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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Lax Broken?

I stumbled across this article yesterday. The author makes a strong point about the over evolution of field lacrosse to the point where it is hardly identifiable as the same game being played 30 years ago.
The midfield as a transition area of the field and also the midfielder were unique to the American field game. Both no longer exist.That player is gone, replaced by five players (long pole middie, short stick defensive middie, face off middie, clearing middie and offensive middie) whose roles have empowered the coaches and made the game impossible to watch and less enjoyable to play. The free flowing area of the field is no longer used and the free flowing aspect of the game is mostly extinct, taken over by specialists and hundreds of substitutions that create confusion where there once was mostly excitement.For 100 years the midfielder was the embodiment of the American field lacrosse game. He was the most balanced and impressive athlete on the field. He had the skills and conditioning to play the whole field. He excelled at defense, transition and offense.

This is especially true about the major power house D1 teams like Hopkins, Duke, and Syracuse. It is even starting to become the norm at the high school level, particularly in the traditional hotbed areas. For the most part Valley does not utilize too many specialists, but the Tigers do run a LSM and sub for an attacking middie. Their face off guys usually play the whole field versus being a FOGO (face off get off).
In the games original design, the weight of the stick made for natural trade offs in its size and length. If you carried a bigger stick to play defense, you HAD to be a bigger guy to carry it. It weighed more. You were not as nifty a mover as the smaller offensive players, so there was a natural trade off competitively. As we got to synthetic materials that all changed. Originally defensive plastic heads were bigger for the less skilled defenseman to handle the ball better. Defensemen soon learned that they could handle the smaller head and pocket and they got better at handling the ball. After the shaft became metal and light weight, any size athlete could handle the long stick.

Even looking over the Valley defense, you can see some of this. Although a few of the poles had some decent size, Boyd, McDougal and Mundus are definitely more on the athletic end of the equation. These defenders had decent size, but were more quick and nimble than a traditional d-pole.
At the same time this was happening the stick head was getting pinched by manufacturers. This makes it easier to hold the ball and lessens the need for skill. Power is more important and this is not consistent with the original design of the game.Since the ball will not come out of the stick, cross checking has slowly become the norm, along with heavy, wild, one arm wrap checks. Ref’s know the ball won’t come out unless you knock the snot out of a guy, so they let it go. Who’s that fun for? The skill and beauty that once defined the game is basically not required. The new bigger and stronger athlete can simply run over you and the ball is still in his pocket after you knock him to the ground.
That last little bit describes Tyler, as anyone that has played in a CILA league can attest to. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that...
Last year the NCAA changed the amount of pinch allowed; the MCLA adopted the same rules. This change was intended to open the game up more and reduce the force of the hits required to dislodge the ball. However, the change was not made at the high school, professional, or international levels.

The article is largely disjointed and lacks the same kind of free flowing pace that the author desires from lacrosse. At one point he mentions that attendance is down at the college level. He attributes this to an over emphasis on coaching, but it could just be that high school students are practicing more and playing more games. Or it could just be that more fans are staying home to watching the increasing number of games on television.
Regardless, it is an interesting read.

Tribe 7