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Here we are, another week of Midwest high school lacrosse is in the books. I’ve traveled a bunch, met a lot of people, and seen some great high school lacrosse. I’ve been using Twitter a lot, it seems to get my messages out in real time. If you’re on twitter give me a follow at @mfwchi.
Let me address a couple of things I’ve been asked.
Scoring, honestly, I can't keep up with it. I will retweet every score I see, but I can't stay on top of it all. I am literally covering four states by myself, which I love doing, but as I have seen on Twitter, some accounts concentrate on each state, or each city, division, conference, etc.
I have to say thank you to those people as they get me a lot of info and they love the sport as much as I do. It's excellent to commiserate over Twitter or private messages with you and even better when we get to meet in person.
I want everyone who reports on lacrosse to be successful. I don't have an agenda, and I'm not trying to be the voice of Midwest lacrosse, I just want to be a part of it. I'm not competing with anyone. I do this because I enjoy it and have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time doing it. I am perfectly happy going to games and seeing these young athletes compete. I like talking to parents about their kids because I'm also a parent and I’ve been through a lot of experiences with lacrosse.
I understand your passion. Those who know me personally know that I like to talk and have lots of opinions so writing about it, doing podcasts, and Youtube videos are perfect for me. I'd like to see as many games as possible, but, I have to pick and choose. I have to see the biggest games, the ones with the most significant impact on the region as a whole. I have to highlight the games that will draw national eyes which in turn will get more interest here. If I can squeeze in a game here and there I will. If I'm invited to see a game in a new area, I will try my best to be there. It is nice to feel welcomed, so that makes a decision easier when I'm choosing games. I hope that clears up some questions and comments I've received.
On the Road Again
I only had the chance to go to one game this week, which was disappointing to me, but stuff happens, more on that later. My original plan was to go to Baltimore and watch Loyola Academy (Ill.) play Bullis (Md.), Georgetown Prep (Md.) and Calvert Hall (Md.). Then make a side trip to watch Culver Academy Prep (Ind.) play Boy's Latin (Md.). Unfortunately, it didn't work out.
Loyola stepped up in class going East to play. Bad timing and an unfortunate injury started things off before the Ramblers even left.
The Loyola Academy hockey team made it to the State Championship, which happened last Friday. That meant Loyola players, including returning All-American Timmy Hackett (Bryant) and Cooper Prawdzik (Harvard) wouldn’t be making the trip. Then an injury to returning All-American Najee Taylor (Notre Dame) caused him to miss the trip.
Talking with Loyola Academy Head Coach Rob Snyder, you’d think he would be miserable. Instead, he was up for having his freshman and young players gain valuable experience. So the next man up mentality played in, and they went and played Bullis.
They hung in against them pretty well but in the end, lost 10-6. The next day I got to watch the Georgetown Prep game on Cruitcast. Great game back-and-forth, but ultimately they lost 11-8. Then Sunday they took on Calvert Hall. I was getting updates about how great All-American goalie Dom Urukalo was doing. Even a tweet about it from Ty Xanders, but Loyola was outmatched in this one and lost 14-2. They head back to Illinois and might be a little battered, but I’m sure they will be ready to go the rest of the way.
By the way goalie,Urukalo is an unsigned senior, someone may want to get on that quickly.
My choices of games to attend were between Brother Rice (Mich.) vs. St.Ignatius (Ohio) - a battle between each state 2018 runner-ups - or Carmel (Ind.) vs. Forest Hills Central (Mich.).
I did the natural thing asked Twitter.
One hundred and sixty-one people chimed in, and the winning game was Carmel vs. FHC - 52 percent to 48 percent. Pretty close and pretty cool, thanks for participating.
I plan on doing that every time I have to make a decision between two competing games. For the record Brother Rice beat St Ignatius 18-8.
The Carmel/Forest Hills Central game started with back-and-forth scoring and let's call it some spirited play. Then the Tate Hallock show started, he seemed to be in the right place all the time.
Hallock scored five goals in the first half to take a 10-6 halftime lead. The second half was all FHC, they got every ground ball and moved the ball around very well to win the game 19-10. Hallock won my player of the game award.
The whole FHC team worked on getting the ground balls and limited their mistakes, they just seemed a step ahead. Jackson Clay and Luke Majick also stood out.
It's only one game for Carmel, and I'm sure they will bounce back. Tommy Spraetz was his usual self scoring four goals in the loss. The best news from the game for Carmel was the return on Jordan Walker, great to see him back on the field.
This past week my travel was limited, due to the wife traveling, having a 16 and 12-year-old at home and the biggest reason - March Madness.
For the last three years that I've lived in Indiana, I've been lucky enough to be invited to The Beefsteak. This is an event that is held on the first day of March Madness at the Legendary St. Elmo’s Steakhouse.
If you know St. Elmo’s you know of their fantastic shrimp cocktail and outstanding steaks. When you enter the event, you are greeted by the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders putting a St. Elmo's apron on everyone to prepare you for your day. It is non-stop cocktails, beef tenderloin sliders, and shrimp cocktail that will blow your sinuses out. Oh yeah, and college basketball.
Let's just say I usually have to check the internet Friday to find out who won Thursday. It is an event that I won't miss as long as I'm invited. So that threw off my week a bit.
