Last weekend Rhodes College, a relatively new NCAA DIII team in Tennessee, took on Mississippi State, an NCLL team in some unofficial game action, and MSU emerged victorious 11-10 in OT. Your first question might be, so why are you talking about these guys at all? And at first glance, it’s a somewhat fair question.
We don’t expect Rhodes to qualify for the NCAA tournament, and we don’t think MSU is going to take the NCLL by storm in 2012 and bring home a Championship. Rhodes has matching gear, but it’s just sweatpants and pinnies, and MSU has more different helmets than a summer tourney team. The field the game is played on is a disaster, and the weather looks less than inviting. Nothing about this game screams COVER ME ON A MAJOR LACROSSE WEBSITE!
And yet that’s exactly why it’s important for LAS to cover a game like this. Too many times, we get caught up in talking about flashy new gear, or the top dogs at the highest levels, and we forget that there is a LOT of lacrosse out there just like this:
The guys playing aren’t world beaters. They don’t have the freshest new gear. The field is a mud pit. But this is still one VERY important lacrosse game. And here’s why…
The players on Rhodes College are part of a group of DIII teams that are relatively new to the sport. Southwestern, Dallas, Hendrix, Birmingham-Southern, and a host of other small schools in the South, are joining the ranks of varsity NCAA lacrosse. There is some local high school talent in the area, and these schools are all vying for top notch student-athletes. Between 10 and 20 years ago in Massachusetts, you saw the exact same thing. Schools like Endicott, Lasell, Curry and others added lacrosse. Tufts made a real commitment to their program. And MASS lacrosse took a big step forward. Harvard began to improve again, and now schools like Boston University are talking about adding the sport down the line.
And Rhodes has the potential to be the Endicott of Tennessee. They want to attract great male student-athletes, so they added lacrosse. And as they are able to pull in more and more talented kids, other schools in the area will take note. As more DIII schools adopt the lacrosse path, D1 schools will start to take note, and then the game will take another big step. In South Carolina, Furman University has already made the leap, and are getting ahead of the game. Rhodes is one of those schools with the potential to really push others to Grow The Game.
Now Mississippi State is in a slightly different spot, but their predicament is just as important as any DIII team, especially in a newer area like MS. MSU’s club team probably isn’t provoking a lot of other schools to add lacrosse as a varsity sport. So the same argument I made for Rhodes probably doesn’t apply here. But MSU’s team is still incredibly important, and could lead to the Rhodes growth method.
The guys on the Mississippi State team are playing in an area with even less lacrosse than the Rhodes guys. The growth of the game in Mississippi is still a little behind TN. But in order for the game to truly grow, the MSU players will prove integral. These are the guys who will graduate from MSU, get married, have some kids, and start new lacrosse programs in the state. They’ll start youth teams and high school teams, and they’ll coach and Grow The Game. These are the guys whose kids will play on a varsity college team. These are the guys who will be on the ground, doing the dirty work.
You can see it in how they play. The MSU guys play hard. They love lacrosse. It’s just so evident. Gear isn’t their top priority, and neither is personal glory. It’s all about playing and winning, and in a newer area to the game, this is SO important. The focus is in the right place and it’s about playing hard, and playing together. If these guys emerge to be the type of GTGers I think they will, Mississippi is in a good place!
I believe the Tennessee area is about 20 years behind Massachusetts, and Mississippi might be 10-20 years behind Tennessee, but the video from this game definitely gives me a lot of hope. Your initial view of the game video above might be that it was sloppy, or “just a scrimmage”, but if you look at it from the right angle, it’s really one of the prettiest things in the world.