By Eric Black
Greer Hanlon was the only one of his friends who owned a stick when he began playing lacrosse in the suburbs of Chicago in the late ‘90s. They didn’t know the game, nor did they have much opportunity to watch it, and instead opted for more popular sports. Hanlon had to work on his game by himself.
He ultimately committed to play the sport collegiately at the University of Denver and played there for four years before moving to Charleston. There, last July, he started Charleston Elite, a new club lacrosse program for boys and girls in the area. Although it’s still early on in its stages of development, the program is already inspiring kids to start playing the sport of lacrosse at a young age.
The first call Hanlon made before he started the program was to Matt Brown, the current associate head coach at Denver. Brown is also one of the founders and directors of Denver Elite Lacrosse and the Denver Elite Box Lacrosse Program. Despite the distance, Hanlon knew he wanted his program to be connected.
“I said, ‘Matt, look. I want to start a club. Can I affiliate with you?’” Hanlon explained. “And he said ‘absolutely’...One of our players is going to play for their box team this summer and we hope to have them down for some clinics and things of that nature to help promote the game by us.”
Box lacrosse is a major part of the plan to teach the game and develop players by Charleston Elite, which runs a box lacrosse academy in the winter. If Hanlon had it his way, all kids in 5th grade and below would play box lacrosse instead of field lacrosse, where many kids could take a number of trips up and down the field without even touching the ball.
With box, they can develop their comfort with and without the ball in constant high-pressure situations, which field lacrosse games feature significantly less often. The skill aspect that box lacrosse can help with is something the program is really trying to expand in with its teachings. One of the ways they’re doing this is by going to schools, classrooms, and specifically physical education classes to teach the game. Hanlon’s found that it’s a great way to organically introduce the game to young kids.
“I talk about it with PE teachers all the time,” Hanlon said. “(The kids) like sports, they’re okay at sports, but they’re really enthusiastic about lacrosse. Whereas they’re not enthusiastic about soccer or football or basketball or whatever else. For me, that’s awesome. If we do that for one person, we’re doing our job of growing the game.”
Hanlon explained that they’ve ventured to four different middle schools so far, all with about 700 kids in them, in addition to a high school. He’s been helped by the fact that there’s “no better place” than Charleston to play lacrosse because of its climate, aside from some rain. So far, Hanlon estimates that they’ve introduced lacrosse to over 2,500 kids that otherwise would’ve been unable to play due to barriers of entry such as cost and equipment.
Charleston Elite features six boys teams and two girls teams in the program, numbers that are expected to grow in the near future. The girls' teams are specifically of interest to him because he’s noticed that there’s a drop between 8th and 9th grade in the level of participation.
“What we're trying to do is garner that interest early on,” Hanlon said, “so that we can push through that drop-off.”
Another way Charleston Elite is trying to establish interest in the game is through the free clinics they offer, which kids can just show up to and play at. After the first clinic, there are five or six sessions of only stickwork that follow, so the key is just trying to get the kids to stay with it. Using freelacrosse.org to spread the word, they got 75 kids to come to the first clinic and play the sport for the first time, of which 50 signed up for the next clinic.
After the interest has been garnered and the fundamentals established, Charleston Elite’s goal is to ultimately compete at the regional and national levels. To do so, Hanlon hopes to be able to grow the game organically around Charleston and attract kids from all over the region to come play for the program. Even though Hanlon had to create his own path into the lacrosse world, Charleston Elite is making sure kids in the area don’t have to do the same.
"There is a lot of similarity, so what I see is the same thing Illinois had, is athletes that just haven't played the game very long or don't know the game very well,” Hanlon said. “So if we can just capture those athletes, teach them the game the right way, foster the growth, I think the success will come, it's just gonna take a bit of time.”
By Eric Black
Ryan Flanagan didn’t last more than a quarter through a high school lacrosse game in the spring of 2012. The North Carolina graduate had just graduated and was interested in continuing to work with lacrosse, so he decided to check out the quality level of high school teams in the area. It was so difficult to watch that he left before the first buzzer.