I think March Madness is now the most significant sporting extravaganza going. There are something like 10 billion dollars wagered over the tourney not to mention the brackets filled out and office pools. No other sport could pull something off like this, or could it?
College lacrosse could emulate this, maybe not with the same amount of teams but a smaller version that hopefully would grow into the behemoth basketball is. I know they try something like it, but it just doesn't have the same pizzazz.
Do it with 32 teams, yes 32. Eight games Thursday, eight games Friday, four games on Saturday, four games on Sunday. The final four on the following Saturday, championship on Monday night. Two locations on the first weekend and one spot on Final Four weekend. Just do the same format.
Have bracket pools, selection shows. People may pay attention who aren't lacrosse fans because there are chances to get involved. I've said this before to actual people who could make this happen (certain executives at a four lettered network). They say the NCAA wouldn't go for it. I say try it.
The NCAA would love another revenue stream because it's all about the money, I mean student-athlete. The other pushback I've received was there aren't 32 good enough college lacrosse teams. I'm calling BS on that.
Parity has become the norm in college lacrosse. I keep saying there are more D-I lacrosse players out there now then D-I teams to have them all. This would showcase it, plus who doesn't love a Cinderella story. Do you think all 64 teams in the NCAA tournament are good? Nope.
The most important thing would be the venue, you can't have it in a vast stadium. There are plenty of sites that could be used, or just use one good one and make it there every year like the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. A seven-to-10 thousand seat stadium could be right, it's not about butts in the seats but the eyes on TVs and devices.
High production is a must. Every time I bring up things like this, naysayers like to shoot it down. How about some vision on this, stop thinking small like we are an irrelevant sport. The powers that be want to literally change the actual game to appease an international audience for the Olympics. I love the Olympics, but that’s hot garbage. This is the fastest growing sport in the country, not just the East coast.
I see it everywhere I go, kids quitting football, not just because parents are worried about concussions, but because it isn't fun especially if you are just practice fodder. These coaches are making kids practice every day, it sucks.
Bill Belichick is probably the greatest football coach of all time, and he even says he hated football practice and loved lacrosse practice. Let's be honest half the reason the kid's play is because their dads push them into it because our dads pushed us into it. It's what turned boys into men.
I'm not judging. I'm just stating what I've seen and heard. Athletics are competing with Xbox, PlayStation, and esports now. Parents, for the most part, want their kids out playing, so if you want a cool sport, that's fun to play, parents are turning to lacrosse.
That dad who wanted his kid to play Football is never telling his kid to play soccer, ever. It may not be politically correct, but those dads don't think it's manly enough to play soccer. Lacrosse appeals to them because there are shoulder pads, helmets, and contact.
They wish they could’ve played it growing up. How do I know? Because I talk to them. The football dads from Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Alabama - this is what they say to me. The main thing holding back lacrosse from blowing up is, not enough D-I teams, and not enough scholarships.
I know, I know Title IX.
If you don't think the whole NCAA model isn't ripe for a change, you haven't been watching. Pay to play, FBI investigations, bribery for preferred entrance into schools, basketball coaches going to jail. It's all about to change, all of it.
Players tried to unionize two years ago. They can't keep holding back change. It has been said Title IX has had some unexpected consequences, this would be an opportunity to revisit them. We have four professional lacrosse leagues: MLL, NLL, PLL, WPLL. I don't know how it's going to shake out, but at least Paul Rabil had the guts to go against the status quo and try to be a game changer. That's the kind of person we may need on the college level.
Have you ever had a few cocktails and thought you were a genius and just changed the world? Then woke up the next day and thinking to yourself - what the hell was I talking about.
Well, that may be the case. I know this may be all some ridiculous pipe dream or just the remaining hangover from a steady stream of bourbon, meat, and shrimp cocktail. But it all sounded good standing around talking about it at 2 a.m., so just let me keep this one.
Like I said I love March Madness.
Growing the Game
I really like what I'm seeing as far as high schools getting lacrosse teams up and running. I do have one thing that concerns me though - teams that are playing over their head.
I don't know the solution to this, but I think this is something that could be looked at. I've seen fledgling programs in their first year playing a varsity team that is experienced and way more skilled and just getting blown out. Like 30-0 blowout.
How does that help grow the game? I think it has detrimental effects. It's hard to tell kids to stop playing hard, doing what they practice so hard for. But I don't think you should have your starters in the game if your winning 15-0 at the half, knowing the other team has no shot, or especially into the fourth quarter.
I can understand keeping your team out and working on fundamentals during the game, but scoring to pad stats just sort of bugs me.
I've told the story before of my son's team playing Team 91 and losing 20-0. It could've been 60-0. We had no chance. They passed the ball 75 times before they shot at one point, as a father next to me was counting. Some who heard this story thought the passing was showboating, but I didn't, and neither did the kids. It was better then a kid scoring 20 goals and showboating like he's the greatest player ever, which I have witnessed.
The only solution I could come up with would be divisions. In Illinois, they had two divisions, and it was based on skill. If you won the Division 2 championship, you moved up to Division 1.
Or perhaps a varsity team plays in a junior varsity league to learn the game and gain confidence. I would hate for a new program to go through everything to get started only to have the kids quit because they are being crushed every game.
If anyone has been one either side of this and has a suggestion or solution, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to reach out to me on twitter at @mfwchi, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm also on Linkedin as Michael Ward Midwest Contributor LaxRecords.com
Until next week.
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