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Hot Pot Of Lax: Sportsmanship

2 - Published October 19, 2011 by in College, High School, Hot Pot

Athletes are just like everyone else on the planet in that they are human, and therefore imperfect beings. Watch out because this week’s Hot Pot is taking prisoners! It’s time to talk about sportsmanship and responsibility!!!

Now, I am NOT going to start this post off by talking about how things were back in my day and how much they have changed, because I truly don’t think that is the case.  And I’m not going to rail on how great things were in the 50s, and how current generations are lost, because I don’t think that is the case either.  The times have changed a bit, as they always do, but Individual Responsibility and Sportsmanship are still key components to how the game of lacrosse is played, coached and enjoyed.

Something that has always concerned me a little bit in lacrosse are cheap shots after the whistle, after a game is over, and big brawls.  Lacrosse, by nature, is a physical and aggressive sport. I love that about the game, but because of this physical nature, things can spiral out of control quickly and devolve into WWE-style shenanigans for a number of different reasons.  As players, teammates, parents, refs, fans or coaches, it is our collective responsibility to keep an eye on such things, because when we don’t our future players suffer the most, and that puts the game in jeopardy.

baseball fight

We don't want to end up like this, do we?

Lopsided scores, taunting, overtly physical players, rivalry games, big crowds, bad reffing, tight games and a host of other factors can all help to incite dangerous hits and cheap shots in a lacrosse game. While the ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of the person throwing the cheap shot, they usually aren’t the only ones to blame.  In the end though, one can really only control himself, so taking responsibility personally is the biggest key to sportsmanship. The lesson of personal responsibility can’t be taught enough.

I was centrally involved in a brawl back in my high school lacrosse days, and while I didn’t throw the first punch, I can still look back on the situation and say that I was at fault.  We were all to blame for that ugly incident, and the only reason it didn’t end up killing our program was because both my team’s coach, along with the opposing coach, took control of the situation immediately afterward, and displayed great leadership by taking responsibility.

The game probably stopped for 10 minutes as everyone calmed down and assessed what had just happened. When my coach earnestly looked at us and asked, “How could I have let this happen?”, I felt a deeper pang of guilt and ownership than I had ever felt before.  This man was taking responsibility for MY actions, simple because he was a leader and a man of character, and because he loved us as his players.

In the end, a couple of penalties were handed out, everyone involved apologized and shook hands, and we got on with the game. Our coach made it very clear to us that this was the kind of thing that could get lacrosse killed forever at our school, and that it could absolutely never happen again. For a week or two, I was sure that our team would still be dropped, and for a lot of us, this experience left a life-long impression. I don’t think it’s that different from what goes on today in many situations or from what was going on 50 years ago.

There is one big difference between then and now though, and that is the internet.  If what had happened when I was in high school had happened today, it would be on YouTube by now.  Or a local news channel would be doing a story on it.  I use those two examples because RIGHT NOW on YouTube there is a video of a mean after-the-whistle cross check from a college scrimmage, and a local news channel in Maryland just did a piece on a lacrosse fight, which LPG posted about. I guess the biggest difference is that now you are more likely to get caught and exposed.

Obviously, when kids get caught for doing something wrong in public, the penalties are more severe than if they hadn’t, but I do fear we’re beginning to focus too much on the punishment and not enough on the teachable moments. In my experience, none of us were ever directly punished for our roles in the brawl, but we certainly learned a lot from it.  I’m curious what would have happened to us if we had been “caught”, if the brawl went up on YouTube, if the focus had been on punishment, and how our lives would have changed. I for one probably wouldn’t be writing and editing LaxAllStars.com, that much is almost certain.

At the end of the day, my only hope is that the kids who are being caught and punished for doing this kind of stuff now are also able to take away the right messages – and still learn from the experiences.  If I hadn’t been allowed to make mistakes in life (believe me, I’ve made a LOT of mistakes!) and then learn from them, I would not be the person I am today.  I’d be stunted, and probably not nearly as happy.  There is a good chance that I wouldn’t play lax or own my own company.  So, while pointing out the flaws in things might be fun, I have a different view. We all need to keep the focus on learning, sportsmanship and responsibility. Let’s stay away from public shaming.

If everyone involved in the game makes sure to push these points home, it is doable, but as the game rapidly expands and more people join the sport, it becomes harder to control the message.  If we want to ensure that lacrosse remains a game of character and sportsmanship, we need to keep teaching our kids as much as we can and keep the shaming to a minimum.  The rest of the world will take care of that for us more than enough.

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IN OTHER LACROSSE NEWS:

– Canadian University courts Native students with lacrosse clinics | The Cord

– Cornell and Denver announce 2012 Men’s Lacrosse Schedule | Laxpower & Laxpower

– St. Joseph’s had an alumni game!  Fun stuff I’m sure. | SJU Hawks

– Slate out, Stagnitta in as Head Coach of the Denver Outlaws | Denver Post
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LACROSSE VIDEO OF THE WEEK:

A little college club lacrosse from England!  The talent level ranges from experienced to FIRST TIME EVER so the highlights are a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s not the point!  The point is that the game is really growing in England, University students are enjoying themselves and down the road, this will lead to a whole generation of Englishmen whose parents played lacrosse.  And THAT is a great opportunity for serious growth!

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