Seven years later, the former NCAA division-I defenseman of the year is back watching high school games and nowadays, he can watch contests from start to finish.
“I went and watched Weddington High School play Mallard Creek,” Flanagan said, “and I’m watching a kid who’s going to Towson covering a kid who’s going to Duke...It’s a pretty good lacrosse game.”
Flanagan, a three-time All-American with the Tar Heels and current player with the Chrome of the Premier Lacrosse League, started Team 24/7 Lacrosse when he graduated from Chapel Hill. Nearly a decade since, Team 24/7 has partnered with Team Carolina at the high school level, now has 12 travel teams and puts sticks in the hands of hundreds of kids who otherwise never would’ve played lacrosse.
From the get-go, he’s encountered those cultural differences regarding the sport in the area compared to where he grew up, in West Islip, N.Y. On Long Island, lacrosse dominates the youth sports landscape and most kids, from fifth or sixth grade on, even walk down the street with a stick in their hands. In the Charlotte area, Flanagan explained, lacrosse takes a backseat to baseball, soccer, and football.
“It’s just not as ingrained in the culture,” Flanagan said. “You have a handful of guys that are playing lacrosse, but up and down your roster, your kids aren’t as committed to it.”
That lack of commitment has lead to a significantly smaller pool of athletes than areas like Long Island or Maryland have to choose from. The best athletes in the area or in schools are playing football or baseball and focusing on it, as opposed to up north, where many kids play lacrosse as a “1A” sport and another sport as a “1B”, Flanagan explained.
The next offshoot of the cultural differences is stick skills that aren’t as good, if only because kids are rarely working on them on a consistent basis. While there are always top players that will lead the team and be mostly, if not entirely, committed to lacrosse, the talent gap is more apparent as you go down the roster. That’s despite a lot of players being great athletes - they’re just unable or unwilling to play lacrosse year-round or close to it.
Flanagan described the growth and future growth of the program in terms of a pyramid. First, you have to attract more athletes to build a bigger pool of players to choose from. After that, those players have to practice and be trained and build consistent skills.
“Part one is always build the base,” Flanagan said. “Then develop the base. You have to have your pool and develop it, and then a byproduct of that is going to be consistently competing at the national level. And then another byproduct of that is going to be more recruiting opportunities.”
To build the pool of athletes, Team 24/7 has employed a number of different strategies. What first started as a singular camp has advanced to a rec league, travel teams, and day camps. Early on, they worked with 20 to 30 kids per camp, but now their day camps are filled with upwards of 100 players and their winter league has double that.
Flanagan made sure to emphasize how important the initiative to grow the game at the youth level is, both to him personally and his program. Team 24/7 has partnered with South Park Youth Association, the same one NBA star Stephen Curry was a part of as a kid, to build a lacrosse program. When Curry was younger, there was no lacrosse program. Now, Flanagan hopes that in the future, the next Stephen Curry will take advantage of the opportunity.
Team 24/7 also began Little Stix Lacrosse, an after-school lacrosse program for kids at the elementary school level. It’s one hour, one day a week, and last year, it gave 400 kids the ability to have a lacrosse stick for the first time.
“As that grows, and those kids come through the youth programs and into the high school program,” Flanagan said, “it’s gonna be huge for the sport.”
It’s not always as simple as just putting sticks in kids’ hands, however. During the first practice Flanagan ever ran, he told his team to go into a clear and none of them knew what he meant. Between shapes and positioning, some kids need to be taught the game from the ground up. But as those fundamentals have become more known in the community and at the youth level, the quality of play has improved in addition to the jump in numbers.
Flanagan’s long-term goal is to improve the recruiting process and success for kids in North Carolina. He doesn’t understand why places like Atlanta, which doesn’t have a college team nearby, should have so much more success on the recruiting stage than North Carolina, which has schools like Duke, UNC, and Limestone in the area.
He hopes that one day, there will be someone like Peter Baum, a Seattle native who was the first West Coast player to win the Tewaaraton Trophy, from North Carolina to give kids someone to look up to and emulate.
