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Get Off My Lawn!

Get off my Lawn!

Ever since I picked up a women’s lacrosse stick as a freshman in high school, I can recall conversations about how this sport needs to change. There is always discussion about adding rules, adding equipment, how it’s too slow, too fast, too soft, too dangerous. It certainly feels like everyone has an opinion about a game that quite frankly, I’m so taken with that I coach and teach it full time so that I can be around it as much as possible. If I loved men’s lacrosse better (and I do love men’s lacrosse which I grew up fully immersed in), then I would choose to coach men’s lacrosse, not change the women’s game into it.

Women’s lacrosse is the only sport that Im aware of that has always had to defend itself in order to keep from being changed into something else, and it feels like it’s slowly slipping away from us as I see helmets – a talking point for over 20 years – have finally made an appearance despite all the data against it. So my message is, hey get off my lawn! (or my field) We love this game, let us keep it, does it really bother you so much that you have to intervene?

Ever find women’s lacrosse players to be a bit defensive? I read an editorial blurb in US Lacrosse Magazine this month about the women’s game, its supposed shortcomings, and skirts that struck me in such a way that I couldn’t put it out of my mind. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I’m sensitive and defensive about comments geared towards the women’s side of the game because ever since I started playing this sport, it has felt like someone has been trying to rob it from us or tell us it’s not good enough.

The loudest voices on changing our sport come from, maybe not surprisingly, those who have never played it and don’t appreciate it for what it is. You don’t really see women’s lacrosse players picketing around feeling helpless and begging for people to come in and “fix” our sport. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We are standing up and shouting to please leave it alone!

So for those who think they can improve this game, here are a few talking points to consider:

  1. The women’s game is difficult to learn, it has a lot of rules and the sticks have a steeper learning curve for handling. Because of that, the game looks messy in the younger years. This isn’t a problem that needs fixing, it’s part of the game – and when it’s mastered gives females an incredible sense of accomplishment.
  2. It’s not freeze tag. Comparing a game as complex and difficult to master as women’s lacrosse to a preschool game is insulting and honestly ignorant to all that girls need to learn in order to play it.  Usually the freeze tag comment is followed up with, and I just don’t understand the game. That’s right, it’s complex and beautiful and I encourage those who watch it to study it and realize that everything is done with a purpose and mission and for the greatness of the game. As we develop as players and learn the rules, as the constantly training referees get better, and as the players begin to master the skills, the whistles lessen, but those whistles keep our game safe and help teach, and we’re ok with that.
  3. Women’s lacrosse, in comparison with other sport options for females, is not a dangerous sport.  We have many rules that keep us safe and no one is looking to get rid of those rules – they are a huge part of the strategy of the game and the finesse that comes from playing it.  And the rules work! Women’s lacrosse players are not crying out in injustice from injuries, we’re doing just fine and we have the data to back that up.
  4. Women’s lacrosse is a game of fine motors. We have to execute skills with extreme precision.  In the men’s game a shove gets you open for a ground ball and a swing serves as a check, in the women’s game we have to focus, aim for small areas and use perfect position to get results.  This isn’t a flaw in the game, it’s a challenge and we love it, it makes us become better athletes and it makes our game pretty incredible.
  5. We wear skirts, not everyone- but in general this is a piece of our game that lives on, one of the few pieces that haven’t been completely ripped out because someone on the outside thought they could make it “better”.  It’s a tradition, and reading an article in a lacrosse magazine that says the girls wear skirts because they want to look good on tv is really taking the idea out of context.  Why do tennis players wear skirts? Is there a push to get rid of that tradition as well? There are many reasons for the skirts beyond the fact that it’s part of our game but really, do we need to justify this? Are we still having to explain what we wear as athletes?  Let’s instead look at the men’s game and consider why they have long flowing locks….certainly not for a vanity reason right? And if we brought back those 1970’s short shorts on the guys, they would never mention that they would not look good in those because they are pure athletes who don’t care what they look like right? Hmmmm…
  6. Girl’s don’t come home from practice and complain that they didn’t get to hit, body check, and kick the ball.  The people who most want to add that to the game aren’t players who grew up with the game.
  7. Women LOVE to multi-task, women’s lacrosse is the queen of all multi-tasking activities. Obviously women created this game because it caters exactly to our strengths and what we love to do.
  8. What is it about women’s lacrosse that people want to make it more physical (it’s already pretty physical, get on the field and you’ll see what I mean) But I’ve never heard someone sitting at a basketball game complaining that the players can’t shove each other to the floor, kick the ball, body check, etc. It’s not part of our game, I’ve never understood the drive to make it rougher.
  9. Growth is great, I love the new sticks,  new materials used in uniforms and thank goodness we got rid of bloomers!! I’ve gotten used to boundaries, restraining lines, and coaches boxes.  But growth is different from trying to make the game into something it’s not, and that’s what we need to stand up against.  The idea that I had to relearn the game –positions, lines on the field, equipment and safety add ons-  when coming back into it only a few years after not playing tells me that this game may be changing a little too fast.

    So here’s my beef with all the constant chatter about changing our game – we love it, we aren’t asking anyone for their opinion on how to make it better and we’d love if those coming in from the outside could either learn the rules and appreciate it or move on to another sport to tear apart if it’s just too confusing. Perhaps they could work on throwing some helmets on competitive swimming (you know..that hard scary wall at each end of the pool!) to keep them busy for a while so that we can just play. Our sport isn’t up for grabs to whoever comes up with new ideas, let’s get the discussion on changes off the table for a while and just enjoy it! Instead of changing the game, lets teach it better to our youth, give them the message that they can indeed master it like many have done before them and stop trying to force a change that isn’t warranted, wanted, or honestly welcome.

    Why do we love this sport? Well, it’s complicated, it’s beautiful, it’s fulfilling, it’s challenging, it’s graceful, tricky, and you can never be done learning new ways to strategize and work inside of it.

    PLAY ON LADIES!!!!!!!

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