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Hot Pot: US Box Lacrosse – Inside Scoop

In today’s Hot Pot I’m giving you the “inside scoop” on the US Box Lacrosse Team!

In today’s Hot Pot I’m giving you the “inside scoop” on the US Box Lacrosse Team!

As you must know by now, 2014 has been the year where US Lacrosse finally decided to take control of the US Box Lacrosse program. Instead of hiring a contractor to run the team, as they did in the past, USL has pulled the program under their umbrella directly. This means US Box Lacrosse is now treated like other US National Teams, and is directly funded by USL, but it also means that there will be some bumps in the road, as this is USL’s first time directly running the national box program.

US Box Lacrosse – The Inside Scoop

The first thing that US Lacrosse has realized is that box lacrosse is a different beast from field lacrosse, and they have realized this quickly. The top players are different in many cases, the game is totally different, and the FIL field is much smaller in terms of total numbers of nations that play. Even player expectations are extremely different. Whereas field players expect a well run event, box players often don’t, because of the history of the sport in the US. So it’s almost like running a national team program for a totally new sport.

us box lacrosse

To that end, US Lacrosse has done some good things:

1) They hired a great coaching and support staff. They didn’t find a field coach and tell him to coach box, they found a box coach and then surrounded him with other box savvy assistant coaches. USL also hired Jimmy Butler to run program on other levels, and that guy has as solid a record as anyone when it comes to getting teams ready for big games or tournaments.

2) USL is allowing the Coaches to call the shots. USL has admitted that box is not their forte. They want to see the game grow, and know that it is growing all on its own, but they also know they have a lot to learn. Hiring a great staff, and then letting them run with the decisions is a bold move for an organization like USL, but I tend to applaud them for it. They are supporting “box guys” and letting them do things “the box way”. I approve!

3) USL has tried to make the selection process more formalized and open. While the box tryout process doesn’t come anywhere close to what was done with field, I do think this year’s effort was an improvement over past efforts. This is not a knock on USIL at all, but there was always an air of disorganization when it came to tryouts, getting info out, and more. USL has not been perfect in this regard, but I do think they’ve taken some big steps in the right direction. To be fair to the USIL, those guys did a really amazing job with limited resources. I was always impressed by the way they handled themselves, and it was more about the play than the promotion. The box world was smaller then in the US, and the USIL did a good job of managing it. At the same time, it’s definitely the right moment for the national governing body, US Lacrosse, to get involved.

So what else have I learned about the 2015 US Box Lacrosse team, and what gives me the above ideas? Let me lay down some facts you might not be aware of:

The second tryout was canceled for a couple of small reasons, but the big reason for the cancelation was that the New England Black Wolves were hosting tryouts on November 14th, and many of the players trying out for Team USA were also trying out for the Black Wolves. USL made the decision that players should not have to choose one over the other, and wanted to make sure as many guys could try out for the pro league as possible.

Many people reacted to this news with a bold assumption: since the second tryout was canceled, USL has basically already selected their team for 2015. This previous statement couldn’t be further from the truth. US Lacrosse currently has a player pool consisting of 49 players, which is not being released at this time to the public. Some decisions were made based off the tryout but NO ONE was actually cut from the team. If you tried out, you’re still in the mix!

In fact, even if you didn’t try out, or weren’t invited to the tryout, you STILL might be in the mix. And if you want to be in the mix, it’s not too late. USL has said that while they have approximately 50 players in mind now (to cut down to 18), they expect some of these guys to drop out due to injury, retirement, other commitments, etc. And while they expect guys to drop out, they will also be looking for more players to add.

mah 2013

The US Box Coaching Staff will use the upcoming NLL season as a gauge for many players. They will also be reaching out to different box leagues in the US to see if there are any “hidden gem” type players. If most of the guys on the “watch list” are not playing NLL, there could conceivably be an event/tryout this spring, perhaps in March or April, before the MLL kicks off.

Once the MLL season starts winding down, a closer to final list should be in the works, and a box event could be hosted in August to help make final selections. Both the March and August events are totally up in the air right now and depend on a lot of factors like who is available, total player numbers, pro leagues, and lead time.

Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo

Once the team is selected in August, it is likely that the US team will play in one event or exhibition prior to playing in the World Lacrosse Championships. What event will this be? No one knows right now, but according to USL, it should be something more than a USA Red vs USA Blue scrimmage.

The coaching staff will be communicating with players more in the coming two months. Players will get workouts, and they can update the staff on the box they are playing. New names may be pulled onto the list, so if you get a call out of the blue from US Lacrosse about possibly trying out for the US Box Team, you are welcome! All kidding aside, USL is definitely looking for the best players out there and are still open to new names joining the discussion.

A lot of articles out there have been critical of US Lacrosse for a number of reasons, and while I am the first to admit this transition has not been perfect, I really don’t see why all this complaining is due…

You can say that US Lacrosse should have taken things over earlier, and while that’s seemingly fair, it doesn’t take into account the fact that there was serious turnover at USL in the national team divisions.

You can say that certain players should have been picked or that a number of guys got snubbed from tryouts, but tryouts aren’t over yet. So actually, you can’t say that. Not yet!

You can say that selecting a team in August is too late, but I would then ask you: too late for what? The Iroquois tend to do pretty well at the WILC and typically don’t release their roster until right before the event. They keep a larger training pool up until then, and this could work for US Lacrosse as well. I’ve yet to hear an argument for why it couldn’t!

You can make all sorts of comments about who will be on the team, but seeing as the team is not selected yet, and still sits at 50 players, that’s really not fair. There could be guys on the team who didn’t even apply to USL for consideration. This team is not set!

#22 - welcome back!

At the end of the day, the US Box Lacrosse Team is far from set. The coaching staff is in place, and trying to whittle down a long list of talent, but no decisions have been made. USL is supporting the staff, and showing remarkable fluidity in their approach to what amounts to a totally new game for many of them. Players might feel a tad neglected, but outreach should kick off soon.

For me, US Lacrosse taking over the direct management of the US Box Lacrosse Team is still a good thing. Their timetables might be rushed but they are trying to make every effort to make this a real box team. They know that the Canadians and Iroquois are going to be extremely tough, and that it will be an uphill battle against both of those nations. They also know that the Czech team, Israel, Ireland, and some other nations could put forth VERY strong teams, and they definitely don’t want to slip in the standings.

US Lacrosse feels the pressure, and from what I can see, they are embracing it. If they keep the course with this approach I can see this US team being the best US Box Lacrosse Team ever… but we’re still a long ways off from actually saying that!

Good luck to US Lacrosse, their superb coaching staff, and all of the players out there hoping to make the team! WILC 2015 in Buffalo, hosted by the Haudenosaunee, is less than a year away!

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