Profit Motivated Coaches And Organizations Are Bad For Youth And High School Lacrosse

The Scourge Of For Profit Youth Lacrosse Teams Is Bad For The GameIn my little corner of the world of the Florida Space Coast in an area very steeped in the traditional school sports, the introduction of lacrosse has been an uphill climb.  With the first elements of lacrosse having been seeded in 2008, while the game continues to grow, it is still very much in the emerging sport category.  Although our lacrosse growth is a very positive development, it was only a matter of time before we would draw the attention of a growing problem in our sport: the for profit organizations and coaches that aim to pick away at established not for profit clubs and leagues with the promise of the best coaching in the world and a path to a Division I scholarship at a marquis college lacrosse program.

Having played along side incredible talent from my home state of New Jersey, having come from a high school program that has yielded a lot of Division I talent and to date has seen 6 players have success in the professional Major League Lacrosse, I have a unique perspective and insight into the world of Division I lacrosse.  The truth is, Division I scholarships are very rare.  Even top talent coming out of lacrosse hot beds like New Jersey, New York and Maryland often feel very fortunate to earn a no scholarship roster spot or receive partial scholarships at best.

Thus, while players should all strive to be the best lacrosse athletes they can possibly be, a coach who understands sports and is being honest will tell you that as much great coaching as a player gets, it is ultimately up to the player to perform.  Many factors that cannot be taught, such as innate speed, physical size, strength, and demeanor, go into the entire player package.  Does good coaching help facilitate that?  Of course it does, but it will only take a player so far.

What’s more, just because a coach may charge parents a fortune to play for his team does not make him necessarily a better option.  Case in point, in the not for profit youth lacrosse club I preside over, we have 6 boys coaches with college playing experience (3 from Division I programs) and three girls coaches with Division I and Division II playing experience.  Double that number are US Lacrosse Level II and III Certified.  Just because we choose to volunteer our time for the kids and love of the game does not diminish what we bring to them in their lacrosse development.

I will tell you clearly what we are NOT doing, filling families with delusions of grandeur that their only path to a Division I scholarship is through us.  That kind of propaganda as as unethical as it is untrue.  Unfortunately, there are parents out there that drink the Kool-Aid and break out their check books so that little Johnny will be assured that roster spot at Johns Hopkins one day.

In the end, it is generally not the parents of the best players who fall for the draw of the for profit rhetoric, but more commonly it is the parents of the average or slightly above average player.  As parents, we naturally have pride in our children and want them to succeed.  However, this pride sometimes leads parents having an unrealistic outlook of their child’s innate talent.  If he or she is not getting the playing time that the parent expects or their performance leaves them far short of being stars of the team, it cannot be that their child’s talent has limits, it must be because of the coaching.

For profit entities in the sport also cause animosity and discord in communities that are otherwise tight nit.  Because their livelihood depends on it, they often do not stop at puffing our their chests and touting their lacrosse resumes and credentials, but they belittle the selfless and tireless efforts of volunteers that have given their their precious time, hearts, and souls to the community, the sport, and the kids.  Sadly, their belittling takes root with some parents and we have occasionally seen once appreciative members of our club join the for profits in denigrating our efforts.

For longstanding volunteers, this can be at times hard to swallow and  simply shrug off.  At times, I will be honest, it feels like a punch in the gut.  But just like in my playing days, when I was knocked down and it made me more motivated to work harder to make certain that next time I was in that same position, the tables would be turned; my fellow volunteers and I are ready to push back against the influence of for profit groups in our lacrosse community.

Many other lacrosse friends I have all over the country share my motivation curtail the influence of profit driven organizations in the sport of lacrosse in their respective corners of the world.  If/when the day comes that you are faced with the decision to jump on board with the bells and whistles of a for profit team or stay with the not for profit club that provided your child the opportunity to play lacrosse in the first place, always remember this quote by the great James Doolittle:

“There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

That is as true in the sport of lacrosse as it is in anything else.

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.

Lacrosse Carpe Diem, Because These Moments Are More Fleeting Than You Will Ever Know

Montclair State Lacrosse Zach SchroeckPictured is one of two standout players from my Alma Mater, Montclair State University, Zach Schroeck (brother is Mickael Schroeck).  In an impressive 2015 16-2 season, Michael was named first team All Skyland Conference, while Zach was named its Rookie of the Year.  While I do not know these two fine players, seeing them in the uniform that I once donned in my own playing career; while approaching the close of my youth club’s current lacrosse season, it made me wonder if these guys and others living the dream of playing competitive lacrosse are really appreciating the opportunity they are in the midst of.

 To be sure, none of us really know when our playing careers will end.  For a few unfortunates, it may end early due to injury.  For most, it will end after their senior high school lacrosse season.  For a select few, it will end after college and for an even lesser select few, it will end at the end of a professional lacrosse career.

 I still enjoy playing in my Brevard County Lacrosse Men’s League, but as fun as that is, it does not compare to playing for my high school in the NJ State Championship tournament, or in college, playing for the East Coast Athletic Conference Championship.  In Men’s League, whether I play well or play poorly, my team wins or loses; beer and wings will be waiting after the game.  I will go home to my family, and life will go on unaffected regardless of the outcome.

 But in my high school and college playing days representing my school and community, during lacrosse season, nothing else really mattered.  The anticipation of big games and big moments was as much thrilling as it was at times terrifying.  The bond with my teammates, sharing the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat has no present day comparison.  In college, the long road trips and staying in hotels with my teammates were some of the most memorable moments of my life.  I feel truly blessed to have experienced all of what lacrosse gave me.

 Reflecting on all of this as our 2016 lacrosse season winds down to a close, I leave you with this famous quote from great Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society: “Carpe diem,” translated from Latin, “Seize the day.”  Savor every moment of your lacrosse playing experience as it is your last; as one day it will no longer be there.  Constant training and preparation will be replaced with meetings, deadlines, and commitments; working and paying bills.  Bonding with your teammates will be replaced with raising your family, possibly coaching your children and enjoying watching them live the dream that you once lived.

 Yes, you may play again as I do, but it will not compare to what lacrosse once meant to you.  So to all of you young men and women out there still living the lacrosse dream, carpe diem!  Hope you all had a memorable and fun season.

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.