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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warrior Trojan 2

Lacrosse All Stars posted pics of the new Warrior Trojan 2 helmet, which the Crease Monkeys are wearing at the Hawaii Invitational.*

More Hawaii Invitational Equipment Pictures posted at Inside Lacrosse

The Trojan 2 looks better than previous Warrior helmets, yet is easily identifiable with that brand. The overall design strategy with its diamond shaped vents suggests that the rumors of a single helmet line for Warrior and Brine (both New Balance brands) are true. Much like the first Trojan and the Cascade Pro7, the visor is part of the shell and not a separate piece.
It has a pug-like look that makes me think it will not fit players with prominent facial features. The previous Trojan was noted for fitting wider heads, so that could be a positive. Time will tell how the Brine and Warrior sponsored NCAA teams react to the new helmet; overall response to the original Trojan was fairly high.**
You may recall that the previous Warrior Trojan looked very similar to multiple Cascade models. Team USA was supposed to wear the helmet in the World Championships, but ended up with Brine Triumphs instead. Allegedly, the original Trojan helmet was pulled due to trademark infringement lawsuits filed by Cascade.

*An Easton lax rep playing with the team previously informed me that he planned to wear an Easton hockey bucket with a box cage.
**Though it tended to be of the "next best thing to a Pro7" variety.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Equipment Review - Adidas 111 Shoulder Pads

Although I have been a long time fan of Adidas shoes and apparel, I have not cared much for the Adidas line of lacrosse equipment. Instead of being made by Adidas or their subsidiary, Reebok, Adidas lacrosse equipment is made under license by a third party company, The Henson Group. The original product line looked bulky and inflexible. Last year's John Grant Jr looked like a major improvement, but was too narrow in scope and too high in price for consideration.
Earlier this year, the 2011 line was launched. Much like their original product line, the 2011 line featured three levels of equipment at different price points: 111 (top), 211 (middle), 311 (bottom). Since the launch, the company has announced that they will be equipping Notre Dame and Bucknell. Adidas is also adding several MCLA squads to its portfolio alongside Michigan, who has won the last two MCLA national championships wearing Adidas equipment.
After the Notre Dame announcement, an Adidas/Henson representative contacted me about trying some equipment. Because their first generation gear was so poorly received by myself and others, I eagerly accepted their challenge. Among the items I received was a pair of the 111 Shoulder Pads.
Of course I tried the pads on as soon as I yanked them out of the shipping box. I was stunned by their extremely light weight and amazing flexibility. Just trying them on let me know that I was wearing something vastly superior in comfort to the Warrior Hitlites I had been wearing.
I first wore the shoulder pads while running a clinic to get a feel for them in action (patience is not always my best virtue). As I ran, cradled, passed, and shot, the shoulder pads moved with my body. Unlike every other pad I have ever worn, they did not creep up onto my neck or shift sideways on my shoulders. When I finally took them off, I was amazed at how wet the Climalite lining was; I felt dry the entire time.
Having passed the first test, I was very excited to test the pads during Valley's fall ball Orange vs White game last week. Once again I found the pads to be extremely light and flexible. Even with the added pressure of a game and follow through checks, the pads stayed away from my throat and let me breathe easily. I felt dry the entire night despite the pads' dampness upon finishing; the sponge-like Climalite material is simply amazing.
Since I did not get hit enough during the game to really get a feel for the pads' protection level, I convinced a d-pole to take some swings and pokes. After about a dozen hard pokes around my mid section followed by some flat out baseball swings, I got a pretty good feel for the pads' level of protection. While they are not as tough as Reebok's 9k pads, they are comparable to the Warrior Hitlites. I could feel the hits, but not to the point of pain or impediment.
As a heavier guy, I have always had a problem finding a set of pads that fit just right. My large frame made getting the right pads difficult even when I was in top shape. The 111s not only make it around my ribs, but they also sit comfortably on my abdominal area. The pads stretch with my body which allows easy breathing - unlike other pads I've worn. The capacity to stretch helps prevent the pads from creeping towards my neck. In fact, the movement of the pads is so in tune with my body that I often forgot I was wearing them!
Comfort: 10

Flexibility: 10

Moisture Management: 8

Protection: 7

Overall: 8.75 out of 10

These pads will now be my primary shoulder pads; my Warrior Hitlites have been relegated to loaner duty. I am very interested to see how their technological innovations will perform in the heat and humidity next summer. I am also interested in trying the 111 gloves and arm protection, although Lacrosse All Stars' review of the 111 Arm Guards left me weary...
Regardless, I highly recommend the 111 Shoulder Pads to most midfielders and attackmen. Hardcore dodgers may find the protection lacking, however.

Thank you, Adidas Lacrosse!

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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Drake Lax Game This Friday

Drake Lacrosse will host Iowa State this Friday (10/29) at Drake Stadium. The game is schedule to start at 6:30. This is the first meeting between the Cyclones and Bulldogs outside of the CILA box league.
I will be in attendance, working in an official capacity. This will probably be the last field lacrosse event for either team before the spring. As always, admission to the game is free.
*Drake originally planned to face Cornell, but unspecified circumstances led to a change in opponent.

Hockey Night In Iowa 2010 Edition - Game 11

I missed last week's game due to some personal business, but my teammates managed to pull off a 5-4 win over Funky Pickle. Apparently there was some sort of altercation between a few players; unfortunately I do not have the details.
Tonight we face the Puck Hawgs for the second time. Last time we face them, they destroyed us 8-2. Despite my earlier speculation, this is definitely not the same team as last year. The Hawgs sit in second place behind Cup O Kryptonite with two losses - one of which was in over time.
Meanwhile, we are just one spot removed from last place by virtue of our two wins of Funky Pickle...
As much as I hate to say it, I am predicting a loss for Irwins tonight. I will do everything I can to prevent it, as will my teammates. Hopefully we can finally solve goalie Justin Hillock and stop their offense.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No Posts - Updates

There may not be any real posts for a few days. I was not home all weekend and will be finalizing the box lacrosse rosters and schedule this week. I am currently working on the Adidas 111 pads reviews and expect them to be posted this week.
I apologize for any inconvenience.
Bear With Me

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Celebrating Two Years of Lacrosse in Des Moines!

