Women’s lacrosse players have been trying to communicate this message since I was a kid, and probably even before then. But the message seems to be getting lost, so I’m trying this a different way. A little role-playing scenario. Maybe this will help.
OK Men’s lacrosse, first I’ll say that I LOVE men’s lacrosse and grew up totally immersed in the game that all of my family and relatives played. I grew up using a men’s stick and running around the backyard hip checking my dog for the ground ball. Great game!
I also love women’s lacrosse. It’s a beautiful, complex, incredibly athletic, and fun game to play and to coach. Both games, are a huge part of my life. Also I don’t understand anything about hockey but it’s a cool sport and as a Baltimore –> Minnesota transplant I’ve learned to appreciate it. So that’s been clearly communicated, yes?
Ok let the role-play start – please keep an open mind:
Lets pretend I represent an avid ice hockey player, coach, community, etc. You, well, you’re still men’s lacrosse. As an ice hockey community, I have gotten involved in the game of men’s lacrosse and I really like it. I see many similarities to my favorite sport of Ice Hockey. However, it’s definitely too slow for me (running on grass? Why not skate?) and the rules don’t quite make sense to me, it’s not what I’m used to and I don’t understand why we have to have many of these rules in place. I also think the goalie needs way more pads- for their safety I’d like to cover them head to toe in gear. I’d like to simplify the field, change up how penalties work and the sticks are a waste of time. Why catch the ball when you can put it on the ground and just hit it to where you want it to go? These are valid concerns, yes? I mean, it’s what makes hockey great, why wouldn’t it improve lacrosse? It’s just logical.
So, every year, myself and my community of hockey lovers start to come more and more into the game. We take over coaching roles and start getting on committees that design rule changes. We talk about how much we love the game but also how we see it ultimately becoming much better as it becomes more like hockey, which is of course to us, way more fun to watch and play.
We begin a campaign with younger kids as we tell parents our vision of making the game faster, changing the equipment to make it evolve into something better. These new parents are totally on board and we start to get a new generation of players and families that hope to see more gear, skates, hockey sticks and ice time. Articles are constantly coming out talking about the evolution of the game, into a ice skating rink with long curved sticks, super padded goalies, and eventually the same rules as the game of hockey – because let’s face it, to us, hockey is king. We fear monger a bit on the safety of goalies (after all the equipment is evolving so the danger is increasing) so that people buy into the more gear idea. We scoff at the men’s lacrosse people who clearly can’t grasp the future of the sport, and are holding onto the old ways. If people want the sport to survive, they just need to embrace evolution and be thankful we are helping it get an audience. We concede that we think men’s lacrosse is an amazing game, but then still talk about how the differences between lacrosse and hockey need to be eliminated for the benefit of the sport.
You’re at a meeting, on a trip, anywhere at all, and you’re wearing lacrosse gear. You are about to encounter a similar conversation that is starting to become common place. Someone approaches you and asks when will they finally give the lacrosse players hockey sticks and skates so they can just be free to be athletic and have fun like the hockey players?
How are you feeling right now? The people who love men’s lacrosse have spoken out and said they think hockey is cool, in fact it’s a great sport! But the men’s lacrosse players love their sport and want to keep it. While changes are great and evolution is important, there is a constant threat of your game being turned into another sport. You’re probably wondering, why would we change the sport into hockey anyway? We already have hockey, why can’t we have both? You start to feel attacked, get a little edgy when for the zillionth time you see someone asking if your sport will ever become hockey. You see your game being stripped away of things that you really loved about it and constantly under siege by people who think they’re doing you a huge favor, often times people who have NEVER played your version of the sport. You enjoy some of the progress but fear is setting in is that one day, men’s lacrosse will be gone. And because hockey has taken over many of the roles making decisions, you may not have a say in the matter at all. You’re tired of defending it all the time, but you also can’t just let the game disappear.
Getting the picture yet?
We can have both, the women’s game is uniquely different, not inferior, and there is no need to strip it of its uniqueness for the enjoyment of people who don’t get it any more than it makes sense to put lacrosse field players on skates to entertain the hockey community. Change is great, but destruction of its integrity is a tragedy. If one person sees this differently after reading this than I’ve done at least something.
Much love to all sports for what they uniquely bring to enhance the athlete in all of us.