Kinuko Shiotani — lacrosse player and mother to 3 boys — on how lacrosse is a part of her life and how she fits in 3-4 weekly trainings as a mother
Kinuko is a mother to 3 boys and currently that is the only job she has! She previously worked at Goldman Sachs and retired right before she got married.
Kinuko was part of the Hong Kong team who competed at the 2017 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, held in U.K. from 12 – 22 July. She currently plays as a midfielder and has represented Hong Kong twice in the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup (2013 and 2017). She has also travelled with the Hong Kong team to New Zealand for ASPAC (Asia Pacific Tournament in 2011), Canada for the World Cup in 2013, and to Berlin, California, and South Korea for other international tournaments.
Kinuko started playing lacrosse in university when she was studying in Tokyo, and fell in love with the sport right away. She joined a club team in Tokyo after graduation. After moving to Hong Kong 8 years ago, she immediately searched for a lacrosse community here, because she knew she would be able to find her new lacrosse family. Lacrosse is a special sport like many other sports: the people involved love it so much that whenever and wherever there is a lacrosse community or a team, they feel a special bond and form such close bonds that they become a family.
Congratulations on playing at the 2017 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup! How are you feeling and was there a special moment?
We won four games in total against Switzerland, Colombia, Belgium and then Switzerland again. The second game against Switzerland was a very close game. It was a draw at the end of the game, so we played overtime, eventually we won by a one-goal difference. This was the most exciting game.
There is sometimes the perception that women’s lacrosse is dangerous and rough (because the men’s game is so). Is this true?
It can be dangerous sometimes like any other sport. We run a lot, we have contact, and we use a stick, and the shots and the passes can be very hard and fast sometimes but that makes the sport exciting and enjoyable. We wear mouth guards and goggles for protection to avoid critical injuries.
How did you first get into lacrosse? What do you enjoy about lacrosse?
I love to run. Lacrosse is a lot of running, and the faster the better. Passes and shots can be very fast as well. The speed and learning to use a stick requires you to play at a higher level and I enjoy the aggressiveness and the team work.
When you first started lacrosse, what was the hardest part about learning and playing?
At first, it was catching the ball with the stick, but once I got the basic stick skills it became easier. And similar to how many other sports are learned, once I got better, I was able to focus on how to win the game, how to defend the opponent, how to attack the goal, how to gain game momentum and even how to gain it back if losing a few points.
Why does lacrosse matter to you?
Because it is my life and I am all about lacrosse. I have learnt so much from lacrosse, not only the game or how to play it but about leadership, team work and friendships, and how to communicate with people. I cherish all the bitter and sweet moments that lacrosse has brought to me.
With regards to your family, do you encourage your children to play lacrosse or other team sports? What values do you hope they can learn from playing sports?
Yes I most certainly do encourage them to play sports.
I hope they can learn team building and bonding, leadership and perseverance, hard work and being diligent. Also, all the grit to become successful, strong and a loving person.
We sometimes hear mothers (and you have 3!) are too busy for competitive, team sports. How do you set aside time to attend lacrosse trainings and competition?
I have 3 sons who are 7, 5 and 1.5 years old respectively. So fitting in my 3-4 times a week training plus 3-4 times a week gym sessions are not easy. But it basically comes down to managing my time, such as finding the extra slot in my diary to go to the gym, doing homework, reading together with my kids before I head to trainings. I cook meals whenever I have time — sometimes I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time at 6am in the morning!
Needless to say, the most important fact and what I appreciate the most is the support and help from my family, whom I feel grateful for and they should not be taken for granted. They are so understanding and supportive, and fully aware of how important lacrosse is to me, and how much help I needed. I cannot thank them enough for that.
When it comes to attending training and practices, I suggest to schedule it first and don’t rely too much on your will power. Set a goal, and if going to the gym or trainings is a key path to the goal, then this must be part of your daily routine. All you have to do is to adjust all the other daily routine to fit your schedule.
Sometimes we also hear mothers say, “Oh I’m not good at sports” or “Oh, I haven’t played sports in a long time” and are therefore reluctant to try sports. However, when we ran our WISE HK inaugural mothers + daughters mini sports day and involved the mothers in drills and games, they had so much fun. Do you have any words for encouragement for mothers who are hesitant to play sports because they haven’t played in a while, or feel they aren’t good at it?
You don’t necessarily have to start playing competitive sports. I think starting off just playing something casually would be enough fun and refreshing. Trying is the first step, playing the sport or participating regularly may be the next. Set a simple goal for yourself, and once the participation becomes a regular thing make sure it is a routine and you don’t use your will power to attend or play each time! Once you get better and you meet your goals each time, you will find it so much satisfying and your life will be fruitful, enjoyable and you will start to love yourself even more. You may find your a new sense of self through sport, and if you do, that might be the happiest thing that can ever happen to you!
Though growing, women’s lacrosse is still a relatively small and new sport in Hong Kong. Playing lacrosse also seems daunting, especially when one thinks about having to catch the ball with the lacrosse stick, running with the ball in the pocket and using the stick to throw the ball at a teammate. What words of advice do you have for someone who might want to try it for the first time?
No matter what skill level you are at in lacrosse, it is always fun to play. Step by step, you will find yourself improving each time. There are 12 people in a team in lacrosse and there are so many different positions and responsibilities. Are you strong or good at defending? Are you good at running? Do you have patience and are good at saving the goal? Are you aggressive or agile and love to shoot?
You may find a new personality inside you by playing the sport. And it is a team sport after all, and the beauty of lacrosse is the joy of playing the sport together with your sporting family.