I started this blog two years ago today. I had some lofty goals back then without a real clue about how to reach them:

My goal is simple yet complex - successfully introduce lacrosse to central Iowa. Step 1 involves getting a group of guys together regularly to toss a ball and maybe scrimmage. Step 2 has us putting a team in the regional men's league (the Great Plains Lacrosse League) and squaring off against teams in Omaha, KC, Tulsa, and Wichita. Step 3 sees a high school club or two forming and hopefully playing against the Omaha HS clubs. Step 4 sees a broader youth program and a girls' program starting up. Step 5 is pure fantasy, but maybe seeing most of the metro schools with their own club teams. Step 6 is an MLL and/or NLL franchise in DM (A pure pipe dream, I know).

I ventured forth blindly with nothing but ambition guiding me. When I found out about the recently started Valley team and Tyler Nielsen's efforts to start lax, my drive only increased. As I started communicating with Tyler and Valley coach Zach Zielonko, things began to fall into place. A rough idea for the first summer league began to form. Then I was contacted by Ben Shoff at Drake and those plans gained momentum. After finally getting some sticks for Christmas, we held our first Toss Around in January of 2009.

Step One is complete.

I had hoped to field the Demons in the GPLL last year, but as I got better acclimated to the game, I realized that would not happen. We considered last year's summer pick up games, the box league, and the graduating Valley players over the winter. Ultimately we did not see enough depth to field a travel team. Then the 2010 Summer League brought waves of new players to our attention. Since many of these players will be in the metro and have expressed interest in the Demons, we are about 95% certain that the Demons will happen in 2011!
Over the course of this year's box league we will figure out dues, jersey fees, and how the team will be put together. A formal announcement will be made later this fall. Stay tuned for more information.

Step Two is in progress.

During the first Toss Around, Zach asked Tyler and me to help run Valley's practices. I started the team's website and helped with organization. The Tigers played as a junior varsity team in 2009. This spring they played at the varsity club level and finished fourth over all in the Nebraska League. A couple of weeks ago they won the Lincoln Rampage Mid-Fall Classic.

Step Three is complete.

With the arrival of more laxers, we have reached the point where we can start expanding our programs. Austin Ladd has graciously volunteered to spearhead the upcoming youth program. Although the specific details are not available, the program will start within the next month or so. CILA members also did a clinic at a recent Boy Scouts of America event at Water Works Park. We have also helped with Walnut Creek YMCA-sponsored clinics. I will run at least one clinic at the South Suburban YMCA this winter. Other groups in the metro have contacted me about starting youth lacrosse programs.

Jaacki McKinney took the reigns of the girls program at Waukee. She has built a competitive high school team that faces teams from Omaha, Kansas City, and other cities in our region. Other girls and women in the metro have expressed interest as well.

Step Four is nearly complete.

As Valley's program continues to expand, the Waukee students may be able to splinter off into their own team in a couple of years. Talks have also been held with the Activities Directors at Lincoln and Dowling. A few Dowling students currently play with Valley; more say they would be interested if a Dowling team was available. I have begun working with Lincoln students this fall with a southside high school team being the goal. We have had discussions about how this league can grow and evolve organically, yet sustainably. The burgeoning youth program(s) will help.

And the sport is spreading beyond the metro. Dubuque officially launched its program this fall. Efforts are still underway in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo. Sioux City has been mentioned as well, but I have not heard many specifics about their plans. Perhaps the most interesting place I've heard about is the Pella/Oskaloosa area. A few experienced individuals live in the area and are looking to start a program.

Step Five is in progress.

I am afraid that this is the closest we will come to a MLL team in Des Moines. Although the NLL is out of play, there is the possibility of a competitive box lacrosse team. However, this team will be strictly amateur. But the ultimate goal of the league is establishing a junior box lacrosse league akin to the Canadian leagues and junior hockey.

Step Six would require a massive financial windfall.

Upon reflection, I cannot believe how far we have come as a lacrosse community in two short years. Although I had hoped for some sort of summer rec program, I honestly did not believe that we would have a full blown league within our first two years. Many other more established areas do not have that luxury. As late as last September, we were unsure that the box league would even take off and now are less than two weeks from starting our second - with an additional team to boot!

The past two years have seen the creation of the Drake University team, a dedicated CILA website, a CILA facebook page, a dedicated CILA bank account (no link for that, natch!), sponsored jerseys, and a local lacrosse brotherhood. As we begin our third year, I'm looking forward to the launch of the Demons competitive/travel team, the beginning of our youth program, the continuation of our recreational leagues, and the progress of additional high school programs.

For more information on the current Central Iowa Lacrosse Association programs, please visit the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association website. Feel free to post your comments below or on Facebook, or even email me. Thank you for your support!
I would like to thank the following people for everything they have done to help support the growth of lacrosse in Des Moines: Zach Zielonko, Tyler Nielsen, Jim Burk, Jaacki McKinney, Gabe Carlson, Phil, Austin Ladd, Mark Anderson, Ben Shoff, Bill Bostwick, Cam Bostwick, Alec Sundermann, Kurt Sundermann, Dirk Arends, Chad Thompson, Tiffany Edgington, and everybody that has participated in a CILA event or league over the past two years. We would not be where we are without their efforts!

Tribe 7