February 4, 2011

Demand for Knowledge Evident at US Lacrosse National Convention

by Bill Lee | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Convention Blog Replay

 

"Coach, coach," a man about my age said as he pulled me aside. "Hey, I just want to say thanks for your presentation. I really got a lot out of it. It was great."

"Thanks," I replied. "I really appreciate it."

"I just wanted to tell you that," he said.

"Thanks again," I replied. "Good luck."

This happened several times after I gave a presentation at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, in January. I didn't expect such positive feedback from so many appreciative coaches on something as simple (to me) as teaching 1v1 defense and basic sliding.

The feedback caused me to reflect about this game that I love so much. As the explosion of the sport of lacrosse continues to spread throughout the country, there are coaches, referees, parents, and players starving for knowledge. "How do you slide? What are some attack moves? How does a 1-3-2 offense work?"

The difference between lacrosse and many other sports is that it is a grassroots phenomenon. A typical scenario goes like this: Chuck graduated from UMass in 1990 and played four years of lacrosse. He married a woman from Minnesota, found a job outside of Minneapolis, had a family, and decided to start a youth lacrosse program when his son turned 13 in 2004. The program became so popular that within two years there were three age groups for boys, and next year, a girls' program will start. Other communities have begun programs too.

Chuck, seeing that his son will have to give up lacrosse at 15 (because that is the end age of the club league), decides to approach the school board at the local high school to start a program. The school board agrees to have a boys' program, but at the expense of the students, not the school. Now it is 2011, and in a very short seven years, there are 26 club teams, 10 high school teams in the great Minneapolis area.

Sound familiar? The explosion is here, and US Lacrosse has a great task of trying to keep up. I commend them for their efforts so far, and I encourage them to try and get better every year.

But this article is about the convention itself, and how it needs more help from experienced coaches out there. As a high school lacrosse coach for almost 20 years, playing high school lacrosse at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., for coach Brian O'Reilly and college club lacrosse in the 1980s, I feel fortunate to have a foot in both the "good ole (not too old of course) days" of lacrosse when it was more of a cult sport and the new era of the lacrosse explosion full of many age-leveled programs.

As a high school coach, I have seen a tremendous change in the US Lacrosse National Convention over the last 15 years. Good and bad. I miss the days when many college coaches (of all levels) roamed the hallways, gave presentations and greeted anyone who approached them. One presentation I remember distinctly was from Bill Tierney about defensive philosophy. Since leaving to start their own convention every December (a time tough for me to attend because of my job), many college coaches have not been an integral part of the US Lacrosse convention. It is what it is, and I don't begrudge them for this and have finally come to accept this fact. But I still mourn it.

However, there are many good aspects of the US Lacrosse convention now, too.

It is obvious that US Lacrosse is interested in other areas besides the X's and O's of the game, offering clinics on sportsmanship, positive coaching, strength and conditioning, just to name a few. With hundreds of new youth programs popping up across the country, these are necessary clinics offered by US Lacrosse.

Also, many experienced high school coaches (and some college coaches too) have stepped up to the plate to help with this demand for knowledge. And really, this is the main point I wish to make in this article: We must pass on our knowledge to these new coaches from Minnesota, Texas, California, Georgia and every other part of the country with fledgling programs. We owe it to the sport we love and to these coaches who travel thousands of miles to come to Baltimore or Philadelphia trying to improve their programs when they take the information back home.

These coaches are mostly volunteer parents, underpaid coaches, or just one of many lacrosse junkies out there. We coaches must help them by providing clear and correct instruction about lacrosse. It is an obligation. The game we love depends on it.

Your reward? Hopefully, as in my case, you will feel a sense of pride in giving back to the game.

See you next year (Jan. 13-15) in Philadelphia at the US Lacrosse National Convention, and I hope to see your name on the speaker list.

Bill Lee is the head coach of varsity boys' lacrosse at the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.


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