A Summer Lacrosse Pro Camp For The Ages!

In the Florida Space Coast that I have called home since 2004, lacrosse is still in its relative infancy and still in the stage of emerging sport. Nonetheless, growth has been steady since its inception in 2008 with a youth lacrosse club of 300 kids and growing, 11 area high schools with lacrosse programs, and two college lacrosse programs (Florida Tech and East Florida State College).  For the third year, we have partnered with professional lacrosse players, Ray and Brian Megill (now also professional lacrosse coaches within their Performance Sport Systems youth athletic training and development company) and former Division I women’s college (St. Joe’s) lacrosse standout and current college lacrosse coach (Rowan University); to put on 4 day summer camps for our local youth and high school lacrosse athletes.

Space Coast Summer Lacrosse Pro CampParticipation has increased each year, this year totaling 82 boys and girls.  It is an incredible sight for me who witnessed a community in 2004 that by in large had never heard of the sport of lacrosse, to have just experienced 82 boys and girls from 2nd to 12th grade being trained by lacrosse coaches of the highest caliber.  The excitement for the sport and the benefit this brings to our players is immeasurable.  As a lacrosse coach, year in and year out when these outstanding ambassadors of the game visit our community to work with our kids, I never cease to learn something new that I bring to my teams, from drills and techniques to modern approaches to the game that the evolution of the game have necessitated.

I am not alone out there soaking in all of the excitement and knowledge that these coaches bring to the Space Coast lacrosse community.  Many other moms and dads, some coaches, some not; take off of work to watch the 4 hour long camp each day.  An experience like this uplifts the whole lacrosse community and gives lacrosse a main stream feel for the relative minority of us that have embraced the sport.

Unique to this year, with the camp’s growing numbers, the Megill brothers enlisted the help of local college players that are currently home on summer break.  Former local high school lacrosse stars Dylan and Quinn Lowdermilk (both currently play for Florida State University) and Garrett Arnold (currently plays for Jacksonville University) were out there assisting the pros, already feeling their own pull to give back and pay it forward at such young ages.  This only sets the stage for these young men to graduate in the near future, return home and be part of the next generation that will grow and nurture lacrosse locally.

This is how a lacrosse community is built.  It starts with a small group of people that introduce the sport that they love and watch it slowly encourage others to not only participate, but join in the effort to grow the sport.  The kids that embrace the sport and fall in love with it one day return to their communities as adults and parents to pay it forward and continue the effort.

That is what occurred in my home town of Clark NJ where it was one man, James Carovillano who brought lacrosse to our town in 1968 before I was even born.  So many of us that he coached are now ourselves parents coaching and promoting the game, some back in our home town of Clark, NJ, others in other corners of the country like the Florida Space Coast.

The Megill brothers, also from Clark, NJ, reached the level of professional lacrosse players in large measure because of the efforts of Mr. C (what all of his players affectionately called him) long before they were born.  The first time I met Brian Megill was in 2014 when we were both playing in our high school alumni game.  Mr. C was at the game officiating it.  I hope one day he can make his way down to the Space Coast to see the camp that he played a role in creating.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Exhilaration Of The Weekend Lacrosse Tournament

Having just wrapped up the summer tournament season (my 8 year old son playing in the U11 division and me having coached a JV high school club team), I am compelled to reflect how fall and summer lacrosse tournament seasons are a great modern evolution of the great sport of lacrosse.  I so wish this existed in my youth and high school playing days, because it has grown to be one of the most exciting and fun aspects of being a lacrosse player.

Club Choice

While a player is forced to play for a particular coach for a particular middle school or high school team during his or her spring season, fall and summer tournament seasons offer players the opportunity to experience different coaches and playing with different players.  This diversity of experience and freedom to choose a particular team and coach is mentally beneficial to the innate free spirit of most lacrosse players, while enabling a player to experience different coaching philosophies that they may grow from.

Lacrosse Takes Over The Town

The full weekend tournaments draw the best club teams from all over a given state.  In my home state of Florida, that includes teams that may travel from as far as a 6-7 hour drive and given the destination aspect of Florida as a tourist state, the tournaments even commonly draw teams from out of state.

The result is a given venue whose area hotels are sold out with lacrosse families, restaurants are full of lacrosse players and lax families, and while teams may come from all over, there is a feeling of connection among the players and families created by the common bond of the sport of lacrosse.  When at these tournaments, one cannot turn one’s head without seeing lacrosse sticks, lacrosse gear, and lacrosse apparel.

