By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/5/09
As a charter member of the Interboro High lacrosse team early in the decade, Jeff Struble learned a lot about playing for a new program.
That has made it easier in his current role as adult team captain and youth coach in Marburg, Germany.
Struble, a 2003 Interboro graduate who played for the Bucs when they first formed a boys’ club team in 2000, is a key member of the defense on the Marburg Saints in the Western Germany Lacrosse League.
Struble is a second-year graduate student at Philipps Universität in Marburg, about an hour north of Frankfurt in the central region of Germany.
As defensive captain, Struble is one of the few veteran players for a team that began playing five years ago and stands in fifth place with a 5-3 record.
After Struble was named defensive captain, player-coach Christian Theis asked him to assist in running practices. Struble, who speaks fluent German, said many of the players were introduced to lacrosse only in the past two or three years.
“The league has really good athletes,” Struble said. “Some of the players are here from America (because they are) in the Army or Navy and are stationed at the Army base.
“The other guys are new to the sport and are running around with a stick in one hand while looking to be holding a pan with boiling oil in the other. We have both extremes. Some just need the stick skills, but they want it (to play well) just as bad as anywhere else.”
Struble is playing on the Marburg team for the second time. He first played in Germany two years while on an exchange program through Millersville University. He graduated from Millersville 18 months ago with a bachelor’s degree in German.
“One thing is that they love playing,” said Struble, who was a captain during his senior year at Interboro. “With me being an American, everything I tell them at practice they take in like a sponge. They love to learn.
“I remember my first year as an exchange student. They hadn’t played much, but they knew everything about lacrosse. They learned the history before they could cradle.
“Since they only practice once a week, they learned by reading. But they have learned so quickly. They are getting better and better; what we learn in six years, they seem to be able to do in three years.”
Struble said when he was asked to help coach the defense for Marburg, he sought advice from Duke’s Lacrosse Club Ebe Helm, his former defensive coach at Interboro.
“I had never coached before, but I know how to play defense,” Struble said. “When I coach the boys, I have to start at the beginning, from how and when to bend their knees.”
“They don’t have referees, so we have to ref games when we don’t play,” Struble said. “So if Marburg plays Frankfurt, Cologne players come and ref. That helps us all to learn the game even better; you see what a penalty really is.”
Struble also has enjoyed coaching the town’s youth team for boys aged 11 to 15. The lacrosse field is close to the skate park and youths are becoming drawn to the action of lacrosse.
“We just started this season,” he said. “They are growing and growing, every practice we get three or four new kids. They hang out nearby since the skate park is right next to us.”
Struble smiles when he thinks of his path in lacrosse. He wished to note the model set by his coach at Interboro, Ken Eckler.
“Lacrosse is more popular in Germany than most other European countries,” Struble said “Other than in England and Ireland, it’s more popular here than anywhere else in continental Europe.
“When I was 14 I had never heard of lacrosse,” Struble added. “In the past decade the popularity has doubled, everywhere. It’s amazing how it has grown, even though it’s the oldest sport.”
To read about Jeff Struble’s Marburg’s team in German, click here at www.marburg-saints.com
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