This year I took a different approach to my summer tour scheduling and it taught me a new perspective on the phrase Grow The Game. The current state of popularity is difficult to see from the long-standing hotbeds in the North East.
Anyone who has ever experienced the summer lacrosse tournament culture knows that it is an exhausting experience. Packing young players into the car, driving long distances, keeping the younger kids in line all day, orchestrating hotels, sitting out in the hottest parts of summer, etc. Being on the vending end of things isn’t so different. It is because of this that I decided I to only attend a selection of events this year for the Wood Lacrosse Sticks 2019 Summer Tour. I chose more “remote” locations in terms of the lacrosse community.
What do I mean by remote? Well I decided to leave the continental US and venture out to the Amsterdam lowlands tournament, as well as Prague for the 2019 ELF Men’s Lacrosse European Championship. I am writing this from the Czech Republic, while having a cup of instant coffee I found in my AirBnB. I recently finished my USA portion of the tour, where I had traveled to some up and coming regions where the sport has become rooted over the past few years. States like California and Colorado are out of the developmental phases and on the road to the expansion phase of the growth.
My friend and fellow woodworker Andy Deardorff from Ripwood joined me in Denver and traveled across the country to Tahoe for Summit Venture’s annual California tournament. What we saw in these regions blew us away. The talent was impressive. “These kids are better than I was at their age” I would say. “Those kids are better than you are now” Andy would jest. He was right. There were some notable moments where I watched coaches speak from experience and moments where young men and women reacted on the field as if they had always held a stick. People, young and old, came to my booth and asked me questions about the history of wooden sticks, where the three forms of the game were played, and how wooden sticks died off. I took this opportunity to teach as many people as I could about the history of the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed the captive audience that did not usually see such pieces.
I looked out at hundreds of young kids playing and I felt pride in their unexpected talent. It was as if I were their coach or somehow responsible for their success, when I obviously hadn’t done anything to help them grow to the point of competency that they were displaying. It was the coaches and team organizers that had gone off to universities in the North East, or who had moved out to the west and brought the game with them. I chewed on that as we were rolling down Highway 50, a lonely road completely void of traffic, and the thought matured to a sense of communal pride. I thought to myself “It is growing and it is growing everywhere, and it is everyone’s fault.”
Grow The Game: Growth Statistics
As a community we have been doing a tremendous job in our effort to keep the game in a constant state of expansion. Even here in Europe, the game is growing and the talent is solid. I suited up with Northern Soul’s Gin and Juice team this past week. I quickly found out that I wasn’t on the same level as their main squad and started to fill in where I was needed as accents from all around the world yelled for slides and offensive formation. I had to step away from the old guard to see how impressive these other lacrosse communities have become.
In summary, take a little pride in the saying Grow the Game. A lot of young men and women are getting the opportunity to play because of the efforts that this community has put forth. I encourage everyone to step out and teach. I further encourage those within our nation’s largest cities to push the envelope.