Fast-Paced Exciting Lacrosse

The running clock playing two 20-22 minutes halves creates a rapid pace of play that places a sense of urgency to strike as early and often as possible.  In this style of lacrosse, getting in a hole early can be very difficult to climb out of in comparison to the regular season with 4 quarters of play and constant stoppage of the clock during dead ball situations.

If you win there is not much time to celebrate having another game to play usually within an hour.  If you lose, you need to have a short memory because you have little time to shake it off and try again in the next game.

An Abundance Of Lacrosse

Most tournaments guarantee 4-5 games in a weekend.  Thus, it is not uncommon to play 3 games day one, 2 games day two, and possibly a 6th on day two if you advance to the finals.  It is a mental and physical grind where only the most conditioned and skilled players shine.

Most clubs play a 3 tournament season over a 2 months, one month to practice and build chemistry with players from multiple programs many of whom have not played together, then the second month to knock out the tournaments.  This past season, for example, that translated to my boys having played 15 games from lat May to mid June over a 3 week period.

Bonding With Your Child

Whether playing youth or high school, the quality time spent with your child at these events is incredible.  Travelling together, staying in hotels, and going out to dinner with teammates and other team parents creates beautiful quality time among families.  Cheering your children on all weekend as they play their hearts out in the game they love reinforces in them that we support them and are behind them 100%.

The summer and fall lacrosse tournament seasons have been a very positive development for the sport.  It provides an unparalleled diverse and exhilarating experience for lacrosse players that binds them to the sport in a very special way.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Erosion Of Self Accomplishment In Children

In all of my years of coaching lacrosse (9 years and counting), I have experienced milder variations of what I just experienced a couple of days ago, but never anything like this.  Profound new insights or experiences that are good or bad are what drive a blogger to write, and I knew that I was compelled to write about this incident.  It just took me a couple of days to 1.) cool down and 2.) put it in the proper perspective to create awareness about a negative that will hopefully lead to a positive impact.

The elite high school team that I head coach has two tournaments under our belt this summer season, with one more to close the season this weekend at the Florida Cup.  We had a great showing in the last tournament having gone 4-1 and making it to the semi-final round, finishing third overall.  The team is feeling great heading into our last action this season and morale is high.

After the conclusion of practice this past weekend, the parent of one of my players approached me after practice and asked me if his son would see more playing time in the upcoming tournament.  My answer was that it would depend on the circumstances of each game we were in (his son is a a nice kid, but relatively less experienced and at this time is a second string player).  Without any further discussion, the player’s father erupted into a profanity laden tirade and accused me of being a fraud and conning him out of the money he paid to register his son for the travel team; that I should be ashamed of myself for accepting registration fees when his son was not going to play (mind you, I am a volunteer coach, the club is a not for profit organization, and I cover my own travel expenses in addition to donating my time without even having a son playing on this team).

Despite this father’s inappropriate and very public tirade, I calmly pointed out that his son had in fact played at least 25% of the time even in tight games, and in games where we had comfortable leads or were out of reach for us, our second lines, his son included, got the lion’s share of the playing time to get them as much experience as possible.  He called it garbage time, told me his family was done with us, informed his son that his season was over, and bounded off the field.

Let us put aside how absolutely out of line this person was for treating a volunteer coach in that manner and look at the even great picture here.  Despite that fact that I have repeatedly reiterated to parents and players that making the roster of my elite team is a remarkable accomplishment, but their commitment, attitude, and execution on the field will determine their playing time, that there are no guarantees of playing time; this father just taught his son that because he wrote a check, that he was entitled to more playing time than he was getting.  And in light of this, rather than encourage his son to continue to improve to earn more minutes, he forced him to quit.

I want to be clear that I take issue with the father’s behavior in this matter.  At no time did I ever note any frustration or sense of entitlement from my player.  In fact, he dutifully showed up to practice every day, was very coachable, and had indeed improved a great deal this season because of his experience playing this level of ball, being taught by a coaching staff of positional specialists committed to giving each player one on one instruction to grow their game.  I felt terrible for the young man who’s father embarrassed him in front of his teammates and other parents in our lacrosse community.  I feel terrible for the fact that he had to quit because I know that had it been his choice, he would not have even considered that option.

