Editor’s Note: In 2017, LaxAllStars.com teamed up with the ground-breaking team at Summit Lax Ventures. We’re on board to put a media spotlight on all of their marquee events. For another year, Brian was on location at the Saratoga Shootout in New York and is ready to sound off!
I would be hard pressed to think of a better way to kick off the 4th of July weekend than to spend it in Saratoga, New York. The Battles of Saratoga were a turning point in the war for independence. Had it not been for those brave souls in 1777, it’s impossible to think that life as we know it would be the same as we have it today.
There’s something poetic about it. I’m struggling to find the precise wording appropriate to convey my feelings on the matter. But, to host a lacrosse tournament for our youth on the eve of this special holiday is just perfect. It fits.
The Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout has been a summer staple for a half decade now, and has been a booming success for just as many years.
Setting the (Wet) Stage
Seventy-six teams of boys of all ages came to Saratoga to play top notch lacrosse. Teams came east from Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse. Teams came north from Long Island and Connecticut.
Most impressively, a team came fourteen hours south from Prince Edward Island in Canada. Squads came in force from all over to play against top talent and to simply enjoy the game they love playing with their friends and teammates.
The trek out to Saratoga wasn’t promising. I was actually quite pessimistic heading into the weekend as to whether or not the games would even happen. The weather had proved formidable for the drive out from the Syracuse area, and the predictions for the next three days were even more foreboding.
Luckily, the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout had some serious talent at tournament HQ to compliment the skills on the surrounding playing fields. The schedule was adapted and shifted to adequately allow for the imminent weather to do it’s thing, while still able have the lacrosse boys do theirs.
Friday’s games were completed without a drop of rain, although the skies threatened from the first whistle until the last. Saturday’s games were not so dry. A consistent rain arrived early in the morning and never subsided 100%, but never got to a point where games couldn’t continue.
The Creator is Still Smiling
Saturday night was a different story. The heavens opened and to say that it was raining buckets would be an understatement. I was staying with my good friend Garrison and his family for the weekend. Garrison’s father is a whitewater guide on the Hudson and he showed me the graphs weather breakdown. His computer was indicating that the water had risen several feet already and that the crests of waves were up 700% over the course of the day.
I watched as the biblical rains continued into the evening, and simply couldn’t imagine the last day of the tournament being played. The scheduling maneuvers and field preservation efforts were tremendously successful. Much to everyone’s surprise, as everyone warily showed up to Gavin Park on Sunday morning, the fields were all in immaculate condition. That beautiful sunshine was beaming down on the back of every grateful parent and player alike.
My favorite aspect of the play was that I never heard a word of complaint about the conditions. These young men just showed up and just played. Quite literally, rain or shine, these kids realized the opportunity in front of them to see top talent from all over the region, and they took full advantage. The local Albany teams essentially were playing home games against numerous top tier teams from all over.
The Prince Edward Island guys, with their fourteen-hour drive, had landed them right smack dab in the middle of a lacrosse war-zone with factions from rising and established powerhouse programs. The PEI team was by no means bad to begin with. Yet, you could see that just simply getting to play against so many good teams, in such a short time, was elevating their play to higher and higher levels.
The Making of Something Special
This was the real purpose behind the tournament. Ryan Powell’s Rhino Lacrosse brought the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout to life five years ago, and true to purpose, the level of play has only increased. With better lacrosse comes an elevated value that these teams are getting.
Rhino Lacrosse brought on Summit Lacrosse Ventures a few years ago to help manage the explosive growth of the event. The partnership has produced a refined and finished product that gives everyone the most bang for their buck.
In addition to the on-field offerings of top-notch opponents and quality officials, off-field entertainment and consumer offerings have always been a staple in successful events like the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout. Vendors offered anything and everything a lacrosse fan could possibly want, from apparel and accessories to the very latest and greatest in equipment.
Food was prepared and sold by a professional catering company. A litany of different menu offerings were available, from your traditional burgers and slices, to artisan sandwiches and delicious tomato salad.
Anything you could have wanted was available for sale, but fun is often free. In the spirit of keeping it in the family, Powell Lacrosse was one of the main sponsors of the event, and with their sponsorship came the Powell Fun Zone.
Located right behind Powell’s brand new, fully customized school bus was an area with small goals, target shooting, and the world-famous Powell Home Depot Bucket Shot Challenge.
The line of kids waiting to have their chance at bucket shot glory was never less than twenty kids deep. Anyone who’s ever played ‘bucket for a dollar’ or drained an impossible thirty yard drop shot at the end of lacrosse practice knows how frustrating and addicting this seemingly simple task can be.
The Greater Purpose
That was the atmosphere. It was fun. Sometimes it was wet and fun. Other times it was really sunny and fun, but it was always fun. Little brothers and sisters splashed in puddles. Parents and players lost their sleeves for the last day. Their lacrosse tournament was ending, but their 4th of July long weekend was only half over. The general demeanor of everyone you encountered was in accordance.
I was fortunate enough to attend the tournament last year and, as luck would have it, I was able to experience the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout again this year. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll wind up present again next year.
I hope I can make it back, but more so, I hope that all of the players and families from this year are able to make it an annual journey.
Furthermore, I hope that if you’re reading this and your team hasn’t been able to attend this wonderful event, that you’ll make it a point to do so next year!
Meet Me in Saratoga
I love this country and this game. I appreciate my country all year long, and I think it goes without saying that not a day goes by where I DON’T want to enjoy lacrosse. But, having lacrosse on Independence Day Weekend is just something uniquely special.
It’s something powerful to most Americans and I would just like to thank the good folks at Rhino Lacrosse, Powell Lacrosse, and the Summit Lacrosse Ventures. These crews deserve a round of applause for giving these great people the opportunity to enjoy an event as pure as the Saratoga Lacrosse Shootout.
If we could all just be 12 again…