“We’re years away from that, but that’s a working process,” Flanagan said. “And there’s all the parts of the process to get there.”
By Eric Black
When Sweetlax Lacrosse co-owners Joe Huber and Kevin Martin started Sweetlax Florida three years ago, they waded into nearly-uncharted territory. The teams they’d seen from the state that played up north in the years prior still looked to be in their developmental stages, and there were no top-tier clubs.
But Martin, who moved down to Florida six years ago, saw there was a need for an elite travel team. He’d been working with lacrosse clinics and saw a lot of kids had talent and needed the exposure. Sweetlax Florida would provide them with that.
“So, we came down here and started Sweetlax. And the first tryout, we had five kids at it,” Martin said, laughing.
Since then, the Sweetlax Florida program has emerged as one of the top programs in the state after he and other employees began making phone calls, going to high school games, and identifying kids who may be interested. This summer, there are 400 players in the program on over 20 teams, with age groups in the fall that will range from 2020-2028.
One of the hallmarks of the Sweetlax Florida program is its four Regional Development Programs (RDPs) across the state. Former Loyola star Paul Hummer recently took the reigns of the Leatherbacks RDP, located in South Florida. There’s also the Wahoos North and South teams, their Gulf Coast regional programs, and the Tallahassee Redfish for the northern part of the state.
At the RDPs, coaches work with players to create consistency in drills, player development, and team development. That means no matter what age you are in the program, all of the terminologies are the same.
“These regional development programs enable us to give our players and other talented young boys the opportunity to train and play with us throughout the course of the week,” said Kevin Dugan, Sweetlax Florida Director and head of the RDPs. “That is really helping us prepare a lot of our players for when they're playing in these NLF events and the other big events that they're competing in across the country.”
In his role, Dugan travels around the state throughout the week to visit the RDPs and run trainings and practices. With the consistency he and the program are trying to build, the teams are more able to come together and get on the same page quicker. This vision for team and player development is already coming to fruition, and Sweetlax Florida’s 2020 team is one of the major beneficiaries.
At the 2019 Adrenaline Platinum Cup in early June, the Sweetlax Florida '20s went 3-0 in their Pool, outscoring opponents 33-12 in the process. While past Sweetlax teams had success on the club level, Martin said that the 2020 group is the first that’s been able to take the next step and beat elite teams up north.
“We started beating some of the teams, and we’re like ‘whoa, this group is good,’” Martin said. “...This was our team that really officially turned the corner.”
Martin pointed out the squad’s midfield line as one of the primary reasons it’s a force to be reckoned with on the club circuit. Players like Carter Parlette and Eric Dobson, who will both be heading off to play at Notre Dame next fall, have become a “wild 1-2 punch” for Sweetlax, Dugan said. While Parlette is a great two-way middie, Dobson is a dominant, 6’5” lefty and they love playing with each other.
They’re joined by Dylan Hess, a Georgetown commit who Martin compared to Ryan Conrad. One of the special things Martin noted about the team is where they all call home. Parlette is from Orlando, Dobson is from a small school in the Jacksonville area and Hess hails from a larger school right outside the city. Meanwhile, defenseman Kaden Brothers and midfielder Marcelo Arteaga, both committed to Johns Hopkins, are from Vero Beach and Miami, respectively.
“The culture of that team is very much a positive one built around friendships and relationships,” Dugan said. They've grown up together and they've kind of put Sweetlax on the map and they've helped Florida lacrosse sort of on the map.”
Martin, who handles most of the recruiting duties for Sweetlax Florida, believes that the explanation of the recruiting process is something that the 2020 players and their families really appreciated. He dedicates his personal time to walk them through everything, and at this point, there are only four players on the team that are uncommitted, two of which are new to the program.
That’s just one of the ways Sweetlax Florida is investing in the growth and development of Florida lacrosse. Full-time coaches are being brought in to help with the RDPs and camps in an effort to really focus on the coaching, player, and team development pieces of the program, Dugan explained. At the end of the day, Sweetlax Florida wants to make sure it not only has the best players in the state, but they’re being coached and developed correctly so that they’re in the best possible position to be successful.
