With the middle school and high school teams that I coach having just completed their fall tournament schedules, I reflect on the incredible opportunity that my young players have at their disposal that did not exist in my playing days: summer and fall full weekend lacrosse tournaments.
Growing up and playing lacrosse in New Jersey in the 80’s and 90’s, we basically had our spring season and a the potential for a small extension of that season to play top level lacrosse in the Garden State Games. We eventually had a short informal winter box lacrosse season, but overall the opportunities to play outside of our main season were quite limited in comparison to today.
In New Jersey and other states, that opportunity has greatly expanded with the growth full weekend summer and fall tournaments. Not only are full weekend tournaments very fun, with teams from all over one’s home state and even out of state teams converging on large venues to compete at the highest level, they provide invaluable playing experience. Lacrosse tournaments are one big reason why the level of lacrosse being played in my new home state of Florida has increased exponentially in the past 5 years.
If you consider that an average tournament team plays three tournaments, each tournament of which will include 4-6 games being played in one weekend, in three weekends, a player will have played more games than he or she would in an entire spring season. When you combine that volume of games with the variety of competition and fast paced games (20 to 21 minutes running halves), it is easy to see the value of competing in state wide tournaments.
The comradery that lacrosse tournaments create is also very special. With some tournaments attracting 120 teams or more, the hosting city or town is taken over by lacrosse families. Whether in hotels, at restaurants, or shopping, you find yourself constantly surrounded by lacrosse parents, players, and coaches. In a sport that still has not yet reached main stream status, especially in newer lacrosse markets like Florida, it is uplifting to be in a venue where so many people that love the sport are congregated.
To be sure, there are many aspects of the lacrosse tournament experience that make it invaluable and unique for lacrosse players and coaches. I would advise any family with the opportunity to play weekend tournament ball to take full advantage of an opportunity that only relatively recently became available to lacrosse players.
Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.