As if the behavior of the father of this story was not bad enough, I had the pleasure of receiving a colorful e-mail from the player’s mother, thankfully not laden with profanity, but with plenty of words in all capitals and runs of punctuation.  There was also a demand for a full refund of her son’s registration fee, and a threat of sicking the family attorneys on me if I did not immediately comply (this despite her son having already played in two tournaments, was issued a uniform with shooter shirt, participated in clinics put on by professional lacrosse players at the club’s expense, and made use of club equipment for 8 weeks of a 9 week summer travel season).

The millennial generation of today possess some great qualities, compassion and the embracing of social causes, choosing purpose and fulfillment in their chosen careers over monetary reward, to name a couple.  As we are all keenly aware, however, there is a disproportionate percentage of millennials in comparison to previous generations, that live with an undeserved sense of entitlement, that live the victim mentality, that when they do not succeed, it is not due to their own failures but due to their mistreatment at the hands of others….that in short, lack accountability.

Adults can complain all we want about this segment of millennials, but we must stop blaming the kids and instead hold the parents accountable for the way many out.  When parents demand participation trophies because it hurts the feelings of their child that did not earned one through accomplishment, what does that teach their child?  What does it teach the children that are exceptional in their accomplishment but are given the same award as everyone else?  When a game is on the line on a competitive team, what message do I send the 20 other players I am responsible for if I were to not have my best personnel on the field that put us int he best position to win; because back up player’s feelings may get hurt or a parent may get upset with me?

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

 

2017 Tewaarton Award Winners An All Maryland & (Once Again) All Offensive Affair

The 2017 Tewaarton Award for Division I Lacrosse most outstanding players are both Maryland Terps, ttacker Matt Rambo and Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg.  The storied lacrosse Men’s and Women’s lacrosse programs of Maryland have much to be proud of this season, sweeping not only both the Men’s and Women’s National Championship, but also sweeping the Tewaarton Award.

The Tewaarton Award goes to the most outstanding players in Men’s and Women’s college lacrosse, akin to the Heisman Trophy Award in college football that is awarded to the most outstanding player (there are more parallels to the Heisman that I will address below).  The Tewaarton Award is so named to honor the Native American origins of the game of lacrosse.  Tewaarton is the Mohawk word for lacrosse in their native tongue, and the Mohawk Nation is credited with being the progenitor of lacrosse.

There are two controversies associated with the Tewaarton Award.  Given that it is awarded after the Division I college lacrosse post season is complete, there is an observation among many experts that the award is all too often influenced by a player’s performance in the post season, which is not the intent of the award.  The award’s intent is to recognize a player’s outstanding achievement and importance to their team during the regular season.

Less controversial perhaps and falling in line with the reality of the Heisman Trophy Award in football, the Tewaarton Award, especially on the Men’s side, is very tilted historically toward offensive players.  In fact, since the award’s inception in 2000, all but two recipients on the Men’s side have been attackers, while the only two that were not attackers were offensive midfield studs Doug Shanahan and Max Seibald.  Although defense is equally important for success in lacrosse as it is in football, like in football, great defensive players in lacrosse get far less recognition than their offensive counterparts.

I understand that part of this is simply the nature of the game, that the team with the most points at the end of the game wins, and it takes a capable offense in most cases to get the ball in the other team’s goal. Naturally, that will garner more attention.  On the other hand, if you ask the vast majority of coaches if they had to make a choice between a high powered offense or a lock down defense, most would opt for the lock down defense.

Still, one cannot argue with this year’s choices, Matt Rambo and Zoe Stukenberg, as both were not only dominant, Matt Rambo clinched the career scoring record for one of the most storied college lacrosse programs in the history of the sport.

Congrats to this year’s Tewaarton winners and to the University of Maryland Terps Nation that loves them!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Maryland Breaks The 42 Year Curse, Ohio State Represents Diversity In The 2017 Lacrosse National Championship

On paper, Maryland had the advantage.  With a prolific offense that included Maryland all time leading scorer (an incredible feat in a program as storied as Maryland)  and Tewaarton Award finalist Matt Rambo, Dylan Maltz, and offensive middie powerhouse Connor Kelly; let’s face it, Ohio State as good as they were, did not match up.  On the other hand, we gave Ohio State a chance in this game based on past battles with Maryland, the fact that this game was an inter-conference rivalry, Ohio States face off prowess driving more possessions, and Ohio State’s physical, gritty and tenacious style of play.

