Belgium vs Uganda - 2014 World Lacrosse Championships
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FIL WLC: The Good, The Bad, & The Reffing

I talked about lacrosse withdrawal earlier today, and obviously it was short-lived because I’m right back talking about lacrosse again this afternoon. This post will cover the FIL World Lacrosse Championships as objectively as possible, and talk about as much of the the good, the bad, and the ugly, as is humanly possible. If you want to offer up a guess on where the reffing fell, just check out the title, but you may be surprised by my thoughts!

The Good Stuff… And Some Great!

There was considerably more good stuff than bad stuff at the FIL Worlds, that much is certain. Here are a couple of bullet point highlights from the event of which you might not be aware:

Uganda Made It! – There was some doubt whether the first African country to participate in the WLC would actually make it to Denver. Last minute visa issues almost derailed the plan, but volunteers made it happen, and Uganda got there on time, and even got their first ever FIL win against South Korea. That was awesome to see firsthand.

No One Else Dropped Out! – 38 teams promised, and 38 teams delivered. It didn’t matter if you were still lacking funding, had visa issues, or that your country was in the middle of a military takeover… teams made it to Denver, offered no excuses, and played hard. US Lacrosse and the FIL were also pretty accommodating for teams in tough situations, and this helped immensely. It was a team effort for many programs, and I loved seeing people helping people in the name of lacrosse.

The Dorm Life – The dorms at DU were really quite superb. Players had refrigerators, ovens, a private bathroom for four people, and plenty of amenity like wireless internet, laundry facilities, and more. Teams would watch ESPN3/U/2 games on TVs in dorm common areas, and lots of bonding was done off the field. To have something like 34 out of 38 teams in the dorms was an awesome experience, and US Lacrosse’ Colleen Evans made sure it all worked out. She did a top notch job and worked even harder than I did. I was endlessly impressed by both Colleen and Beth Porreca of US Lacrosse. Even the food at DU was solid. I was expecting Aramark quality grub, but it turns out DU does their food privately. Makes sense why the food wasn’t garbage! Breakfast became a daily highlight, and it also kept your bathroom schedule regular. Double bonus.

The Games – Sure, there were some unbalanced match ups, and one or two teams really struggled, but the overall game battles were awesome to see. Lower teams got better by the end of four quarters, and higher teams didn’t let up but also worked on things for later in the tournament. The games were hard fought and physical, but teams would always come together and shake hands afterwards. I also noticed some of the top players giving out post-game advice to newer players, and saw numerous successful face off men sharing their secrets with the previous game’s victims. It was that kind of event.

Growing The Game – The WLC definitely provided a lot of chances to grow the game. New fans came to games (we had a number on the Thailand sidelines), and borderline fans took their love to a new level. Young kids to old women all got to experience the true world game of lacrosse, and I think it will have a lasting impact on those who attended. While there was plenty of product on display, and the trappings of a convention, the true focus was on the action on the field, and that was awesome to see. Kids were talking less about sweet new gloves, and more about who won between Ireland and New Zealand. That was superb to see and hear!

Those Fans, Those Wonderful Fans – There were fans from all over the world at this event, and I believe there was at least one person from each of the six playing continents (Antarctica is not counted) in attendance. The Australian fans were beyond boisterous; they sang songs and cheered endlessly, and it was amazing to see how many of them made their way to Denver from so far away. Fans across the board were excellent, and bad tempers rarely surfaced. Thanks to all who came out!

Iroquois Finish Third! – I love Australian Lacrosse, but it wasn’t hard for me to be happy when the Iroquois Nationals claimed third place over the Sharks. This was the youngest team the Iroquois has brought to a WLC, and they had more college experience than ever before. To see a disciplined group of young men win third place, with flair and dynamic play, all while pulling from less than 90,000 total people was truly amazing to see. It also proves that no nation is too small to see success on the international lacrosse field.

Iroquois v Canada 6.17 World Lacrosse Championship

The Bad Stuff… Overall Not Too Bad!

Food Pricing At The Event – Dick’s is a business, and I get that, but their pricing for food was out of control. You want fans to pay $35 for a lower level ticket to the finals? Ok, they’ll do that. $10 for parking? Sure. But to add $5 waters, $8 slices of pizza, and $11 beers on to that was a bit much. Even the staff selling the food thought the pricing was preposterous, and numerous employees laughed when I said I wouldn’t pay $5 for water. They said they wouldn’t either. That tells you something.

The Traffic – For some reason, there is almost always traffic in and around Denver. 8am? Rush hour traffic. 4pm? Rush hour traffic. 11am? Traffic, but who knows why. 10pm? Traffic. It was a constant, and I still have no idea why people in Colorado can’t drive very well. I live in NYC and traffic isn’t that bad. This is not something anyone can control, but it has to be said. Back roads worked better many times, but not everyone could figure out the maze that is suburban Colorado.

