Tier Lacrosse: Box Lacrosse, Club Ball, & The Right Answer

Tier Lacrosse

Editor’s note: Please welcome Trevor Tierney back to the Lax All Stars! This week, Trevor throws his two cents in to the mix regarding two recent posts, An Intelligent Box Lacrosse Conversation On Twitter and Should We Take Club Ball Seriously?  Trevor knows his lax like few others, so check out his opinions here, and make sure you check out Trevor’s website, TierLacrosse.com!

Got a question you want Trevor to answer in next week’s post? Drop it in the comments section below and we’ll make sure he sees it!

Tier Lacrosse

I recently threw my two cents in on Connor Wilson’s piece on “Should We Take Club Ball Seriously?” and it seemed to get a favorable response from people. Connor asked if I would extrapolate on my comment, so I will copy and paste that response and just go into more detail on it below:

The argument on whether we should take club ball seriously is somewhat pointless as the MCLA is essential to the game right now, for the following reasons:

1. There are simply not enough NCAA teams for all the players who are coming out of high school now. So, the MCLA provides outstanding opportunities for the athletes who cannot or choose not to play in the NCAA. (I say “choose” because there are a lot of players from out west who make wise decisions for themselves and decide that they would rather go to a school in Colorado or California or Oregon rather than go all the way back east just to play NCAA lacrosse.)

I am no longer involved in the recruiting process at the University of Denver, now that I have stepped down to be the volunteer assistant coach there, but I still see what goes on. The coaches there get THOUSANDS of letters and videos from very good players around the country who want to play for our program. Unfortunately, we only have 10 to 12 spots on the team per year.

In 2010, US Lacrosse estimated that there were about 150,000 male high school players! If you divide that by four for the different class years, then that means we would have around 37,500 high school seniors playing lacrosse. If there are about 300 NCAA teams with 10 to 12 spots per year, that is only 3,600 spots for 37,500 players! That alone tells me that we need more opportunities for lacrosse players so that they can continue to enjoy the game in college!

2. There are more and more GREAT high school players every year, so the talent level at the DII, DIII and MCLA levels has increased dramatically over the past decade.

I remember watching some club teams when I was in college (I graduated in 2001) and I was not overly impressed. Now when I go to a MCLA game, which I have in both California and Colorado, I get to see quality lacrosse games. One thing that I have been really impressed with is how hard MCLA teams go! The CU versus CSU fall scrimmages are some of the most heated games I have ever seen. That is cool to see because that means the players care a lot about the game and about their team.

There are now very good players playing lacrosse in all three NCAA divisions and in the MCLA because the game has grown so much throughout the country, more players are starting at a younger age, and there is more good coaching. So, it is just a simple evolution that the increased quantities of talented players would trickle down throughout all levels. If you go to a game between two decent MCLA teams, you are going to see a lot of good athletes and good players.

3. As Connor said, the NCAA cannot keep up with the growth of the game now, but the MCLA can. That’s a good thing for the game.

Listen, would I love to see places like USC, Florida State, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Colorado State and Oregon decide to start NCAA Division I lacrosse programs? Hell yeah! That would be great for the sport! It’s awesome to see it just start to happen with Michigan. But, it’s not going to happen overnight and in the meantime, it’s important for the MCLA to continue to do what is doing, by fielding great lacrosse teams and providing opportunities to college student athletes.

This is where MCLA college lacrosse players may be some of the most important people in the game right now! You guys are the people who the administrators at your school are looking at as an example of what lacrosse brings to a college campus. By being good students, by contributing in positive ways to the campus community and by NOT being screw-ups, you will be showing your college that lacrosse is a great sport filled with great people. This may be one more piece to help convince an athletic director that adding the sport as a Division I program might be the right thing to do. So, MCLA players are diplomats for the game and should take that responsibility seriously.

I know that some people will think that I am saying that MCLA is just a stepping stone to Division I, but I’m not. I want to see both the NCAA continue to grow and the MCLA to continue to grow as well. The more opportunities that we have in college for players and the more exposure the game gets, the greater the popularity the game will have and the more youth players we will have. The NCAA and MCLA and even the MLL and NLL have a snowball effect on the growth of the game.

So, the argument of which is better between the NCAA and MCLA is purely based on people’s emotions and egos. There is no better or worse side here. The game of lacrosse is the game of lacrosse and if you work hard and play to the best of your abilities, you are going to have fun and learn a lot from it. That’s all that matters. When a player wins a championship in NCAA Division I or in the MCLA, the feeling is still the same. The sense of accomplishment and pride from doing your absolute best and competing at your highest level does not change due to the label on your division or league. Obviously, every individual needs to pick the level that they can test and challenge themselves at to reach their highest potential. In the end, we need both the NCAA and MCLA to keep growing so more athletes can continue to have the opportunity to take part in college lacrosse, no matter what the level.

Now on to the Box Lacrosse Twitter topic! My God! I am kind of a Twitter newbie (you can find me at @trevor_tierney) and I didn’t even know people had conversations like that on Twitter!  Does @swanklax even have a phone?  I’m not sure he is going to like me very much after this next answer, which again backs up Connor Wilson’s point.

I wrote a blog last year on LaxAllstars saying how important I thought it was for American players to start playing more box lacrosse. This is important for ALL positions, with maybe the exception of goalie. (However, I discovered that when I was on the NLL Colorado Mammoth’s practice squad as a forward, it greatly improved my stick work and skills as a goalie for the MLL Denver Outlaws. I do not think that box goalie skills translate over well to field goalie skills though, and may even develop bad habits.) This definitely includes defensemen!

1. Field defensemen need to have great stick skills and there is no better way to develop that aspect of your game than field lacrosse.

2. Playing defense with a short-stick is one of the best ways to improve your footwork and agility as a field defenseman. A lot of times at the University of Denver, we have our defensemen use either no stick, a shaft that is cut down to just a foot or so, or a short stick as a way to improve their one on one defensive skills.

3. Learning to play on and off-ball picks in indoor is incredibly challenging and transfers over well to field lacrosse because it is much easier to do with the increased space. A lot of our Canadians at DU are our best off-ball players because of all their indoor experience.

4. Look at two of the best defensemen in the game right now : Brodie Merrill and Eric Martin. Both are top defensemen in both the NLL and MLL. They have improved dramatically over their careers from playing both.

The myth that Canadian or box lacrosse players are not good long stick defenseman is now changing because there are now more opportunities for Canadian players to learn the field game when they are younger. Once they get the fundamentals and sense for the outdoor game down, then the footwork and stick skills transfer over and they have the ability to become dominant defensemen. American players, including defensemen, should take note and play both for their development!

Kind regards,

Tier Lacrosse 

Check out TierLacrosse.com for more great articles from Trevor Tierney.