While Ohio State started off the game dominating physically, Maryland’s defense tightened up and their offense ultimately took control of the tempo of the game.  Although Ohio State would not go away and pulled within 2 goals with 2 minutes left, Maryland dominated possessions and committed very few unforced errors.  The best team truly won.

One cannot help but feel happy for the Maryland seniors who came through with the weight of 42 years on their shoulders and a fan base that that had watched their beloved Terps come so close in so many championship games since 1975 only to come up short every time…until yesterday.

While Ohio State came up short, they should walk away from this experience with heads held high.  This roster was the first Ohio State team to make the Final 4 and then went on to take it a step further to the title game.  They have perhaps the most diverse roster among Division I top 10 teams.  While they do have players that hail from some of the more traditional lacrosse states like Maryland, NY, and Pennsylvania, they have several players from their home state of Ohio, as well as players from Alabama, Florida, California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Rounding out their roster are the Ontario and British Columbia based Canadians.  Alabama?  Really?

While Maryland’s win represent’s a storied programs return to glory, Ohio States runner up achievement represents the growth of lacrosse into less traditional areas where kids may now feel that they finally have a seat at the table along side players from the Northeast.

For many reasons, this was a lacrosse National Championship game to remember!  Congrats to Maryland and Ohio State.  To all of the May Madness teams, thank you for a great season of the best lacrosse in the world!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Why I Am Rooting For Ohio State For The 2017 Division I Lacrosse National Championship

I am not a Buckeyes fan.  I am not really a Big 10 fan, although I like Maryland in part because I have friends that played lacrosse there and I still think of them as being in the ACC.  So why am I rooting for Ohio State?  Because I am a lacrosse fan and it would be good for the growth of the sport!

Although the Big 10 is really coming into its own in lacrosse, the mid-west still remains mired in traditional sports with lacrosse still viewed as a snooty prep school sport by most.  Although we have seen impressive success with programs like Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State, it is still incredible how little support these teams garner from their student body and alumni.

I understand that Maryland has suffered a national championship drought since 1975.  I know how hungry their fans are for that elusive win, and I sympathize.  On the other hand, their women’s program just won yet another national championship to add to their pile of national championships (13).

Even if Maryland loses tomorrow, interest in the sport of lacrosse is going nowhere in that state.  The state of Maryland has been a hotbed of lacrosse since before even I was a kid.  It is part of the very fiber of their culture.

Ohio, on the other hand, is…not like that.  A national championship for Urban Meyer’s state would hopefully bring Ohio State Lacrosse head coach Nick Myer into main stream Ohio sports conversation.  Hopefully that will translate into the growth of the sport in an area pulsing with athletes that would make great lacrosse players.

Sorry Terps, I love you, but have to go with the Buckeyes on this one.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Warrior Warp – Evo & Next. Great New Innovation Or Gimmick?

The Warrior Warp comes in the more advanced Evo line in low, mid, and high pockets, and now in the Next line for the developmental lacrosse player.  Its selling point is that the pocket is pre-strung, Kevlar-bonded, and made of water-resistant polypropylene.  The Warp supposedly puts stick doctors and the lacrosse’s subculture of stringers on notice: Nylon mesh, which gradually in large measure replaced traditional leather as the prevailing lacrosse pocket material in the 1980s, would one day join its predecessor as antiquated, irrelevant, and  relegated mostly to nostalgic hobbyists.  Warrior believes strongly in this technology’s potential to grow the game by eradicating perhaps the biggest variable that make it difficult to pick up for some: variations and lack of consistency in pockets.

To be sure, kids that are new to the sport and have no sense of a the feel of a pocket (nor any ability to make adjustments to the pocket) and how it facilitates or debilitates their own unique throwing, catching, and cradling styles, often have a hard time simply because their pocket stinks.  As a coach, I commonly conclude that the biggest deficiencies for young players’ stick skills emanates from bad pockets and I thus commonly direct parents to the local store to have heads restrung with an appropriate pocket with decent mesh and strings.  Even then, it is not uncommon to see even experienced players have their games compromised by bad pockets, some that are too shallow because a player does not want to take any velocity out of his shot (but instead sacrifices ball security and accuracy); while others have way too much lip on their shooters for better ability to throw fakes and have better ball security (but instead sacrifice shot velocity and accuracy).  Then there is the reality that all players face in when we have attained the most perfect pockets: no matter how high quality the strings and mesh are, they always eventually stretch and distort, especially in wet weather and muddy conditions.