“We’re across the board looking at helping the state of Florida, from developing the top players in the state (and) having that attention to the grassroots component of it,” Dugan said. “We’re investing in coaching and staffing, which will enable us to better serve the Florida lacrosse community and better serve our players to their full potential.”
By Eric Black
Midway through the spring, 2023 Madlax DC Dogs head coach Matt Rienzo had a conversation with Colin “Mac” Christmas' father. The former Georgetown star wanted to move Christmas from a regular midfielder to a long-stick midfielder. His size and skillset, Rienzo explained, made him a perfect candidate to make the transition. But Christmas was hesitant to make the switch just yet.
A few weeks later, the DC Dogs found themselves down three defensemen due to injury. Christmas, with a long stick in his hands, went on to score three goals against Edge in their third game of the North American Lacrosse Summer Invitational. He finished the weekend with 7 goals and left his head coach shaking his head in awe.
“I coached Kyle Sweeney and Brodie Merrill at Georgetown,” Rienzo said. “Two of the best long-stick middies to ever play in my opinion, and (Christmas) has similar qualities. He’s exceptional.”
Christmas is one of the leaders on the 2023 DC Dogs, US Club Lacrosse’s No. 1 team in the class. Despite playing in just one tournament so far, the Dogs made sure it was a memorable one, going 6-0 in the NAL and finishing the run with a dominant 8-2 win over the No. 2 Annapolis Hawks. Coached by Rienzo, a Georgetown Hall-of-Famer who’s lined up next to by offensive coordinator Charlie Horning and Bob Dunn, the DC Dogs are one of the most impressive teams in the nation regardless of division.
Goalie Declan Monahan also stepped up during the Dogs’ undefeated slate. Thanks largely in part to his play, they averaged just 3.5 goals against per game, including three different contests in which they gave up just 2. Part of that defensive dominance can be attributed to their stellar ball-control, which is solidified by Jackie Weller's play at the face-off X. Rienzo believes Weller is one of the best face-off guys in the country in the age group and won over 75 percent of the face-offs during the tournament.
Colin “Barbecue” Burns is the quarterback of the team’s attack group, which reached double-digit goals in four out of their six games. He mostly plays behind the cage and is flanked by Caulley Deringer, a lefty wing player who has been a great addition to the team and Drew Stahley, a solid complementary player. But the Dogs’ strength lays in its midfield. It runs six deep, allowing for two different lines of high-caliber players on both sides of the ball.
“With our athleticism and depth, we'll find we wear teams out in the fourth quarter,” Rienzo said. “When we get in these tournaments where you're playing three games in a day, you get to that sixth game of the tournament and other teams are tired, we should hopefully still be able to be a little bit fresh because of how many people we play.”
While most teams with a high number of talented players may have trouble spreading the wealth around without getting selfish, that isn’t the case with the DC Dogs. Madlax’s CASE camp is a big reason for that. CASE, which stands for Character, Attitude, Success, and Effort, is taught to everyone in the program during the first week of the summer instead of playing in a tournament. Madlax founder Cabell Maddux has received his share of criticism for the decision, but he’s found it’s consistently paid dividends for his players on and off the field.
Now in its ninth year of existence, CASE has made teams’ play more fluid and recruiting way easier, Maddux said. While in the past some players believed that playing for Madlax meant they automatically were going to get recruited, that thought process is no longer allowed in Maddux’s program. If a player isn’t a good person off the field or isn’t doing the right thing, they’re cut from the team.
“There's plenty of good players, we had to start developing kids besides players,” Maddux said. “We know we're always gonna have enough athletes around here to develop the athlete, (but) let's develop the person too.”
In addition to the CASE camp, Madlax employs positional experts to coach players’ specific skill sets. For 30 to 45 minutes during each practice in the fall and early spring, Madlax players are split up into groups and coached by experts on face offs, goalies, shooting, dodging, and defense, among other areas.
