I am a hypocrite.

I have fully participated in the lunacy around the game of lacrosse these days. I have kids that play and are active in the club lacrosse process. I regularly cut checks for training, tournaments, camps, club teams, and so on. So I really have no room to speak, yet I feel compelled to.

here are a number of things that seem so wrong about the “machine” around the game today that I want to put my thoughts out there because I am a fan of the game. I am probably naive to think that there may be enough of a groundswell at some point in the near future to change the current trajectory. There are lots of stakeholders that can be doing some serious soul-searching on this. In no particular order:

Parents, what are we thinking?

Do we think the status quo is good for our kids? Do we want to see them stressed about making what is probably the biggest decision of their young adult lives (selecting a college) at a point where they don’t even know what high school is all about? Is that healthy? Is it realistic to think they have the tools and the experiences to make an informed decision? Should we demand that the current model stop for our children’s sake?

What about our sideline behavior? Do you watch us during the games? The antics, the disgust, the anger that we frequently exhibit? Why? For what benefit? It’s a game. It is played for enjoyment and the excitement of competition, but not really for the wins and losses (I hope). I always felt that sport made us better people, but the role models I see from today’s parents are far too often at the other end of the spectrum.

Why do we feel like we have so much skin in the game? Our playing days are over.

College coaches, what are you thinking?

We don’t need rules and regulations to do what is right. We need courage and leadership from a unified group to set standards that are in the best interest of our children. I challenge anyone to come up with sound reasons why 14, 15, and 16-year-olds should be making choices about college. What are the gains that you have to show from the current process? What are the casualties? Where is the data that says this is a good model and good for the kids? Why don’t you have all the confidence in the world in your program, your institution, your teaching, your staff, that kids will wait because they know your school is a good fit for them and they have always wanted to play for you?

High school coaches, what are you thinking?

Take back your role of being your players’ biggest advocate. Why are college coaches talking to club directors and coaches more than you? If you are a teacher at their school, don’t you know the kids and their families better? Shouldn’t the college coaches want to get the more complete picture about the student-athlete from you?

If I were a college coach, I would be much more interested in hearing your perspective about a kid as a student, how the player gets along with classmates and teachers, what his or her parents and family are like, what kind of work ethic the player has and more.

Tournament directors, what are you thinking?

Maximize profit? Roll the dice with safety? In my years of observation, I have seen the tournaments get larger with more games squeezed in using more teams. Sunday morning 7 a.m. games? Really? Marketing focuses on how many college coaches will be present, but that causes problems in the supply and demand model. There are a limited number of qualified and sufficiently trained referees. They are working hard in the heat and being asked to referee up to six or seven games in a day. If they are doing a good job, they should be getting up and down the field multiple times in the course of a game. Try that for seven games in 90-degree weather.

Tournaments are often set up where the stronger teams will play further along in the brackets. Games often get shorter, stakes get higher, physicality increases, refs are tired and kids get hurt more frequently.

Club directors and coaches, what are you thinking?

Maximize profit? Roll the dice with safety? Are you teaching the game completely? Are you having kids play too much? Are you consumed with winning? Are you qualified across the board to do all the things you say you are providing?

I have witnessed some frightening behavior from coaches and club directors. To the point where some should arguably not be allowed to interact with kids at this level. I have seen verbal abuse of young girls in particular that has shocked me—specifically, men degrading young girls. And for what? And at what long-term cost? And yet, we parents stand idle, somehow rationalizing that it motivates or is in the girl’s best interest. That’s weak.

Coaches, especially club coaches who are getting paid and clubs that are getting paid, should not stand for anything less than positive teaching and reinforcement. Someone should tape these characters and send them the film of their antics. At the same time, film some of the routinely great coaches and send that film to the ones screaming and putting down the kids. Then clean house of the bad apples. These people damage our kids and put a black eye on the sport.

Kids, help the grown ups grow up.

You all are resilient and have a knack of intuitively knowing what is right. Thank you.

I also hope you could feel empowered to, at some point, say “Enough. Let me live my life. Let me have fun at my tempo.” Maybe you should band together. Boycott the tourneys. Boycott the practices. Boycott the madness. Demand better of us old folks. Don’t let the love of the game— the real love of the game—die. And please don’t feel like you have to specialize in lacrosse, or any other sport. Play them all with reckless abandon. Experience the fun of competition in as many contexts as you can. You will be a better competitor, refreshed when you hit the lacrosse field, and a more well rounded person for those experiences.

I remember when the game was truly played for the love of the sport, before it was a machine. I worry that we have lost sight of the core elements of why we love the game. Let’s all work to get it back.

For the love of the game,

Ted Brown
Parent and fan of lacrosse