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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Appreciation for MLL Players

One of the biggest criticisms about Major League Lacrosse is the lack of team play.  This is largely attributed to the professionals' inability to practice together more than once a week (if that) rather than the athletes themselves.  The best only way to build strong team skills is by playing and practicing together.
Players on teams other than the Lizards and Bayhawks generally do not live near the city their team is located in, which means traveling to any required team functions.  Unlike other professional sports, very few MLL players are "full time" professionals, meaning that they tend to carry "real" jobs outside of lacrosse.  While their employers are fairly flexible, no reasonable company should be expected to accommodate the full rigors of a professional athlete's schedule.
This results in many teams hobbling sessions together once a week,  often times the day before games.  As the season wears on the teamwork improves, but never to the level we see in the NCAA or even in high school games.  Unfortunately this creates the impression that MLL players are a selfish lot, determined to carry the ball through the defense instead of moving it around the offense.  In some cases this may be true, but for the most part it is evidence that there is a lack in confidence among teammates.
Our Summer Lacrosse League is not unlike the MLL in that aspect.  With a wide range of ages, we have players in different stages of their lives.  Everybody has different commitments outside of lacrosse.  Considering that this is a primarily recreational league, nobody should ever expect that practices would supersede personal obligations (though making time for games may be another story).
Our philosophy is that teams can organize their own practices, under their own conditions and on their own time.  Unlike high school and college programs, players cannot be punished for not attending practice since this is not part of the league set up.  In that, we are like the adult hockey leagues in Des Moines (and I would imagine most other sports leagues as well).
Although I draw some comparisons between our league and the MLL, I am not suggesting that we are competing anywhere near the same level.  I am really just drawing parallels.  Unfortunate parallels, in regards to the way the professional league is forced to operate...
But my real appreciation for MLL players comes from their ability to balance lacrosse with their "real" lives.  These are men that hold professional careers completely unrelated to lacrosse, own or rent homes, and in some cases support families.  They are at the age in which weddings and babies are abundant, and obligations seemingly exceed time.  Yet they find a way to play professional lacrosse against the best athletes in the sport.  I applaud them for that.
Our Kintamani
I may not play in the MLL, but I understand how difficult such a balance can be.  My regular readers know that in addition to serving as an assistant coach and organizing our recreational programs, I recently bought a house (and a dog!) and have a baby on the way (August - right during our playoffs).  I work full time (with mandatory overtime lately) and have a side venture that I've been working on through the years.  Despite my work load, I make lacrosse fit.
In the midst of coaching, moving, two major deaths in my family, and taking baby classes, we have launched (with a lot of help from Coach Zach and a few others) our city's first Youth Lacrosse Program this summer.  The planning mostly fell smack dab in the middle of the busiest period of my life so far, yet everything is ready to go.  The structure is in place, the equipment is together (thank you Henson Group), the volunteers are set up, and the kids are registered.  Unfortunately we had to close registration early due to limited resources (especially volunteers) and a desire for a soft launch.  When the program begins tonight, it will all be worth it.
Compared to launching the Youth Program, preparing the second annual Summer Lacrosse League was cake.  Still, it was not without its own hurdles - everything from people never reading their email (problem with the Youth too) to everybody waiting until the last minute (probably a symptom of not reading) to ordering jerseys to securing fields to balancing the schedule to accommodate the majority effectively to realigning rosters.  My wife will be the first to tell you that between the start of registration through the first night of our leagues I am a volatile mix of frustration and excitement; it is in these times that I remember why I no longer work in customer service...  Still, like the Youth Program, everything will be better once our opening face off occurs tonight.
Looking at how hard I work to ensure a couple hundred laxers in Des Moines have a good experience really gives me a nice perspective on the work being done by MLL players.  Those guys are the emissaries of the game to millions across the country.  They are the autograph signing heroes future laxers look up to.  I am merely a guy with a computer, a stick, and a dream.
Thanks for reading.  Thanks for playing.  And thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 Valley Team Awards

Congratulations to the following Valley Tigers players for their outstanding work this season:
  • JV MVP: Myles Goertz
  • Most Improved: Hunter Levis
  • Freshman of the Year: Ted Crites
  • Sophomore of the Year: Cole Griess
  • Junior of the Year: Nick Harrington
  • Senior of the Year: Collin Mundus
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Tanner McDougal
  • Offensive Player of the Year: Dylan Griess
  • Team MVP: Hunter Couch
  • Team First Award: Colin Cook
I want to thank all of the players for their contributions this season.  I look forward to improving our record and post season success again next spring.

This information will be posted on the Valley team website when I next have the opportunity.

Tribe 7