is fitted at the top with a scoop-like section of synthetic netting. In contrast to most ball games, lacrosse goals are not located at either end of the pitch, but set forward 45 feet from the end lines. The rules for the men’s and women’s games differ significantly too. In men’s lacrosse, more body contact is permitted, so the players wear a helmet and protective clothing – including elbow pads, shoulder pads, and mouth guards. Women’s lacrosse is a non-contact sport, where only mild “checking” is permitted in order to win the ball. This means that women don’t need quite so much protective clothing. A team consists of up to 23 players. In the men’s game, ten players are on the field simultaneously; in the women’s game, the maximum is twelve. A distinction is made between technical and personal fouls: these can result in either time penalties or automatic possession for the opposing team. A lacrosse game consists of four 15-minute or four 20-minute quarters in the men’s game and two 30-minute halves in the women’s game. For more information about the rules of lacrosse, see this series of videos.
Speed, physicality, and history add to the sport’s fascination
Douglas Kisinger Thompson didn’t catch the “lacrosse bug” until a little later in life. His fascination began three years ago, when he watched his nephew playing lacrosse in Dallas. “I was hooked straight away, not just by the speed and physicality of the game, but also by its history and idiosyncrasies.” For example, defenders play with longer sticks than attackers. When a team is on the attack, the playing formations change constantly and team members can be substituted “on the fly.” The differences between the men’s and women’s games are also significant. Kisinger Thompson says, “It’s precisely these variations that make the sport so interesting.”
Next page: From Dallas to the lacrosse Bundesliga
As soon as he returned to Germany from Dallas, he began searching for clubs that offered lacrosse and soon found Sport-Club Frankfurt 1880. “It wasn’t long before I was wielding a crosse for the very first time. Three years on, I’m playing in the Bundesliga West league for the Kaiserslautern Lumberjacks team.”
He also took on organizational tasks at the club, particularly in support of its work with children and young people. He wants them to discover the joy of doing sports, which he considers to be “vital to personal development.” “Lacrosse builds stamina, skill, strategic thinking, speed, and team spirit. These are all things that help me on the field of play and in my daily work at SAP,” he adds.
Work-life balance: from mobile apps for the iPad to the lacrosse field
Most recently, Kisinger Thompson worked in Knowledge Management as a mobile lead for SAP Business ByDesign. He just joined the SAP HANA Platform Applications area a few weeks ago, where he’s currently working on a mobile app for iPads. “Particularly on days when things are rather chaotic at work, I love being able to pull on my lacrosse gear and get out on the pitch in the evening. One step onto the field and my daily cares disappear. Lacrosse is so intensive and action-packed that you simply don’t have time to think about anything else,” says American-born Kisinger Thompson, who settled in Germany more than 20 years ago.
In 2012, he organized Germany’s national men’s and women’s lacrosse championships. And it was not long after the tournament that he was asked to become team manager of the national women’s team. “That was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. But it’s taking up much more time than I originally thought it would.” As well as monthly training camps and international tournaments, 2013 held a very special highlight in store for Kisinger Thompson and his team: the Women’s World Lacrosse Championships in Oshawa, Canada, in July.
“We had some great moments at the World Championships, including a friendly against Canada, one of the world’s best teams and one that you usually only get to see on TV. The atmosphere among the players from the 19 participating countries was fantastic. Oshawa is considered the birthplace of lacrosse, and we were able to learn a great deal about the culture of the indigenous peoples of the region while we were there.” Sadly, the German team only managed to reach 12th place in the competition. Nevertheless, despite some stressful moments, Kisinger Thompson has fond memories of this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. “Looking after 30 players and employees 24 hours a day for two weeks was really hard work at times. The World Championships were fun, but I’ll admit that I was really glad to get back to my desk.”
Kisinger Thompson’s dream: Lacrosse at the Olympics
Lacrosse is not currently an Olympic discipline, but Kisinger Thompson hopes that it will soon again be recognized by the International Olympic Committee: “For me, taking part in the Olympic Games would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.”