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Lessons Learned : PLL 2023

The 2023 PLL season was filled with lessons learned, strategies and thoughts to take forward into the offseason and future years.

We learned the importance of confidence, belief and trust (Cannons) in a league of similarly talented athletes/teams. With a few free agent additions, and a new coach (Brian Holman), without Lyle Thompson, the Cannons flipped the script, writing their own form reversal from a dismal one win 2022 summer while stomping their way into the semifinals.

I worked 21 games this summer and witnessed PLL players understanding the gravity of their responsibility to the overall health of the sport. The players – with their actions, respect the game, they treat each other with dignity and they shower the young fans with attention. The player’s attitude and behavior has been an A+.

“Being around the league it is apparent the player’s commitment to move the sport forward,” explains ESPN’s Paul Carcaterra. “Not only from a skill perspective and pushing the sport forward on the field, the players, coaches, and the league push for access and connection to their players, which helps inspire the next generation.”

One goal games were the prevailing storyline of the summer that began in Albany in June and crisscrossed the country, finishing up in Philadelphia in mid September, with Archers beating the Waterdogs by a whisker.

“You better be able to win in multiple manners, and have roster adaptability/flexibility and be prepared for critical situations,” says ESPN analyst Ryan Boyle.

Adapt or perish. Evolve or die. “Shootouts, defensive battles, lousy weather games, games played indoors,” remarks Boyle. There is a lot to navigate.

There is no blueprint for a winning team. One year, a Chaos Lacrosse Club can limp into the playoffs, have nothing to lose, and take the world by storm. Another season shows us that starting the season on top, entering the playoffs as the number one seed, and ultimately winning the title is a byproduct of momentum. We win and we learn.

Paul Rabil – PLL Cofounder

Versatile players are a commodity.

“NLL crossover, world games, and injuries … for Archers we saw Tre LeClaire go from 2 Way midfield to attack to offensive midfield; Challen Rogers picked up a pole in the championship; Reid Bowering played in his first game after Fields injury,” says Boyle. “The summer featured so many close games; and we learned and witnessed different strategies for the :32 vs :52 shot clock implications after the rules adjustment,” said Ryan Boyle.

Defender Jack Rowlett of Team USA and Chaos LC lived it. “I think this summer tested my love of the game with the integration of World Championships mixed into the PLL. It was a lot of travel and time away but it is reassuring to know that after that playoff loss I’m still hungry to get out there.”

To play meaningful lacrosse games after college is a privilege.

This game has no limits. Every week a player makes a play that we hadn’t seen before. Factor that into doing it on the biggest stage with the most grueling of defensive covers makes for a once thought impossible outcome.

Paul Rabil – PLL Cofounder

Veteran players and coaches are forced to study and implement new tactics. Bold innovation gets rewarded. Waterdog’s strategy to concede the face-off, unintended initially, gave birth to a scheme that proved effective over the course of three months.

Eric Law, one of the smartest players of this generation, and Archer describes. “The new faceoff rules made coaches/teams think outside the box and try things that have never been done/thought of before. And changed my thoughts about possessions that it’s more of a telling stat to have more possession time rather than just looking at who had more possessions.”

In the PLL, all possessions aren’t created equal. Extra :32 second possessions from a FO win were often outweighed by :52 second possessions.

Roster creation and management is pivotal in the PLL. The draft and free agent moves proved critical in 2023. “Free agency had a huge impact on the year and the teams and players that took advantage of it found good fits both schematically and culturally that paid off in dividends. (Marcus Holman, Mac O’Keefe, Matt Kavanaugh),” explains Law.

Meanwhile, the play on the field never disappoints. Flashy goals, big hits, rapid passing, patterns and teamwork – you see it all every week during the summer.

With the PLL leading the way, lacrosse has simply come a long way.  Media, social media, TV contracts and multiple camera angles, just to touch the tip of the iceberg!   I have learned that expectations are high, all the way around, and it’s been pretty good chicken soup for the soul to try and meet those expectations.

Matt Palumb – Lead Official

I walk away knowing that Tom Schreiber is special. I was on the field for the early warm-ups on championship Sunday, and from a few feet away I watched him rehearse some dodges, and then shoot with his wrists on the run. The ball left his pocket, seemingly out of a cradle and found the lower left corner, hitting the intersection of the side pipe and earth at the chalk line… a level of perfection that can only be replicated not out done. A few hours later, at the game’s most critical moment, it was Tommy who buried the forever goal.

I felt the passion from fans in Minneapolis, Denver, Charlotte and Albany. Event attendance and TV ratings were up.

“What I learned this summer was actually more of a reaffirmation,” says ESPN play-by-play man Chris Cotter. “The older I get, the less it matters to me what my “favorite” teams do. The Nuggets finally won an NBA title. The Broncos are still awful. Meh. Neither does much for me.”

The conflict, drama and appeal of pro sports is the chase. The pursuit.

“It is always refreshing to see and experience the drive to win a title from those who still play and coach the game,” explains Cotter. “It is as strong or stronger now than it was when they, and WE were 18. To see how much it meant to coach Chris Bates and his entire team. I must admit that I am a bit envious. And reminded that there is always a mountain to climb and joy awaits at its summit.”

To the 160 or so players, team personnel, league management and our team at ESPN and Ross Productions, thank you. The PLL has been a gigantic positive for lacrosse.

We will keep pushing. We won’t quit. And to the fans, thanks for reading and watching the PLL content. Next week I’ve got one more PLL related piece and then we will turn our attention to fall ball college lacrosse. Be sure to check out my podcast here in the media link.