“Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.” The game of lacrosse might as well steal this motto from the Postal service because, unlike baseball, lacrosse games are played during every kind of weather (minus lightning of course).
While we don’t let a little rain or snowflakes dictate our games, nobody doubts that the best weather for lacrosse is clear skies and sunshine. So why have the masterminds in charge of the game been pushing the start of the season dangerously close to winter?
This is the main topic of Bill Tanton’s latest article in Lacrosse Magazine (tangent: Tanton is one of the best lacrosse writers out there and his articles always have a insightful, big picture look that I really enjoy). In the article, he explains:
“They call lacrosse a spring sport. It used to be. Now it’s a winter sport. They’re playing important games in February, many in New England and Ithaca, N.Y., where it doesn’t warm up until May. In the “South” this season, Virginia and North Carolina had played nine games apiece by mid-March…”
Tanton goes on the lament that key decision makers are embracing playing games early in the year as opposed to working to make sure that this spring sport is actually played in the spring. We’ve all dealt with crappy weather playing lacrosse and some of my best memories are when my high school JV team fought and clawed through the mud or when, as a player, we lost the ball in a pile of hail during a big game vs Colorado. Weather shouldn’t dictate when we play but Tanton is right on point when he says that we need to be doing everything in our power to avoid playing the games in late January and early February.
Lacrosse is meant to be played in the sunshine and yet the start of the season keeps getting creeping earlier and earlier. What are the answers? Obviously a main driver is this trend is the simple fact that many high school and college graduations are now in mid-May, giving coaches and officials less time to work with for their schedules. But can’t there be creative ways to manage this time crunch? Here is a quick rundown of some solutions:
- Embrace the earlier start and go with indoor facilities. Many teams are already managing this situation by scheduling games in covered, indoor domes. In the MCLA this as seen in the University of Washington’s IMA field or Michigans Oosterban fieldhouse. Syracuse also manages the weather with their famous Carrier Dome. Other teams can follow this example and go out of their way to find similar available venues.
- Ignore the whole “issue” and embrace the muck. Some people may look at the issue and wonder if lacrosse is just going to turn into baseball. Isn’t the fact that we play through all kinds of weather one of the many reasons we love ragging on our stereotypical chew-spitting, tight pants wearing, steroid abusing baseball friends? Strap it up and play.
- Shorten the season. One of Tanton’s ideas is to cut down the number of games in a typical lacrosse season. The normal season since I started lacrosse has been about 17 games but by cutting down to 13-15, officials aren’t forced to schedule games during the first week of February.
- Push the season past Memorial Day. Tanton also points to the unofficial rule of lacrosse: all seasons culminate on Memorial Day in a giant lacrosse-o-polooza. Push the championship later into May and deal with the consequences from graduations as they come up.
Obviously, the sport needs to deal with shortened school years on every level of the game. From the High School level upwards, all spring sports are all dealing with the same issue and not just lacrosse. I wouldn’t be a proponent of Tanton’s idea to cut games but realistically its the only thing that would fix this problem right away. In the end, I’m not sure there is one magic bullet that will solve this issue. The advances in synthetic turf fields have already helped teams manage the weather and if the trend continues then grass fields will be a thing of the past. As a huge proponent of playing the game on grass, I would die a little on the inside if that day ever comes. Right now my only long term solution is that global warming could do us a favor and eliminate winter completely (Al Gore eat your heart out). Melting snow caps be damned!
The days of losing a ball in the snow might be here to stay but Tanton is right to argue that we should continue searching for ways to keep lacrosse in the spring. We need to keep thinking outside the box on this problem. Crazy idea #1: we get REALLY radical and send out a sport-wide memo strongly suggesting that all laxers move to Arizona, Hawaii, or Southern California where it’s sunny all year. Any takers? What’s your solution?
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