The camps and coaching have also helped to prevent players from burning out. Past Madlax teams potentially played as many as 60 games a year, but are now down to about 30. For the 2023 Madlax DC Dogs, one of the best teams in the program, Maddux said, the new format is paying off.
“We won our first tournament because we were fresh. Some teams have already played in three or four tournaments,” Maddux said. “Those are the two things that differentiate us. One is our character piece, two is our emphasis on positional work, especially in the fall and winter.”
By Eric Black
MORRIS PLAINS, NJ — An air horn sounded, stopping all 80 players on all four fields in their tracks. The balls in play fell from their sticks or were shuffled to referees. Fist bumps and high fives were exchanged, and the players began to jog off in separate directions. It was time for the next set of games.
“Get in there and showcase yourself!” One parent chirped at his son, who had just finished the 20-minute game as an attackman. “You gotta be in shape.”
They were at the boys New Jersey Under Armour All-American tryouts at the Central Park of Morris County on Tuesday, the second and final day of the event. The tryouts are held every year to determine who will represent the state (one of 12 regions nationally) in the annual Under Armour All-American Lacrosse Classic Underclass Tournament. There, two divisions (“Command”, filled with rising freshmen and sophomores, and “Highlight”, made up of juniors and seniors) in each region for each gender will compete against one another for bragging rights and the regional title.
A total of 331 kids took part in the tryouts, called the “best recruiting event a kid can go to” in one of the videos on its website, and were broken up into 22 teams: six in the Command Division and 16 in the Highlight Division. The final selections, expected to be announced on Thursday, will feature just 23 players (two goalies and any combination of attack, midfield, and defense), on each team.
“As a past player, club coach and someone working in the lacrosse industry it’s truly amazing how many college coaches we “check-in” across the country for this event,” Ryan Corrigan, Director of Sales for Corrigan Sports, said. “If you’re looking to get recruited, the Under Armour Tryouts are a great way to be seen.”
Corrigan Sports has served as the operator for the tryouts since their inception, organizing the entirety of each massive event. That includes contacting and acquiring the 100+ coaches to serve as evaluators for each one, finding the venues large enough to hold them, and hiring officials, among other tasks. In doing so, Corrigan Sports’ main goal is to maintain objectivity among the evaluators and ensure that each event results in the best and most deserving players being selected.
While some players will be selected to one of the two 23-person teams, most of the boys won’t get that call. That doesn’t mean their two-day experience will have been useless, however. The games, scheduled to be 20-30 minutes long with a running clock, are set up to be fast-paced in order to showcase players’ skills. So even if a player isn’t selected to represent his region, he’ll still have had the chance to show dozens of college coaches (at the DI, DII, and DIII levels) what he has to offer.
“It would be really cool to represent New Jersey,” said one player trying out for the Highlight team. “But even if I don’t get picked, this was still a really cool experience.”
In addition to getting exposure at the tryouts themselves, some players will also have the opportunity to participate in newly-announced Under Armour All-American Call Back Academy. To be held on Nov. 8 and 9, the Call Back Academy will feature on-field instructional sessions, showcase games, and educational seminars.
The invite-only event, which is limited to 600 boys and girls, will be filled with the “best against the best”, as only players who were invited to their regional Call Back game and those that make the final team will be invited. In addition to the games and seminars, players will have the opportunity to speak with NCAA Compliance Specialists, Health and Nutrition Specialists, high-level college coaches.
For now, all eyes are on the results of the tryouts for the Underclass Tournament, which will be held later this month.
“Our tagline has always been “Rep Your Region,” Corrigan said. “The sense of pride that all of us carry for our hometown comes out through this tournament.”
Did you know that January 7, 2019 is College Football’s National Championship game? Odds are that at least one team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) will be represented for the fourth consecutive year. It is arguably the most dominant conference in College Football with some of the most well-known coaches, talent, facilities, and fan bases in the country. The same can be said of The National Lacrosse Federation (NLF) as this organization is at the forefront of evolution to league play for Club Lacrosse.
