Swift exchange

Japanese lacrosse player adapts to life in Canada

Shingo Tanaka credits the North American style of play employed by his Japanese team for his transition to Canadian lacrosse.
Shingo Tanaka credits the North American style of play employed by his Japanese team for his transition to Canadian lacrosse.

Far away from home, Shingo Tanaka still feels comfortable on the lacrosse field.

The third-year Japanese exchange student joined the men’s varsity lacrosse team this fall, after wanting to do an exchange abroad and coming across the Queen’s Athletics program online.

“To be honest, before I came here, my expectations for the Queen’s team were lower than I feel now,” Tanaka said. “After I joined this team, I realized the level is very high.”

Tanaka is on exchange from Keio University in Tokyo, where he studies environmental economics and plays varsity lacrosse.

In Japan, competitive lacrosse is only played at the collegiate level. Tanaka was a multi-sport athlete in high school before picking up lacrosse in university.

A steady, reliable defenseman, Tanaka has scored two goals in nine games for the Gaels in 2012.

He’s adapted well to the Canadian style of play, which he attributes to Keio’s distinctly North American strategy.

His school faced the likes of NCAA Division 1 teams Georgetown, Towson and UMBC during a US tour this September.

“I think Keio’s play style is very similar to Canadian lacrosse,” Tanaka said. “In Canada, [the players] focus on short passes and quick play because they played box lacrosse in high school.”

“[Keio] focuses on fast breaks and transition play, which is a very similar style.”

Tanaka was immediately impressed by the Gaels’ skill level. After a disappointing 2011 season where the Gaels failed to win a game, Queen’s finished 4-5 this year, third in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association’s (CUFLA) East division.

The Gaels will face the Bishop’s Gaiters (8-2) tomorrow in a wildcard game to qualify for the Baggataway Cup, the CUFLA championship tournament.

Tanaka scored the Gaels’ first goal in their 7-6 loss to Bishop’s on Sept. 23.

“I think we have a good chance to win the league. We lost to McGill and Bishop’s but they were very close games — only by one goal or in overtime,” he said. “If we can complete our jobs and stay focused, we can definitely win the championship.”

Off the field, Tanaka has quickly made friends with many of his teammates.

“I’ve never lived by myself so it’s very challenging for me. I can speak English well, but I thought I’d have difficulty doing [daily things],” he said.

“I can enjoy living at Queen’s because the lacrosse guys are very kind and good guys.”

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