Lacrosse is perhaps the oldest organized sport to be played in North America, with games dating back almost 1,000 years. Hundreds of Native American men from opposing tribes once gathered on open fields to pass a ball with sticks while using rocks or trees as goals.
It was French missionaries who would give the sport its present name. They used their term for field hockey: “le jeu de la crosse.”
While the sport has gained international attention over the centuries, it is just now making an impact along the Alabama Gulf Coast. One of the main reasons for this was the arrival of Zach Pall.
“I was 8 years old at a roller hockey game,” Pall told Lagniappe. “One of the coaches recommended to my parents that I should try lacrosse.
“I was hooked immediately. Once you get the stick in your hands, it is hard to put down.”
While growing up on Long Island in the town of Setauket, he was part of the Elite Empire State Team in New York. After earning High School All-American honors, Pall would play at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut (2008-10) and at Hofstra University in New York (2010-12).
During his senior year in college, his parents moved to Mobile. After living in Brooklyn for six months following graduation, he decided to make a life change and joined them in Alabama.
He was pleased to see some local youngsters playing lacrosse, but he said the fathers were still learning about the game. “I took the opportunity to help that organization at the beginning,” Pall said. “I went on to help several recreational leagues.”
Company is born
It was at this point Pall got the idea to turn his passion for lacrosse into a career. In 2013, he formed Parallax Lacrosse to teach area players the finer points of the sport.
“It was more structured and formal,” Pall said. “I could get the kids exactly what they needed.”
Players range in age from 8 to 18. Practices have taken place from Perdido Key to Fairhope and from Daphne to Mobile.
“We have a travel team that enters tournaments on weekends,” Pall said. “In November, we will play in Destin. In December, we will play at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex.”
Pall said his players come to lacrosse from football, baseball and soccer.
“We like all different types of athletes,” he said. “Lacrosse encompasses all sports into one. It is not as violent as football with head trauma, but it is more physical and fast-paced than baseball and soccer. It is very appealing to all sorts of athletes who are looking to branch out and try something different.”
The training is paying off. Pall said two of his former players are now on teams at Birmingham-Southern College and Greensboro College in North Carolina.
“Lacrosse is the original North American sport,” Pall said. “It is now the fastest growing sport in the U.S. We even have professional teams that play outdoors [Major League Lacrosse] and indoors [National Lacrosse League].
To learn more about Pall’s program in Mobile, visit www.Parallaxlacrosse19.com or call 251-654-6551.
Despite spending most of his time as a coach, Pall has not lost his competitive spirit. He recently made an impact on the world scene as a member of the Israeli national indoor squad.
“It was in 2014 that the process began,” said Pall, who was among several Jewish Americans on the roster. “The next year at the Indoor World Championships, we finished fourth and lost to the U.S. for the bronze medal.”
The indoor game — or box format — started in Canada when teams were forced inside because of the bitter winters. The style has grown in popularity.
This past year, Pall was invited back to the Israeli indoor team for the inaugural European Lacrosse Federation title. Fourteen teams competed for the crown in Finland.
The title match featured Israel and the Czech Republic, with both sporting perfect 5-0 records. It was an evenly played match, as the teams were tied 5-5 at the half and 6-6 after three quarters. After gaining a slight 8-7 edge in the closing minutes, Israel managed to scoop up a rebound off a save with 20 seconds to play to secure the trophy.
The gold medal was the first in a team sport in Israel’s 69-year history. They finished second at last year’s European Field Championships and fourth in the 2014 World Indoor Championships.
“We were actually ranked No. 1 going into the tournament, but you can never go in expecting to win,” Pall said. “The team knew what their job was. We never looked past any opponent.
“This was one of the greatest experiences that sports has given to me. There were a lot of Jewish guys wanting to represent Israel. It is a pretty amazing feeling.”
Pall hopes to experience a similar high soon, as he tries out out for Israel’s national outdoor team. He leaves this Thursday for the next round of tryouts. He won’t have to worry about jet lag as the games will be played in the U.S.
“The tryouts are from October 1st to the 8th,” Pall said. “The first weekend we play in Syracuse, New York, and the second weekend we play in Maryland.”
According to the Israel men’s national lacrosse team website, the scrimmages with some of the world’s top-ranked international, college and club teams are also to promote the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships that will take place in Israel next July.
Two of the opponents include Team USA and the Iroquois Nationals, which are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the world, respectively, as well as an ambitious schedule of NCAA powerhouses such as Towson and Syracuse. The Israelis are winless in their nine previous exhibitions against American college teams.
“What I am doing here is what the Israeli officials want players like us to do,” Pall said. “They are giving the game of lacrosse to kids across the world.
“There are guys from America like me who played lacrosse who are teaching kids in Israel. One of those first kids was on European championships. The goal is to have all Israeli players. Until then, we are the face of Israeli lacrosse.”