While Spring is the officially recognized season of lacrosse, many of us have reached a time in our lives where our early-year participation is limited to coaching or living vicariously through those we watch on the field. So what does a washed up college player (see: the entire LAS staff) living outside of a large metropolitan area (see: Rusty) have to look forward to?
Summer men’s tournaments.
This will be the first in a short series of articles previewing some of the most anticipated western men’s tournaments of the year, starting with the earliest. On the western side of the nation, spring men’s leagues are rare, and usually only found in bigger cities. Today we feature what is likely the most well known tournament this side of the Mississippi, the Vail Shootout.
Where: Vail, Colorado
When: June 27 – July 5 (depending on division)
Getting a team in to a pool at any of these prestigious tournaments is become increasingly harder, but the Shootout might be the hardest of them all. Teams that have been accepted in the past are grandfathered in, and open spots are given to teams of the tournament’s choosing. Did I mention registration alone runs more than $1,000?
So why is it so hard to get in? Well, probably because some of the best players in the nation are on the rosters of the 16 Men’s Elite Division teams, and the tournament directors don’t want to be responsible for the soul-crushing defeats that would inevitably occur if they took just anyone. Your squad might have run a train through the local summer league, but that doesn’t mean they can hold a candle to the Colorado Mammoth, or a team comprised primarily of Cornell players (to be fair, I guess it doesn’t mean they can’t).
Your best chance of being selected is to have a legitimately competitive squad from an area of the country that is not well represented in the tournament. Don’t think simply calling yourselves the “New Mexico Elite” will work either, as 75% of your roster must actually be from said region.
The aforementioned group of Cornell players, also known as Team 21, walked away with the 2008 Elite Division championship by defeating Team Reebok 12-7 in the tournament’s final game. Team 21 was named in honor of former Cornell player George Boiardi (#21), whose tragic death on the field is all too familiar to those in the lacrosse community.
Looking through the list of previous champions and 2nd place finishers, you will be hard pressed to find a squad that is not loaded with NCAA Division 1 talent. The creation of the MLL stole some of luster away from the tournament rosters, but some major leaguers (Rattlers, Bayhaws) still find time to attend, along with NLL stars (Toronto and Colorado) and top college athletes (Syracuse, Hopkins, Loyala, Middlebury).
Both the Canadian and U.S. National teams have used the tournament as a training ground in the past. In fact, according to the tournament’s website the Canadian team actually played an intra-squad game on the final day of competition, which they used to select their final roster in the early 90’s.
Vail provides one of the most upbeat nightlife atmospheres of any men’s tournament. The ski towns of Vail, Avon, and Beaver Creek all offer a slew of pubs and other hot spots that not only help teams celebrate, but make friends out of on-field competitors. The area also offers a number of non-lacrosse sporting activities such as rafting and mountain biking.
Vail is the most competitive, most prestigious men’s club tournament the west has to offer. Many will argue that region doesn’t even come in to the equation, calling the shootout the best summer tournament in the nation.
One thing is for sure, you can’t beat the coverage that the tournament provides. Staff writer posts scores and game write-ups on the tournament’s website, and multiple professional photographers upload action photos on daily basis. If you’ve got a team that can compete, and the finances to get them there, Vail is an opportunity you can’t pass up.