The Warp seeks to solve this problem of pocket discrepancy and lack of consistency.  Although I was a child of the nylon mesh generation and currently hold Hero Mesh nearest and dearest to my heart, I decided to have an open mind and give it a shot when a Warrior rep gave me a loaner Warp tp mess around with and see what I thought.

My first impression was that the mid pocket accuracy (mid pocket is my preference) was solid, BUT, I could not stand that the ball hit off the scoop of the head!  It drove me nuts!  The Warrior rep assured me that this was a minor obstacle to overcome, one born of generational influence where the notion of the ball hitting off the scoop was just unacceptable.  He said that market research is clear that even old dudes like me over time not only adjust but begin to embrace the ball hitting off the scoop in light of the pocket’s consistency and complete lack of necessary maintenance; while eventually realizing that the aversion to hitting off the scoop is a mental one born out of habit which is easily overcome.  He stated that younger players without such ingrained scoop hitting aversion quickly adjusted and forgot about it and went onto thrive for all of the Warp’s innovations that bring it ready to play with no need to ever adjust or restring.

I remained far from convinced as I threw and shot with it over and over again; I simply could not stand it!  But I digress, perhaps I am just being an old dude.  As far as the rest of the experience with the Warp head, I will say that ball security, ability to throw fakes, and scooping were as good as any manually strung head I have used.

The price point is also bound to make consumers a little bit uneasy.  The Evo Warp retails at $249, while the Warp Next (the developmental model) retails at $100.  Warrior explains away the high price point by pointing to the fact that mesh and strings (nor stinging services) need to be purchased, and replacement of mesh and strings will never be necessary.  Maybe they are right….but the ball hits off the scoop!

Anyway, I would  be interested to see other opinions on this head for those who have tried it and used it for any significant length of time.  I am sure my readers would appreciate an opinion other than my Generation X tainted view of lacrosse technology.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Off Limits Part 2 – Its Official! No NCAA College Lacrosse Recruiting Prior to Junior Year Of High School!

On April 14, 2017, the NCAA Division I Council voted to prohibit contact with prospective lacrosse athletes, including offers and commitments, until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school.

High school coaches from both public and private schools said the new initiative will slow down the recruitment process, giving college prospect athletes more time to evaluate their options at the next level. It especially benefits late-bloomers, who are currently left competing for fewer roster spots with many of them already having been filled by underclassmen.

“I think the general consensus is, it’s a good idea, to let’s slow this down,” said Ireton Coach Rick Sofield,“What it does do is, for those really elite blue chip athletes, it means they gotta wait. I don’t know that really hurts them in any way. In fact it probably helps them without even knowing it.” Sofield adds, “What freshman knows for sure what college they’re going to?  They haven’t even finished algebra.”

In addition to not necessarily having a feel for what school a young student athlete may want to attend, not allowing college recruiters access to young athletes will reduce the pressure to perform and enhance their enjoyment of the sport of lacrosse.  Thinking back to my own playing days, I could not fathom what it would have been like to play the sport knowing that whether or not I made a college roster depended on my performance at the prepubescent age of 14 (I was a late bloomer).

I am cautiously optimistic about this new development, but the moment new rules are imposed, there is often near instantaneous pursuit to find loopholes to get around them.  I will be interested to not only see the complete language of the resolution, but seeing how its logistical enforcement plays out.

Once thing is for certain, this vote is most certainly one big step in the right direction.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Off Limits! The “Scourge” Of College Lacrosse Early Recruiting And The Pending Vote To Finally Stop It

Boys and girls are being recruited for college lacrosse as early at 7th grade, some signing letters of intent before even reaching high school.  It is wrong on so many levels and it is exerting negative effects not just in the sport of lacrosse, but across the spectrum of youth athletics.  College coaches often dislike this practice as much as anyone, but are loathe to stop because they feel that if they do not do the same, they may miss out on the the next great blue chip athlete that may be program changer.

US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen has branded the early recruiting epidemic as a “scourge” that is damaging to the sport of lacrosse (and youth sports in general).  Lacrosse participation has leveled off.  Single sport specialization is at an all time high, as are overuse injuries that are clearly associated with single sport specialization at a young age.  70 percent of youth athletes are quitting organized sports by the age of 13, and college transfers are at an all time high.