As per US Club Lacrosse, there now are over 800 Lacrosse club teams spanning across the country, and the challenge remains to host competitive tournaments without lopsided scores. Six of the leading organizations decided to make a change and band together seeking parody in elite competition. The Baltimore Crabs, Big 4 HHH, Laxachussets, Leading Edge, Long Island Express and Team 91 were the original members of the NLF founded in 2015. The alliance has since grown to 16 with the additions of LB3 Thunder (GA), Mesa (PA), Eclipse (CT), West Coast Starz (CA), Edge (CAN), Madlax (VA/MD/DC), Legends (CA), Primetime (NY), Denver Elite (CO), and Sweetlax National who compete in some of the most exclusive “Super Series” and showcases in the country.
Similar to the SEC, teams of the NLF are not exclusively playing games against conference rivals. These highly competitive interconference battles are entertaining, excel player development, and display local talent on a national stage making it easier for scouts to identify a player’s skill set that will transfer to the next level. It can be noted that the SEC, for the 12th consecutive year, led all football conferences for the most prospects selected in last year’s 2018 NFL draft. It is why the NLF is a hotbed for Division 1 Lacrosse talent. It is why both conferences dominate the national Top 25 rankings.
As dominate as the SEC has been in popularity, other Power 5 conferences and smaller school conferences produce top NFL prospects, top 25 teams, and National Champions. Within the next five years, Club Lacrosse will be regulated and create its own version of Power 5 conferences where many summer and fall tournaments will be conference specific.
The Lax Federation (LAX FED) has already developed its own alliance of 20+ national programs that utilizes its resources as additional value programs for the student athletes beyond exposure of national tournament play. LAX FED offers its members a variety of benefits that include discounts on gear, travel, training, and even provide a college advisory service.
Club Lacrosse will benefit as a whole when it is regulated and conferences develop. Tournament play will produce more competitive play, collective resources will be passed along to the student athletes, and there will be improved efficiencies to the recruitment process for college coaches.
Could there one day be a Club Lacrosse’s version of the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl to determine a Club Lacrosse Final 4 National Champion? I think it’s closer than you think- and odds are that at least one team from the NLF will be represented.
The 2018 Logo Contest was flat out awesome! 217 Club Teams entered their logo to be chosen as the best log in club lacrosse. Our committee narrowed down the 217 logo's to the final 16 where we opened it up to the public to vote to see who has the best logo in club lacrosse. The voting was insane! Each bracket was averaging 4k votes a piece. In the end the Black Bear Lacrosse Club came out on top and was crowned this years 2018 Champion. Congratulations to Black Bear and thank you everyone who came out and voted!
Stay tuned for the Best Helmet in Club Lacrosse Coming Soon....
Ahhhhh Sept 1st: the new biggest day in the recruiting world. All over the country club teams are posting " Get ready 2020's! Big things are coming, phones are going to be ringing off the hook!"
Now let's come back to down to reality and talk about what you really should be expecting on Sept. 1st.
Top 5%, Stay Patient
It is 100% true that many players' phones will be busy, but many of you that receive these phone calls have to stay patient. When you play club lacrosse, visit prospect days and make All-American games, you tend to put college athletics up on a pedestal. When your teenage years are built on playing lacrosse all day everyday, it's very easy to get too excited when you get a phone call from one of the big schools.
Just because you received a phone call does not mean you have received a SCHOLARSHIP or an OFFER. Parents, let me repeat that one... just because your son/daughter is getting phone calls does not mean they are "SET" and you can go around town telling everyone your son/daughter is going to this college or has received money! Best advice: Stay Humble.
What the College Coaches are Looking for in these Phone Calls:
Still Waiting for a Call or a Call from the School you like....
As Aaron Rodgers once profoundly said...R-E-L-A-X. Just because you did not receive a phone call or a phone call from the school you want on Sept. 1st does not mean you are doomed.
