VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Wesleyan University will be well represented at the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships this summer as men’s lacrosse assistant coach, A.J. Smith, will be representing Team France.
Smith, a 2011 *Virginia Wesleyan University graduate, was selected to Team France on Jan. 8, 2018 to represent them in the upcoming tournament. The Virginia Beach native was declared eligible to try out for the team as his mother, Jody Smith, was born in France.
When asked about how he feels representing an entire country, Smith responded, “It didn’t hit me until I landed in Paris. When I was able to see the culture and history that Paris exudes, it was hard not to feel pride even if it was my first time there”
The road to making the team was no joke either. Despite lacrosse not being a primary sport in France, the delegation had over 60 men come to compete for 22-spots. The training was held in INCEP Paris (France’s Olympic training grounds) in July, where the athletes were put through drills and game situations to assess ability. After making it through first cuts, Smith travelled with the team to Scotland late august to play its national team.
“It’s cool not only to represent a country but also to represent the sport.” Smith stated. “While in Scotland, when we weren’t playing, we were teaching kids and kind of becoming ambassadors of lacrosse as a whole.”
With the French squad dwindled to roughly 30 possible members, it traveled to the United States for two contests against NCAA Division II teams in mid-October. Smith then waited another three months until he received word he made the 22-man roster, with his role set to be on defense.
“I am ecstatic to have made the team, I may have to brush up on my French a bit though” Smith joked. The roster is nearly 50-50, with half of the players native to France and the other half hailing from the United States and Canada.
Held once every four years, the World Lacrosse Championships will take place this upcoming July in Netanya, Israel. Smith will rejoin his teammates the first week of June in Paris for a week of practice, before jetting to Israel. France will be one of 50 countries being represented at the Championships, with the heavy favorites being USA, Canada, Israel and the Iroquois Nation.
Athletic Director Joanne Ren stated “Having A.J. qualify for the French National Lacrosse team is a testament to his innate talents and his commitment to hard work and perseverance. VWU is extremely proud of A.J. and we will be closely following him and his team this June as they compete on the world stage.”
VWU will keep viewers posted on how AJ Smith and the rest of the French team performs as the tournament draws closer.
*Virginia Wesleyan College at the time