“No TRADING!” – On the last day, as is unofficial WLC tradition, teams from around the world trade gear, shooting shirts, and more. It’s a tradition of spreading love, and exchanging some of the things you’ve bled and sweat in for something in which someone else has done the same. The staff at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was instructed (by whom I am still not sure), that trading was “not legal” at DSGP. This was a joke, and the players and fans treated it as such. Trades became “gifts”, and there was plenty of talk about “the Constitution”. Eventually, the staff gave up. Someone should find out who came up with this rule though, and that person should get a stern talking to. $5 water wasn’t enough? Now you’re going to outlaw trading of gear? I don’t think so. Awesome to see the lacrosse community nip this one in the bud and do what they do.

Quint’s Woodie Comments – Quint Kessenich made an observation during the Iroquois – Canada game that wooden sticks should be outlawed, because of their potentially harmful use on the field. This was ridiculous to me on a few levels. 1) Wooden sticks are a part of lacrosse, and have been for hundreds of years. Quint sees a couple big woodie slashes and he moves to outlaw them? Seems rushed to say the least. 2) A metal or composite pole that weighs a bit more than your standard pole (they do exist!) will do just as much damage as a comparable wooden stick yet he made no mention of that. 3) This rule would single out the Iroquois and their religion, and do little else.

If you want to create a maximum weight for a lacrosse stick, I’m ok with that, but simply outlawing wooden sticks borders on racial insult. If it is a safety issue (heavier sticks do more damage) then I can see that argument, but singling out wooden sticks in particular makes me very uneasy. There have long been rules in modern field lacrosse to discourage the Iroquois’ and native participation, and to me, this smacks of more of the same. I didn’t like hearing those comments at all, and found them truly disheartening, especially coming from a man of Quint’s large stature within our community. I’m sure that wasn’t his intent, but that was the feeling I got from some of the people I spoke with at the WLC.

2014 Iroquois Lacrosse Helmet

The Reffing – Good? Bad? Something Else?

Was the reffing particularly good at the WLC? No. Was it particularly bad? Also no. It was actually exactly what I expected heading in to the event… so what was it?

The reffing was growing and improving.

Now, this can be very hard to accept for many people, and I understand that. A number of the coaches for teams in attendance were US-based coaches, and they have a pretty high level of expectations for referees. Many of the players also played in the US, and this impacted their expectations as well. Many of the fans were in the same boat, and not only were all of these people used to college rules, but they were also used to highly experienced refs making the calls.

Iroquois v Canada 6.17 World Lacrosse Championship reffing

In the World Lacrosse Championships however, the above is simply not an option. First off, you need refs who know the international rules. Most US college officials do not know these rules, and they have little practice using them. Second, all of the refs can not come from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and a few other select countries. If we are going to have TEAMS from a diverse set of nations, we also need a diverse set of refs from those countries. Why is this true? Imagine how hard it would be to play a game of lacrosse in Italy without a ref! Every country needs reffing, like every country needs players.

And like some of the lower level playing nations, the refs from developing countries also need exposure to the game at a higher level, in order to grow and improve. It’s tough to have a ref in charge of your game and know that he has never reffed a game this good in his life… but would an experienced ref make that comment to a less experienced player participating in his first WLC? No, the ref would not.

The fact is, lacrosse is still a fledgling sport in many places, and while team development is key, so is referee development. It may be frustrating, but it’s good for the game at the end of the day.

Reffing was not bad at the FIL WLC, but it also wasn’t exactly good. It was growing and improving, and in 2018 I think we will see a larger and more professional group of refs because of this July in Denver. For that, I am extremely thankful.

I also got a chance to speak with the FIL reffing group in charge of all the stripes, and I want you to know how hard the entire group is working on improving and stepping up their game so that it keeps pace with all the world growth. You can never expect perfection from a ref (or anyone, really!) but you can ask for hard work, and we got that across the board. Is there room for improvement? Of course! I’d be shocked if there were not!

Overall View On The Event

It was good! Not all good, but very good, and I have very few real complaints at all. High food prices are to be expected almost anywhere in the US these days, Quint may say unintentionally ignorant things, traffic will always exist, and “the man” will always try to shut down a barter economy where they can’t excise some sort of tax… but of the things we, US Lacrosse, and the FIL can control? Well those things went very well indeed!

The atmosphere was superb, the fans were loud and dedicated, and the players and coaches gave it everything they could. You can’t ask for a better overall lacrosse event, but in 2018 we will, and we’re confident that the FIL and the English Lacrosse Association will once again deliver. Onwards and upwards!

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