The dangers of COVID-19 have forced us all to literally distance ourselves from coaches, teammates, and the game that we love in the short term so that we may be able to enjoy it in the long term. It has taken away some of the opportunities lacrosse athletes have historically had in the spring to develop and gain exposure in the pursuit of college recruitment, which has put further emphasis and a potential reliance on the 2020 summer US Club Lacrosse season. However, will it be the same summer season that we have been accustomed to in the past?
Assuming that social distancing restrictions are uplifted prior to the summer season, the economic, travel, and safety precautions will have to be taken into consideration. Despite the decrease for many household incomes, summer club lacrosse participation should be able to withstand the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A large percentage of club lacrosse programs have already collected annual dues and have already built in this youth sport experience into household annual budgets. There also have been unique incidences of club directors and coaches who have worked with families with financial hardships to make the experience accessible. Families want to avoid having their children shorten their playing career window any more than it already has.
According to the USCLUBLAX.COM, there are at least 58 summer youth lacrosse tournaments currently scheduled to be played before July 1, 2020. The unknown timeline of when social gathering restrictions will be lifted and when life can resume to “normalcy” has some of the most well-known tournaments in the country rescheduling to the month of July such as The North American Summer Invitational, Vail Lacrosse Tournament, Lax for the Cure, PrimeTime’s Shootout and many more, causing Club Directors to make some tough decisions of where to go while reconstructing their teams’ summer schedules. Many weekend tournaments looking to reschedule may opt for a weekday due to field availability or to become a more viable option for teams already committed to competing in weekend tournaments. This delayed outcome will make it very difficult for teams in warm weathered states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas who have avoided local play during these months due to extreme weather conditions and the potential conflict with the school calendar.
State officials could also place social gathering restrictions on the number of people allowed at a facility, like they were initially looking at as a solution prior to the more restrictive policies currently in place. If a finite number of players, parents, coaches and officials are allowed on a field at a given time, this could force some tournaments to be over their capacity and force some teams to seek for other competitive options.
Travel accommodations may be a limiting factor for summer participation as well. With the contraction of COVID-19 still possible, it would not be surprising if tournament schedules are formatted to be consolidated to a single day of play to minimize travel. We may even see teams avoid travel all together and opt to play in more local events this summer. It is expected that due to the environmental pressures, club teams will have more organized individual games with local competition similar to that of a summer league. Teams who must make overnight accommodations may also opt for the comfort of an AirBnB house as opposed to the highly populated confines of a hotel this summer.
The lack of lacrosse games being played in the spring, and potentially in the summer, has already deprived youth athletes from experiences and memories with teammates that will last a lifetime. The time in self isolation will still present an opportunity for skill development, but has made it more difficult for those looking to continue their playing careers on the collegiate level. NCAA restrictions have made it more difficult for college coaches to interact with prospects and are limiting the amount of opportunities for live scouting. Coaches will be forced to rely more than ever on film, club and high school coach evaluations, and newer technology like Event Beacon that helps focus their limited time to scout a player live. Let us not forget that many NCAA conferences have already awarded players an additional year of eligibility, which may limit the amount of incoming freshmen a college coach is looking to bring in or potentially start a trend of an increasing number of first year redshirt student athletes.
Players, coaches and parents will be required to adapt to this new environment. We may see more precautionary measures taken prior to game play such as an increase in active protective equipment used such as the use of helmet shields or vaccine/testing prerequisites. At US Club Lacrosse, we are exploring various platforms to continue to enhance the experience for the players and aid in the goals of growing the game of club lacrosse.
The US Club Lacrosse community will prepare itself to return to play for this summer season as players continue to stay in peak athletic shape, further develop stick skills, and of course post fun homemade trick shots for social media. Not knowing when the first game back will be can feel like coming back from a season-ending injury. As anxious as we are to return to the field, we must continue to take the necessary precautions needed so that we don’t rush back too soon and have fatal setbacks. If we fail to play this summer, there’s always fall ball.