Disclaimer: This article on lacrosse stereotypes is going to piss some people off. Thanks to Trilogy Lacrosse Tournaments for writing this piece!
You might be upset about a broad generalization I make about your region – “not ME, not MY TEAM” you’ll say. Don’t worry, maybe you and your team are the exception, not the rule.
Or you’ll get mad because I DIDN’T mention you – “what about the Dakotas?!” Despite my Delta Airlines frequent flier Gold status, I have not seen EVERY region and don’t want to speak on those I haven’t experience firsthand.
Or maybe you’ll just disagree with my assessment. “That Belisle guy should stick to footwork drills” you’ll scoff. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because at the end of the day, I’m stereotyping the manner in which lacrosse is taught and played, and that’s something that is admirable, no matter how it happens.
While lacrosse is a very simple game at its core – move the ball through the air to score goals and stop the other team from scoring – and the strategy is SIMILAR across the globe, there are key variations to the style it is played depending on the region you are in.
Having spent countless hours on the field with players, meeting with coaches, and observing from the sidelines, there are stark differences that define the way lacrosse is played in Atlanta from the way it is played in Long Island from the way it is played in Kentucky. We have seen this firsthand at lacrosse tournaments from Providence, RI to Saginaw, MI. And with the proliferation of true ELITE regional clubs, we are starting to see these varieties clash on the field.
But before we get into these style stereotypes (stylotypes?), let’s look at the factors that influence a given market’s brand of play:
Maturity of Lacrosse Market – How long has lacrosse been a part of the community? In certain markets the game is nearly synonymous with the area (think Baltimore) and thus nearly every mom, dad, and coach grew up with the game (which can be both positive and negative). In others, you’re sure to see the classic game of catch between a player using a lacrosse stick and their parent with a baseball or softball glove. Often those teams from established lacrosse traditions have sounder fundamental stick skills and rely on high lacrosse IQ and strategy to win games.
Homecoming Factor – Do kids who played in high school and those who went on to play lacrosse in college come back to settle and raise their families? This creates the long-term maturity described above and a culture of lacrosse knowledge, often sprinkled with outside influences. Having even a handful of knowledgeable coaches can often bring the lacrosse IQ of an entire program up, and if those coaches are influential in the community, good things happen!
Field Space – Are there plenty of places for kids to play and opportunities to practice their craft? Are they plush grass fields with fences where kids can shoot for hours without worrying about missing corners? Or are games played on the blacktop of handball courts like Harlem Lacrosse does, where stick skills in tight spaces and handling pressure become paramount? My high school in Severna Park, MD had a specific wall-ball wall right next to our practice fields and any given day you’d see 10-12 players working on their sticks before practice. You’ve heard that your environment shapes you – the same is true for your lacrosse environment.
Climate – This is an overlooked element that makes a huge difference. In Southern California a player can grab a bucket of balls and head outside year-round. Same thing in Texas. Vermont in February is a different story. Because space and fields are limited in colder-weather climates during the winter, often players and teams focus on more specialized elements of their game in the offseason, while warm-weather counterparts can continue to run full-field drills and dodge and shoot from all areas of the field.
Regionally-Significant Lacrosse Stereotypes – As much as people try to create their own cultures within teams and organizations, it’s nearly impossible not to think of an underdog mentality when you think of Philadelphia, or the heartiness of those who reside along the rocky coast of Maine. As the saying goes, lacrosse stereotypes exist for a reason, and often these stereotypes permeate the lacrosse landscape.
Town/Club Relationship – Not only is this factor one of the biggest influences, it is one of the most important. Club lacrosse is often where the money is and thus is an aggregator for lacrosse expertise in a given market. The relationship between these clubs and the local programs and the overlap in coaches that service each, determines whether that wealth is shared or focused in small concentrations.
REGIONS & ANALYSIS
Stereotype: Raw, athletic, multi-sport athletes. Hard north-south dodgers. Physical, punishing defenders.
Evidence to Support: Dave Lawson, Sean Morris, Matt Striebel, Jack Reid
Evidence to Refute: Cody O’Donnell, Will Walker
Stereotype: Physical & emotional players with high lacrosse IQ. Will run you over, then shoot BTB.
Evidence to Support: Matt Danowski, Brennan O’Neil, Steve Panarelli, Miles Jones
Evidence to Refute: Will Manny, Brian Karalunas
Stereotype: Slick stick skills, rely more on skill than physical play. Offense based on IQ/ball-movement.
Evidence to Support: Davey Emala, Marcus Holman, Steele Stanwick, Kyle Hartzell
Evidence to Refute: Romar Dennis, Garrett Epple, Matt Dunn
Stereotype: Physically dominant athletes, Big skill disparities between the top and the bottom.
Evidence to Support: Scott Ratliff, Eric Overbay, Nate Solomon
Evidence to Refute: TBD – only the top athletes have made it at this point…
Stereotype: Imposing. Grinding, Tough defensively, football/wrestler type mentality
Evidence to Support: Connor Buczek, Sergio Perkovic, Kyle Bernlohr, Adam Osika
Evidence to Refute: Stephen Brooks
Stereotype: Blue collar, two-way players, system-based but with creative streak. Playmakers.
Evidence to Support: Joe Resetarits, Joe Walters, Joel White, Kevin Rice.
Evidence to Refute: Ben Reeves, Brett Queener
Stereotype: Based on year-round nature of TX football you typically don’t get those physical specimens, thus: quick, shifty, smaller but slick and skilled.
Evidence to Support: Ross Gillum, Max Skibber
Evidence to Refute: Brandon Mullins, Bryce Wasserman
Stereotype: Gritty, grinders. Will beat you with power more than speed. Love talking smack.
Evidence to Support: Matt Rambo, Drew Adams, Tucker Durkin, Greg Gurenlian, Austin Kaut
Evidence to Refute: Joey Sankey, Michael Sowers
Stereotype: Workman mentality, less flashy, blue collar. Average size, strong shooters and exceptional in specialty positions
Evidence to Support: Scott Bieda, Joe Nardella, Chris Mattes, Travor Baptiste
Evidence to Refute: Matt McMahon, Jules Heningburg, Ned Crotty
Did I miss the mark? I’d love to hear about it. And for regions out West and beyond, I’d love to know the differences between Northern and Southern California. Between Oregon and Washington. Because no matter what your style, one thing we can all agree on is the more regions we have to stereotype, the more the game is being played. And that is the only analysis that really matters.