Editor’s Note: Johnny Mouradian runs the American Indoor Lacrosse Association and he is also the GM of the Philadelphia Wings. The AILA just announced a bunch of new program partnerships and we thought it was important for Johnny to fill our readers in on what the AILA does… We also want to know, What the heck is InCrosse?
Why has the AILA partnered with these youth and development programs? What do they get out of the deal? What does the AILA get out of it?
The arrangement provides AILA indoor training for the players and coaches in their travel team programs and provides training with respect to integration of the bio mechanics, principle, strategies, and tactics to the field game. The indoor component is a series of academies and games, as well as the opportunity to have their teams compete in AILA sanctioned tournaments. By having a number of Integrated Programs it provides a variety of safe, highly educational opportunities to learn the indoor game. Besides the education and training, our Integrated Program partners will work with AILA to develop programs and services for the lacrosse families in their specific market. Their coaches will have the opportunity be certified integrated coaches when they have coaching a certain amount of indoor hours and have a good grasp of the indoor game.
Please explain In|Crosse in-depth. What does the training program seek to accomplish?
In|Crosse is the new evolution and style of play that is the game of the future that takes the lacrosse literacy from the indoor game and utilizes that foundation to play a more read-and-react game that is player-centered rather than a game of plays that is coach-centered. The style of play is initiated from interchanges, picks, screens, seals and posts and ends up with the dodge rather than initiating with a dodge. It allows every player to contribute because everyone plays on ball and off ball, the ball is shared, and the foot tempo is continuous – slide packages are far more difficult to execute. The style of play is the same in a fast break, six-on-six play and even when man-up.
Interest in box lacrosse definitely seems to be growing in the US, often as a training tool for field players. Should kids “train” with box, or just “play” box lacrosse?
My personal view is that real box lacrosse currently is played in Canada and a few places in the US where our Native American friends play, and of course, the Vermont Voyageurs. To play true box it really needs to be played on cement in ice rinks in the summer when the ice is out or of course the Toronto Rock practice facility that was built for year round box lacrosse. The boards are constructed for hockey and the combination with the cement are features that increase the pace of the game tremendously. Rebounds off the glass onto the cement and cement to boards and missed passes that bounce in uncanny directions add a dimension that only exists in that environment.
There are several lacrosse programs marketing that they are playing box here in the US however in some situations they are not using shot clocks and some are using field goals. So currently the term box lacrosse is very misrepresented in terms of the true game. As far as rules go box lacrosse has a high degree of off ball hitting, cross checking and is very rugged. That is why AILA is positioned as indoor lacrosse. I love box lacrosse however there is a very small group of players (and parents for that matter) who want the real, true box.
The key is a combination of teaching and playing in the early development and it needs to focus on developing transition odd man situations and offensive elements, gradually turning up the heat and the pressure from the defense and then teaching the defensive principles once the transition and offensive principles are understood. If the defensive is too strong in the early practices and games it hinders the development of offensive literacy. The key is knowing during the teaching when to turn up the heat from the D and then allowing the O to now develop under and during a high level of D. Once the D is a high level than it forces a new level for the O to develop and opens up new opportunities like slip picks, brush picks and fake picks that are less effective in softer D environments.
So a well planned program with stages of development with layers of advancement/planning and the introduction of games is the next level. The biomechanics are so different and focusing on keeping the stick in one hand inside the alley is so different from the field game and learning to play north/south rather than east/west. It is so different introducing the indoor game to players who have played field lacrosse for a number of years than it is introducing field to box players who have played box for a number of years.
AILA provides a turnkey solution. We are the official distributor of Boddam goalie equipment in the USA, so we have the capability to start programming quickly and effectively. And we also have the capability to manufacture the same goals as we use in the NLL and of course the shot clocks.
Why has the AILA chosen the path that it has with InCrosse?
AILA is all about education and training and the end product is taking advantage of the many features of indoor lacrosse (box style) to develop better field players and coaches as opposed to developing box lacrosse players. The key for us is teaching how to integrate and immerge the indoor with the field. There is no “Fairy Dust”… it takes time, teaching and learning. The interest indoor relates exactly to what happen in Canada with the growth of the field game. In terms of Canada and the field epidemic that started back in 1978 after we won the World Field Championships, we went from having four players at US colleges to now around 300.
Canada has over 100,000 box lacrosse players and around 8,000 playing field – 8%. For the 8% their lacrosse hours are 75% box and 25% field unless of course they are attending a US prep school or college. So our platform focuses on a percent of the 450,000 field players in the US who are interested in learning indoor as part of their field development. We would like to see that percentage evolve for US players to play 25% indoor and 75% field, reverse of what takes place in Canada. The Canadian players are coming to the USA and we are very pleased with that so our platform provides an opportunity for home grown US players to gain valuable indoor experience that will differentiate their lacrosse literacy and play.
We are working to teach a percentage, and at this point is it a small percentage. We firmly believe that the percent who choose AILA as a component of their development will have a distinction reflected in their field play similar to the distinction the portion of the 8% of the Canadians learning field in Canada and are fortunate to come to the US as student athletes. The In|Crosse platform reflects our position on the literacy and the distinct advantage US field players will have if/when they choose to integrate their development with indoor education, training and playing – there is no “Fairy Dust” and it is a first mover advantage. The indoor epidemic is disrupting the US lacrosse environment now like field lacrosse disrupted the box environment in Canada decades ago. The disruption is good and we feel it is now taking a life of it’s own.
When will we see more Americans in the NLL, especially on offense? Is the level of US boxla play anywhere close to what it is in Canada? Have any strides been made?
Offense for a field player learning box lacrosse is a bigger mountain to climb than the hurdles box players need to jump when learning field lacrosse offense. Just looking at shooting for example: size of nets, goalies with pads, faking, deception, rebounds from the glass and boards, bounces off the cement and other features from box development make shooting on a big goal – a bit of a picnic.
Looking at the advancement of Team Canada field and Team USA field, the gap is closed. Canada and US are now on par and the World Field Games next summer in Denver will be a real showcase. On the World Indoor stage I would say Canada is still 5-7 goals stronger however we have to take into account the Canadian goaltending is at a higher level. With that in mind the US players, with the exception of current NLL players like Casey Powell, Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf, have taken longer to develop than box players developing field skills. Defense, that is a different story. Positioning, ruggedness, loose balls, athleticism and one on one shut down play are generally pretty good however understanding how to defend the two man picks and two man screens tend to take a bit longer. However not as long as the learning curve for the O players.
We are making strides and with my role as GM of the Wings and the commitment from our ownership group our player procurement plan is geared to the development of US players – look at Paul Rabil, Brett Manney, Mike Manley, Joel White and Chad Wiedmaier to name a few. Our roster in Philly will be around 60% US player content, the highest in the NLL.