Beyond these facts, the pressure being placed on young athletes to perform is unprecedented and is zapping the fun out of lacrosse and other sports.  While a minority of parents relish in the notion that they are spending crazy amounts of money to keep their child playing year round on multiple state and national club teams, the financial strain and time commitment that cuts into precious family time is troubling to many others.  Look no further than the high divorce rates of families that commit all of their resources and time to making their child a singing or acting star to see why such a course is not healthy.

Says WLCA president Alicia Groveston, “We are at a tipping point….Some sanity could be restored to the recruiting process.”  What she is referring to is NCAA DI Council Proposal 2016-26, the vote of which if passed, would ban all college coach contact with youth and high school athletes until September 1 of their junior year of high school.  The vote will take place when the Council meets April 13-14 2017.

If the measure does not pass, it may not come up again for consideration for another 2 years or longer.  For the sake of the kids and the sport we love, let us hope good sense and a commitment to the greater good prevails.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

Toeing The Line Between Nurturing A Young Lacrosse Player And Burning Him/Her Out On The Sport

I witnessed a great turn of events for an 8th grade boy this past weekend.  This young man has a older brother who lives and breathes lacrosse, currently a starter on his varsity high school team as a sophomore.  The parents are wonderfully supportive of lacrosse and have done everything they possibly can to nurture their boys’ love and participation in the sport.

This past fall, their 8th grader played on my middle school tournament team.  He is a good player, not quite as obsessed with lacrosse as older brother, but a nice, coachable young man who always came to practice and worked hard.

As the season wore on, I could see in this player’s body language that he was not enjoying the game as much as he had in the past.  I had a conversation with him and he confided with me that he was not feeling the same love of the game that he had in past seasons, that there were other things like fishing that he would often prefer to be doing.

I shared with him that as much as I wanted to him to stay on the team, I would not judge him if he decided lacrosse was not for him.  He ultimately had a heart to heart discussion with his Dad and they decided together that he would finish out the season (there was only one tournament left to go at this point) to see his commitment through and take a break from the game, possibly permanently.

This past Friday, the day before game 2 of our rec season, the 8th grader’s Dad contacted me and asked if it would be too late to have his son rejoin the league, as he really missed playing.  We did not hesitate to get him signed up, get him a uniform, and he plucked right in and not only had a great time, but pumped in 3 goals.  He was smiling from ear to ear.

This young man just needed a break, needed some time to miss the game; needed to just be a boy who did not have constant after school commitments.  He was the inspiration for this article.

Below are some tips for parents and coaches to help young people just like the young man I wrote this article about to help nurture the love of lacrosse while avoiding burn out.

1.) The multi-sport or multi-activity experience is crucial.  Letting your child participate in as many athletic pursuits as possible prepares him/her mentally and physically for staying excited about lacrosse.  Not necessarily a sporto?  No problem!  How about boys scouts, art, musical instruments, dance, skateboarding or surfing?  Case in point, this morning, I took my son out to the park to run some shooting and dodging drills.  Shortly after that, we loaded the surf boards on the car to enjoy an hour of one of his (and my) other great passions, surfing!

2.) When players are showing less than exciting or engaged body language, do not ride them, but engage them in a calm, open and honest manner.  They may be experiencing trouble in the home, at school, or are just feeling the effects of burn out.  Talk to them and ask them if everything is okay because you observe that they are not themselves.  Give them the opportunity to open up without judgement.

In the aforementioned player’s case, he was facing the pressure of an older brother in his family who is not only an exceptional player but has an extraordinary lacrosse ambition; while having some misgivings about whether lacrosse was for him.  All he needed was a break.

3.) When they do not play up to expectations (whether they are yours or the players), let them know it is okay to have an off day.  Let them know that effort always trumps performance.

My own son had 5 goals in last week’s season opener.  Yesterday in week two, he had 2 goals and had a strong game; yet, he walked off the field disappointed.  I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he was disappointed that he only had 2 goals.  I let him know that I was just as proud of him this week than I was last week and that it actually is not normal to score 5 goals a game; that the number of goals should not be the measure of a successful season.  I told him that fun and effort are the more important aspects of enjoyment of lacrosse, that he should never play with that kind of pressure placed on himself (he is only 8).

Let us never lose sight as parents and coaches that for these young men and women, there is so much more to life than any sport.  There are social functions, school, time with friends, and other pursuits that are integral to their growth and enjoyment of their youth.  While lacrosse and other sports provide many positive aspects of growth, we always need to allow them enough room to just be kids.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.