Grow the Game®

Paul Rabil New York Lizards MLL Championship 2015 mainstream lacrosse mll stock report
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp

Brian Witmer: Response To “Mainstream Lacrosse”

I agree. I disagree. I agree to disagree.

Connor Wilson put out an article that is just all over the map of lunacy. If you were to draw a world of lacrosse based on what Connor suggested and then compared that world to the system as we know it now? The two would look nothing alike and cats and dogs would definitely be cohabitating.

Are any of the suggested practices in Connor’s article that outlandish that they simply could not exist?

Well, I honestly couldn’t give two empty toilet paper tubes if we’re ever to become an Olympic sport. I’d rather see the World Games develop and see where they take us, but it’s possible… And maybe the part with a men’s/women’s hybrid… I think that’s silly. But the first two words of the preceding sentence are in fact “I think” and that’s exactly the catalyst needed if anything is going to change.

If the goal is to become “mainstream”, some things will probably need to change.

Or do they? Are we already on the right track?

One might look at the way things have been going, as far as booming participation and expanding geographic conquest in areas previously untouched by the good word. Yes, I used the word conquest. I used the word conquest because that’s what it is. In the truest sense of it, we’re on a mission not to dominate other sports, but simply to promote ours as an option for any boy or girl who thinks baseball sucks and has zero interest in running around in circles all Spring as a competitive sport.

Stop dancing around it, Brian. Put your cards on the table, Brian. Nobody wants the vegan figurative language substitute. Give us the meat.

I think we’ve got the golden ticket as is. We’ve got everything Americans love, and when America loves something, the world in turn loves that thing. The world also loves to see us lose at that thing. The three crowd favorites by a long shot were the Iroquois, Uganda, and Canada in that order. We’ve got a sport that has everything American. Goals. Physicality. Tempo (kinda). And to satiate the unquenchable materialist, we just flat out have the best combinations of equipment and uniforms. Style, creativity, and raw power all meshed into one fluent game. We’ve got the ticket.

Iroquois v Canada 6.17 World Lacrosse Championship

Nobody scores in soccer. Basketball contact is softer than mother’s kiss goodnight. Football is way too slow for me. Baseball doesn’t even get to join in the conversation. Tennis is fun to watch like once a year for twenty minutes. Hockey is great. Mixed Martial Arts is growing on me. If we can just get our own ducks in a row, we’ll be on par to join the big boys, and eventually take over.

I’ve got a couple complaints with the game as it exists right now, and I think that with a few tweaks that would just streamline the whole operation, we’d be in a much better position moving forward if “mainstream” is the goal.

Rules. Now, when I say this, I AM NOT AGREEING with the goobers who just comment “More fighting”, “get rid of all these stupid rules” when they saw the title of the article read “What’s missing with American Lacrosse” and elected not to actually read the article. I’m not bitter. Promise.

There are too many different sets of rules. True, each has been tweaked and modified to service the constituency it governs over, but even in US Lacrosse’s effort to streamline rules for each age group we saw a new mutant clipboard filled with charts and boxes for all different ages and whatnot. We need one set of rules. Child to adult. Same rules. How can anyone follow a game when they’re really not sure what the rules are? Football is guilty of this and is one of the larger complaints internationally. “I have no idea what’s going on…”

Iroquois Nationals vs Australia Sharks 2014 World Lacrosse Championships

Body checking for youth? Aye. There used to be such a thing, and without malice nor intent to injure, it’s relatively safe when done correctly. One hand checks? It’s bad defense 90% of the time and if it’s a slash, call a slash. I think that governance over how a kid learns to play defense rests on the shoulder of officials and coaching, not in legislating blanket consequences.

Shot clock. The writing on the wall. I’m keen to hear arguments, but I think it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ at this point. We want goals, we want transition, and we want to see midfielders with diverse roles.

Short clock? Looks like the longstick and the faceoff guy are playing O with one of the first string midfielders. The chaos. Che bella. Box lacrosse has it. We love box lacrosse. The NCAA doesn’t have it. We love the NCAA. But you can’t tell me that when Maryland and Denver square off, you didn’t roll your eyes and head to the bathroom once a faceoff was won because you knew you had five minutes before anybody went to the cooker.

Watching these NLL games on ESPN3 and FoxSportsGo (I’m in love) is just good entertainment. There will be a shot in the next thirty seconds. Period. I love it. Even on the power short you’re better off trying to make something happen and maybe making something work. With the exception of the dying breed that is the fast break, you really won’t see many man-down goals being scored outdoors. Kill the thirty seconds or three minutes. Park the bus, burn the clock. You only get to play sixty minutes… why waste any of them waiting for reinforcements? Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Jordan Durston first goal NLL Vancouver Stealth

Equipment/Cost. I do agree with Connor 100% here. If we want to be mainstream, that means that everyone has the option to play. If it’s going to run me more than six hundred bucks to put my kid on the field, I don’t know if that’s a sustainable model if we’re hoping for the kind of growth that constitutes the term “mainstream”.

