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Junior NLL Tournament Helps Grow The Game

0 - Published September 20, 2013 by in National Lacrosse League, Youth

Note from the Author: If you don’t already know, box lacrosse is my obsession. The only problem is that I’ve always lived in regions where field lacrosse is king, and hockey is just starting to really break through. I will be conducting more interviews and compiling research on the topic, and I hope to build more awareness around the development of indoor lacrosse in the United States.

This year seems to be a progressive one for box lacrosse. I’ve seen more programs and tournaments pop up these past few months than ever before, and even the NLL is getting on board.

For the first time, the National Lacrosse League hosted a Junior NLL tournament in Toronto at the Rock’s facilities. Bantam and Peewee level players from Minnesota, Colorado, Toronto, Rochester, Vancouver, and Buffalo represented their local NLL franchises by sporting their club’s names and colors, while competing in a true box play day.

The Jr. Rock faced the Mammoth in the Peewee final in which the Colorado kids pulled away with a 7-3 win to take the cup. In the Bantam final the same organizations met up, but this time the Rock came out on top 10-7 in what appeared to be a great game. The Bantam Rock were able to go on a few scoring runs and kept the Mammoth from punching a few in when they really needed to.

Some of the athletes have only been playing indoors for a few weeks, but they were holding their own against some more experienced players. Watching film, and looking at the pictures from the weekend, you could barely tell the difference. The players were dressed like the pros and really rose to the occasion. Goalies were suited in true box gear and the officials were real box refs from the Toronto area.

Junior Swarm's Sharp Uniforms

Junior Swarm’s Sharp Uniforms

I couldn’t be happier to see the professional franchises doing their part to support the kids, and they also set a good bar for emerging and future high-caliber Junior programs here in the US. Many of the Canadian players already had experience in the sport, but never had the opportunity to go through most of the same routines as the pros, whom they look up to.

The Junior/Senior model is almost non-existent in the States when it comes to box lacrosse, but after this season, I see things moving forward. It gives the younger players something to take pride in; the ability to wear the same uniform as the guys playing in front of thousands in big arenas. They are already on the fast track to success, and it only creates more commotion amongst other youth players to want to train harder so that they too may one day have these kinds of opportunities.

Jr. NLL Swarm vs. Knighthawks

Jr. NLL Swarm vs. Knighthawks

Check out the gallery of images from the event on the NLL’s site. There are a ton of great shots from on and off of the field.

I hope that this event and concept don’t go anywhere but up, and I hope they continue to train and support the kids all the way through high school, so that more kids develop a passion for the sport of box lacrosse, as well as the skills necessary to play the game. In Canada, players grow up within a system and get to play for their home towns which just builds more community and team pride. I see this approaching very quickly on the horizon in the US and the competition between the USA and Canada will get that much better when Junior national teams really start to battle it out.

Imagine a war between 12-14 or 15-17 year old Canucks and Americans every year on the carpet! Count me in, and I’m glad to see the NLL leading the charge. I am catching up with teams individually over the next few weeks and I hope to tell a unique story of how each team made it to championship weekend in Toronto.

If you were there as a player, coach, ref, or spectator, I would love to hear from you, please drop us a line and we will be in contact.

More can be read about the weekend as told by the NLL.

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