Lacrosse Grows But Things Stay The Same

Jovan Miller box lacrosse dye job team USa lax
Would have loved to have seen Jovan Miller play box too in college!

Editor’s Note: As Chris Fox explained in the recent “No Music in the NLL” post, we’ll be showcasing a lot more Canadian and box lacrosse content on LAS this winter.  As a sort of counter point to Connor Wilson’s “US Youth Box Lacrosse is Making Strides“, Jeff Matheson is here to explain why we won’t be seeing a rash of US NLL players any time soon.  The US may still have a long way to go after all.  Where do you stand on the issue?


I love seeing the growth of box Lacrosse south of the border as it results into more people playing, which is the ultimate goal with any sport.  This translates into the American box leagues pumping out NLL players in no time right?  Well, not exactly.

First of all, look at this picture I put together above as a comparison.  On the left is Canadian box lacrosse: playing in a hockey rink with solid boards and glass, a visibly obvious crease, and matching uniforms & helmets.  On the right is the American version of the same thing: first of all the net is yellow and might even glow in the dark, there are more colours of helmets than Cascade’s website, and they are playing in what looks like an aquarium without the water in it.  All kidding aside, let’s get to the REAL point.

If you look at any NLL roster you will notice one common trait: at least ninety percent, if not all of the players, are from either from the Toronto or Vancouver areas and the surrounding suburbs.  Did you ever wonder why this is?

Here’s why: those are the only two areas with high-level minor and senior box lacrosse programs.  These programs are equipped with enough coaches that know what they are talking about, appropriate facilities and equipment, and enough talented players to have a handful of teams.  This constant high-level of competition between multiple teams that spans decades is where professional athletes come from, not from start-up leagues fooling around in makeshift arenas.  I am not saying that they cannot eventually pump players into the pro leagues just don’t expect it anytime soon.



    • “… hav[ing] some sort of box in the US” is great. However, box in the US will never be as beneficial to lacrosse players as it is in Canada because of the restrictions and limitations box has in the US. Mathy touched on one subject, coaching. Although there are great box programs with great box coaching popping up in the US. Canada has a massive amount of quality coaches, visa versa with field in Canada vs the US. 

      The one limitation that is restricting the benefits of box lacrosse in the US are rules, and insurance restrictions (contact along the boards and cross checking). One thing that sets Canadians apart from their american counterparts is the ability to get a shot or pass off with one or possibly two players draped all over them and cross checking them into the ground. And that is when you have the ball. The ability to get open and effectively use the “two man game” while your opponent is heavily cross checking you is a skill that is developed over a life time. Off ball cross checking is what makes Canadian players, well, Canadian. We have the uncanny ability to get open while being checked as if we had the ball. Remove that from the game, and you are removing the game set that develops a particular skill to create your own time and space. Trust me getting open in box is 100% easier to do when someone isn’t cross checking the hell out of you. My first shift in the WLA was a swift cross check to the jaw from Ryan Guze while the ball was still in our defensive end. Needless to say I moved around after that.

      Box lacrosse in the US is great. But without off-ball cross checking your just playing lacrosse in an aquarium.

      • Foxy Cleopatra, I agree with most, however am not a huge fan of off-ball contact.  I’m fine with guys pushing to feel where the players are, but I see no need for huge cross-checks and unnecessary HACKS.

        Now my main idea is that twenty one year olds from Toronto/Vancouver have already been playing GOOD/COMPETITIVE/STRUCTURED lacrosse for potentially seventeen years.  How could these startup leagues possibly produce a player and make up for that seventeen years of quality development?  They can’t.

        • No doubt Buds, hacks are brutal. But, I have shared this argument before. Offensive guys should be allowed to push to set a check (light controlled cross check, as they do now) and defenders should be able to move and check the offensive player setting the pick (with an equally light controlled cross check and push that drives the opponent away from the pick).

          I totally agree, hacks totally off-ball are brutal. But, eliminating off ball checking all together takes away from the physicality and ‘toughness’ of the sport. Not only on the defensive end, but on the offensive end as well. I nice stiff checked-pick to open yourself up is a thing of beauty. So if you allow the offensive guy to check, let the defensive guy check as well.

          Obviously nothing on the back and no hacking. But by all means when an offensive player has the ball, check/slash away to get that ball. All common sense really.

  1. Fox – Don’t write our USBOXLA boys off just yet.  The ‘aquarium’ is a terrible place to play Box – agreed –  but we do have a number of rinks with full USBOXLA markings both indoor and outdoor here in California – no different than the Beaches in TO or Coquitlam. As for the rulebook limitations – well actually the US Box Lacrosse Association removed those limitations.  We play with live boards, off ball contact, and cross checking.  We teach our players how to play the same way that we do in Canada.

    The biggest limitation is the amount of programs to play here in the USA – there’s nothing that can replace that competitive nature of southern Ontario but our boys hop on planes and find good competition here in the USA and we do it 365 days a year – our boys don’t stop. 

    Lewis and the Jr Stealth will eventually be the team with the top players because of their proximity to Canada.  When they hosts camps they get a ton a Canadians attending which just like the NLL push the pace and intensity of gameplay.  We fly up there in both Jan and Feb to play their guys and of course I’ll pad my roster with a few team BC players to help settle our play.

    If you remove the limitations of the game (facility,rules), bring in great coaching and develop the competitive spirit of Box then we’ll be able to produce some real talent here in the USA.

    The proof is in our Midget team – we’re not on survival mode any more when we hit Canada.  We play to win.  Our boys have played New West, Mimico, Kitchener, Peterborough, Whitby, Brampton, plus all the teams in Alberta.  We know how to work off ball, ‘sticky fingers’ to defend picks, we even know how to find the exposed hips when setting picks.

    Since we’ve returned from our summer tour in Canada we haven’t stopped playing – that helps us out – helps close this gap.

    I also send a few kids from my program up to Canada each summer to play Jr B and MSL and am sending a few more to BC for Jr B this summer.  They come back and help push the play here.

    Will our boys beat team Ontario Bantams soon? No….but will we produce some good players who you’ll have good college careers and suit up with the Stealth one day – absolutely.  Count on that.