Run a special. Buy the new REXO 9R Brian Witmer signature model Scuzzlebutt head unstrung for $99.00 and it comes with a FREE cheap-o model complete strung stick. Jimmy obviously wants that good good, so he bought a hundred dollar head, and now he has a second stick of significantly lesser value that he can give to the neighbor kid so they can play catch and who knows maybe the neighbor kid always wanted to give it a shot. Maybe the neighbor kid falls in love. Maybe the neighbor kid has ten brothers.

More sticks in more hands. Get it into schools. Following the train of thought, we need lacrosse to be in school. Not our lacrosse. Not the brand that kids and adults alike do in fact get hurt playing. Regulation lacrosse in schools as far as physical education just isn’t going to happen. Ever. What can happen, is a modified game. Towards the end of my Australian tenure, the indoor lacrosse season started. Hosted at a local hoity-toity high school, there existed a league of roughly twenty teams across three divisions (A, B, and C according to competitive level and skill). The ball was a little smaller, and soft. Teams of four plus a goalie played for thirty minute halves. Goalies wore a chest protector, cup, and helmet. There were some other weird rules as well, but I don’t know what they were.

Eagle Academy Lacrosse Ocean Hill

It was a riot. You had a couple of the boys, my buddy Chris’ wife (who had never played) and you could have some younger kids on your team. It was totally co-ed and not age defined. You had locals who weren’t affiliated with any club and had no interest in playing traditional lacrosse.

Casey Powell’s SPEED lacrosse and 3x are also phenomenal examples of how to better share the game without requiring a parent to drop a grand on her two kids to try a game they aren’t guaranteed to like.

What isn’t the issue: Title IX. Title IX is a tricky bit of legislation, and I admittedly slept through class in college when the softball coach ranted about how great it was for women. All I know is that it guarantees equality in athletics, and that’s not a bad thing. Well, my college can’t add men’s lacrosse because we’d have to add a women’s sport as well. Good. Add a women’s sport as well. If you don’t have men’s lacrosse, chances are you don’t have women’s either.

best 2015 photos

There’s a quick and easy solution for that one. If that’s not the case, and there are two hundred different cases, just add it as a club program and trust the bent process. When a women’s curling team gets added and they can now add a men’s program, do you want to be already established and ready to go? I think so. The NCAA wants more teams. It’s a big evil corporation that benefits from your hard work. Trust me. Those leeches want as many unpaid interns on the field under their supervision as possible. To think that it’s NCAA on the East Coast and MCLA everywhere else is to see what’s current, not what’s coming.

Want to know why Australians love AFL and Rugby so much? Why Italians love soccer? Why Canadians love hockey? Ever seen the crowd at a Czech National Championship Floorball game? Because THEY CAN PLAY IT AT AN AMATUER LEVEL UNTIL THEY’RE DEAD OR INCAPABLE WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME THING. My first article with LAS was all about the rancid job US Lacrosse has done in not providing the tens of thousands of “retired” players ages 23+ with amateur options. Oh you want us to fall in love and buy merchandise and see the rise of mainstream lacrosse? Give us a chance to participate in the process. We coach, we watch, we ref, we want to PLAY!

Celebrity exhibition game to kick off USLacrosse’s new facility. Mick Foley in one goal, Dave Grohl in the other. Get Peter Dante out there with Steve Carrell and a litany of other stars who learned to play when they were kids. I’d rather pay 100$ to see that than to see Maryland and Denver stare at each other for 5+ minutes at a time. Bring in some guys who haven’t ever played before. Kevin Hart will do anything. The Rock? Mark Wahlberg. Will Farrell and Bill Murray wouldn’t even have to be invited but you know they’d end up on one sideline or another. John Kerry played. He makes phone calls to the Iranian military. I guarantee he can still mix it up. This is by far the most ridiculous of my suggestions… but it would be quite the event if someone knows some guys who know a couple guys.

Lacrosse might never go mainstream. There’s a chance, and that’s totally cool with me. If it continues to grow as it has been growing these past few years, I think there’s a better chance of it happening than not, but we have a long road ahead of us. Do you want lacrosse to be mainstream? Own it. You’re an ambassador just the same as I am, just the same as Bill Tierney or Casey Powell or the crazy janitor who uses an old longstick he found to knock icicles off the roof. Every time someone sees a stick, a shirt or maybe even a game by chance, they’re either going to have a good experience, or a bad one. Conduct yourself well, share the game instead of excluding others, and be proud that you play and openly talk about the game with folks who haven’t had the opportunities you’ve had just because they were born in the next town over and there wasn’t lacrosse. That could’ve been you if your parents had put you in a different school district.

We’re a shot clock away from a finished product. Make it accessible to all kids, and available to all adults, and market the game as the high intensity, high contact, high scoring thrill ride that it can be, and we’ll be on our way folks. Connor’s article made me think. It probably made you think. Now you’ve read my article. You’ve read my thoughts, you’ve read Connor’s thoughts, and now you’re having thoughts and we’d love to read those as well. Comment on here, email me, send us a smoke signal, or just talk about it with the boys. Your opinions aren’t really doing much if nobody ever hears them.

It’s a conversation. Add to it. You don’t need to win or to dominate said conversation, but the more voices and opinions, the better it gets.