Steps to Take:
Communicate with Club Directors & Recruiting Coorindators:
Good Luck 2020's! But Remember this is just the beginning! Keep grinding and no matter if your the #1 recruit or just looking to find a spot. . .Be patient and work hard!
The uniform contest was one of the most rewarding and fun things we have done since our launch in June 2018!
We had 78 submissions for the best uniforms in the country and our group of 10 people here at U.S. Club Lacrosse narrowed it down to the Top 16.
After a week of instagram votes and hard fought battles and a grand total of 75K total votes, we crowned a champion of the 2018 Best Uniforms in Club Lacrosse, The LB3 Thunder out of Georgia.
Always remember there is always 2019 so get those uniform pictures together and we are already looking forward to next years edition of this contest!
Why Club Lacrosse is Good for the Game
Isn’t it funny when you say certain states, locations, towns that people automatically think that you were born with a lacrosse stick in your hand? I grew up in Hicksville, Long Island in the early 1990’s and the lacrosse landscape was entirely different than what I now know. Baseball was still king, no matter what many lacrosse phanatics want to say, and there was no such notion of this thing called “Club Lacrosse”. I remember my parents asking me in 3rd grade if I wanted to play lacrosse because that was the first year it was offered by my town. I loved sports and my friends were also doing it, so I was pretty psyched to try something new. What I always remember was the gear! (Now a staple in the lacrosse world but not back then!). I got my box helmet, a pair of shorts that could have been confused for a speedo, a jersey that was 2 sizes too big and felt like sandpaper on my skin. I also got my first stick, the STK excalibur, what a gem that thing was. I was so new to the sport I think I played my first year without a pocket. My mom and dad were from queens and brooklyn originally so what did they know about lacrosse sticks and my coach was a local firefighter who had a son on the team and may or may not have played lacrosse before. We played games against the towns surrounding us and I am almost certain it wasn’t the prettiest site for all our parents but man did we love it! We had a great group of friends and we continued to play throughout childhood every spring. Lacrosse was an innocent sport and so were we. Once lacrosse ended we were on to the next sport!
It wasn’t till high school, when I first heard of summer lacrosse. There was a league (Long Island guys, I am sure you still the have the T-shirt, as I sure do) 3 Village Lacrosse! Anybody who played high school lacrosse on Long Island in the 90’s knows and remembers this league. Town against town! This league was all about pride. Fights? Cheap Shots? Cursing matches between coaches? You name it, it was happening on those dirt fields.
This is where club lacrosse started! The pride factor of these summer games made some parents and coaches think. What if our players in our town stayed together longer and practiced more? We could start to catch up with the powerhouse programs on Long island such as, St. Anthony’s, Chaminade’s, Garden City and Ward Melville’s!
Essentially it all started out as an idea for the high school teams to get better and it slowly crept into the youth brackets. The 3rd grade inexperienced kid that I was, is almost out of luck in some of the competitive towns these days. 3, 4, 5 year olds are already learning skills that I don’t think I learned till 5th grade. For all the old timers that think they could compete in today’s lacrosse world, you are sorely mistaken. Club lacrosse has elevated game play to a level, never seen before. Now I am not saying, players from the past couldn’t play, but stick skills and IQ of these kids are off the charts!
A great example is how far college lacrosse has come. When I got to Siena College a Division 1 program, we had a player join the team, not even try out! The last time he had played lacrosse was as a junior on J.V. of his high school team and was cut from the Varsity program as a senior. We were in such dire need of bodies that he actually stayed on the team the whole year! Fast forward to today’s world, kids are doing prospect camps, year round training and trying out for four or five club teams to find the best fit for them to even have the opportunity to play at a school like Siena.
Do I miss the innocence of youth lacrosse and leagues like 3 Village? Of course I do, but for all the negativity that club lacrosse receives, the one thing that you can not deny is the fact that club lacrosse has elevated lacrosse game play to a level that many of us did not know was even capable. Any true lacrosse fan would appreciate the level of game play across the board and we have to thank Club Lacrosse for raising the bar of our sport.