While we’re all excited about college lacrosse playoffs, we also must say RIP to 10,000 College Lacrosse Careers. Simply put, this Spring is coming to the point where every Spring must go. It’s do or die for pretty much every team still fortunate enough to be playing, and that means it’s do or die for every senior’s college career, assuming it isn’t over already.
While I look forward to seeing some of the best lacrosse of the season, and based on the season so far, that’s quite the standard to live up to, I can’t help but look back and feel an overwhelming sadness for the athletes who’ve played for the last time.
RIP 10,000 College Lacrosse Careers
According to LaxPower, there are 1,503 collegiate teams across all three divisions of the NCAA, MCLA, and JUCO, between men and women. That’s amazing. I was looking up numbers of teams and I really wasn’t expecting a number quite that high.
‘Niche sport’… right.
1,503 teams covering the spectrum of elite division 1 teams flying back and forth across the country every week to play a game, and the first year club program where kids are buying their own balls and scraping together ten warm bodies to put on the field every week.
What levels the playing field is that when each athlete’s tenure with college is over, more often that not, so is their tenure with the game they love. With some simple, calculator assisted math, I did some estimates as to how many men and women will effectively have their lacrosse lives ended this May… and the numbers are nothing short of staggering.
For argument sake, let’s say that every team will lose between five and ten kids once the season ends this Spring. Seniors will graduate, freshmen who didn’t get time won’t return, life will happen. Some teams will only lose two or three, sure, but other programs will lose fifteen. Let’s settle between five and ten.
If my shaky math is right, that means between 7,515 and 15,030 athletes will suddenly be snuffed out and relegated to the ranks of the irrelevant. The game that has given them everything will now be absent from their lives.
Sure. I’ll take off twenty, or maybe even thirty, from either one of those numbers. You have made it to the ranks of the MLL or NLL. Congratulations, from the thousands of us who love the game just as much as you, but aren’t quite as good.
I guess this is an obituary.
Ten thousand athletes, dead and gone. What remains, is by no means a shell of a man or woman, rather it is the product of being raised as an athlete. The work ethic, the competitive nature, they still live on, but the opportunity to take the field with your brothers and sisters and show the world what you’ve got… that’s dead.
You won’t have that 6AM practice. The feeling of sliding on arm guards still cold and wet from the practice fourteen hours ago won’t be there. That burn in your lungs on a snowy February morning run, surrounded by thirty brothers (or sisters!) all keeping each other going? You’ll likely never feel that again. You will never again be told you screwed up. Honestly, some of you will never ever again need to sprint.
That’s a funny concept.
At the age of 22 you might never experience your body’s top speed again. When you might just now be reaching the peak of your athleticism, you’re finished. For the entirety of your young life you had a couple dedicated coaches on the sideline demanding the best from you. Now you have to demand it from yourself. Part of me really wishes there was still a man with a whistle that I feared disappointing. Some of the decisions I’ve made… absolutely, I should be sent to the end line to await my punishment.
You can still play the game. You can play summer league, maybe even winter men’s league. That’s close to the same thing, right? You’ll play in a summer tournament once a year? Sure, maybe you’ll take the first day seriously, but you’re really just looking forward to getting lit up like a Christmas tree with the boys. The walking hangover that walks up and down the field on Sundays and the finely tuned machine that used to take the field six days a week aren’t the same person. You’ve been killed.
Sure, maybe some of you will try to keep up your competitive lives. Some of you clowns will drink the kool-aid and say that crossfit “let’s me compete against myself”. Not exactly the same as going shoulder to shoulder with a guy in the muddy end line corner and having a good ten second fight over a ground ball. Sure, maybe you want to pay a hundred bucks to go run up a hill carrying logs and going through neat little pressure-treated obstacles. Makes for some great Facebook pictures… but it’s not the same, and we all know it.
The system, as it exists right now, has failed you.
Right now we’re raising our young players and spending more than a decade grooming them for a four-year career. Two years of which it’s fathomable that they won’t even see the field. This isn’t just a lacrosse problem, this is systemic waste of America’s number one resource, Americans.
There are some opportunities for a lucky, dedicated few of us to pursue our love for the game that raised us. There is the Post-Collegiate league, which does boast 39 teams up and down the East Coast, and I honestly don’t know much more than that about them.
There are box lacrosse opportunities for men, such as roster spots on some of the Can-Am teams, as well as leagues like those in Boston and Philly. For a lot of these post collegiate players, myself included, this is the first time they’ll have played box. Anything to keep the dream alive though, right?
Another route, and this is the one I’ve really enjoyed taking, is the international route. There are established leagues and clubs in the UK and Australia who would love to have you. Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany. Pick one. Go there for a year. Learn a new language. Learn a new life. Spread the game so that the world might enjoy it. If you’re trying to get out of this country when we elect one of these two clowns, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll hook you up with somebody
Maybe even a thousand guys and girls can keep playing. That’s great. Maybe three thousand will continue on as coaches, fulfilling what I view as a mandatory obligation to pass the game along to the next generation.
You’ve been put out to pasture. You’re old news. You aren’t wanted. The game you love isn’t an open invitation anymore. If you want to ever see the self that has existed since you were a young boy or girl again, you’re going to have to chase it. This is bleak, it’s even depressing. You’ve been abandoned at the age of 22.
If you listen to your advisor, parents, maybe even your coach, it’s time to grow up and get a job. Sure, maybe it is time to find employment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be the athlete you want to be.
This isn’t a death certificate. It’s a death sentence. You aren’t dead yet. There’s still time. Challenge the availability of adult lacrosse, and the lack thereof.
If there are 7,000-15,000 men and women going out into the world, my guess is that there are going to be more than enough of you in any given American city to put two clubs together. You’ve got a game. Get a third team. You’ve got a league. Now figure in that there have been 7,000-15,000 men and women being left for athletic dead every single year for decades.
Think that the number of 7-15 is a little high? Maybe I did some math wrong. Maybe you don’t agree with my logic.
Let’s take it a step further.
High School is actually the end for most players. They go on to college, but don’t play. They’ll join the military. They’ll go straight to work. college lacrosse isn’t for them.
I can’t even fathom a number, but right there you’ve got an untapped market of TENS of thousands of lacrosse players. Don’t they deserve to keep playing as well?
You’ve been given a death sentence. From the time you were just a kid, you’ve had an expiration date set on you. You were meant to give up playing competitive sport when you finished college. How does that make any sense?
Don’t hang the cleats up until you’re ready to hang the cleats up. Don’t let someone else tell you you’re done. Athletes don’t listen when they’re told they’re done. Lacrosse players don’t listen when they’re told they’re finished.