An Indecent Proposal?

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An Indecent Proposal?

Postby LacrosseHub on Sat Mar 29, 2008 5:49 pm

by Wheniwasakid...

Look at the sidelines of a lacrosse game today and you will see an interesting phenomenon that for years was a staple of that other spring sport, baseball: athletes standing around doing nothing.

Lacrosse has changed over the years, as any sport that sees a huge growth spurt and technological equipment advances tends to do. Nowadays, there is a constant debate over pinched heads, pull-strings, mesh vs. traditional, the size and athleticism of the players, zone defenses, stall offenses and fogos just to name a few. The arguments revolve around how these changes have affected our game and what we can do to mitigate their respective down-sides. However, there is another change briefly alluded to in the first paragraph of this article and it has to do with another ever-increasing trend: roster size.

Schools have been increasing their roster sizes on average for the past 10 years, possibly longer. At first I saw the trend in college football where rosters can now exceed 100 players. Now some division THREE lacrosse teams have players with numbers in the upper 50s. I am not going to back this up with statistics because it is not actually relevant to my main point, which is that any game roster over 30 players is quite absurd for many reasons. Personally, I believe a team can get away with only 20 players for a game but that would be such a significant drop, I doubt it would ever be considered.

It is rare that any team at the High School, college club, ncaa, MLL or International levels would ever use more than 30 players in a single game. At most a team needs 2 goalies, 5 defensemen, 3 Long stick midfielders, 2 fogos, 3 SSDMs, 9 offensive/clearing/wing midfielders and 5 attackmen. This allotment puts a team at 29 players. The 30th can be an extra wherever else you really feel like you might need it even though 3 LPMs and 9 offensive middies already seems like overkill.

If you are already thinking to yourself that, "this guy is crazy and is obviously not in touch with reality" I have seen this style of roster in action and it can be VERY effective. In Western Australia, where I played in 2001, rosters were limited to 15 players and the level of competition and skill was extremely high. The fitness level of the midfielders was quite impressive and the ability to play all aspects of the game by all players was evident and a breath of fresh air in this age of position specialization.

You will hear coaches at the college level dismissing this idea as foolish for a couple of reasons. 1) I need more than 30 kids to run an effective practice. 2) What if players get hurt and the injury bug bites my team hard? 3) We've been doing it this way for years now and it seems OK, why would we change it now?

To address the first issue I would first like to say that I pretty much agree with them here. Running a real practice with less than 30 players can be very difficult but these are only game rosters that I am talking about, not practice rosters. There is no reason why a school can't have a Varsity team of 30 players and then a JV team with an additional 20-30 players. The two teams can practice together but only players marked as Varsity would travel to away games and only Varsity players would dress for home games while the JV players could be on the sideline in street clothes or playing in a JV game themselves, provided the opposition decided to bring theirs along. Would this result in fewer games for the JV players? Of course, but the point of college is not to make as many team trips as possible, it is to focus on academic pursuits. Lacrosse is just an added benefit and it is a privilege not a right to play it.

The second point is also easily solved with a JV team. If 3 of your Varsity boys go down on Wed and you have a big game Saturday, you can pull 3 guys up from the JV squad and since they have been practicing with the Varsity all year, they should be good to go.

The last issue college coaches will raise is an interesting one. The system as-is has worked to be sure but that doesn't mean it's working as well as it could be. College athletics have gotten out of control and academics and the pursuit of well-rounded graduates has been lost in the process. It is time for Lacrosse to make a stand and be the leader of the pack, regardless of our status as a non-major university sport at most schools. Reducing game roster size at the college level sends the right message to parents, coaches and players while still allowing for very high levels of participation. It eliminates the kids who ride the bench for 4 years just to be on the team. Those kids can play JV, be involved with the team but not have it be the end-all be-all of their college careers. Most kids who barely play for all 4 years but are on the team the whole time have allowed their academics to suffer or their overall college experiences to suffer. The JV option allows them to still be really involved if they want but allows them to experience other things as well.

So now we have seen that this is certainly possible to pull off at high levels, we must address the lower levels of the sport where involvement and participation is paramount. The solution here is also quite easy: create more teams. Where a youth program had 1 team with 40 kids on it, it could easily have 2 teams with 20 kids on each roster. If getting refs is a problem, then more parents need to step up and get involved in their kids' lives. If field space is a problem, then shorten the games a little or make 2 smaller fields where there once was one and find a way to fit in more actual playing and less standing on the sidelines in $400 worth of equipment that is barely getting used. The kids won't do it themselves, they need parents and coaches to work together for the greater benefit of all.

The point of this is to make sure that kids who are on the team are playing in games and the rest of the kids can work harder to be on the Varsity team or they can continue on as practice players but they don't need to be travelling every other weekend, watching endless hours of film and being held to the same level of responsibility as a Varsity starter. I loved playing lacrosse in college and had a great experience but we need to look at where our true priorities lie. Are college sports there to get us to the next level or are they there to help us become well-rounded, mature adults? I would like to think the latter is true and that by restricting the number of players on a game roster Lacrosse could step up, be a leader and set a precedent that the major college sports, especially college football, could follow.
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Postby A.J. Stevens on Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:49 pm

FYI The MLL limits game day rosters to 18
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Re: An Indecent Proposal?

Postby swampthing on Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:54 pm

"Most kids who barely play for all 4 years but are on the team the whole time have allowed their academics to suffer or their overall college experiences to suffer."

I think that this article has great intentions, but I don't see the point. I watched a lot of Varsity football games from the sideline b/c our high school had a ton of talent (fine...I just wasn't that good) but I still loved football Monday through Thursday when I got my real playing time so it was worth it for me. It would be nice to reward the kids who dedicate a lot of their time/resources by playing for a B squad, but in a sport with limited school support and funding as it is, I just can't answer the question "why?".

The thing is, I, and the players who stay on these lacrosse teams chose this. Nobody forced me to be in football 4 hours a day (Texas HS) when I was riding the pine. It would be just as nice if the University of Florida started a Junior (Junior Junior Junior) Varsity football team that I could be a part of, but there wouldn't be any point. At the youth level it might be more important to allow every kid an opportunity to play - "everyone's a winner!" -, but by the time you made it to the high school varsity level you should have woken up and started keeping score. Part of the learning in college is identifying your strengths and weaknesses and assessing how to use your resources efficiently. If you're not going to play, and you aren't satisfied with practicing and watching on the sideline and your grades are suffering b/c of the time commitment, get out.

That may seem cruel, but the article makes it sound as if somehow players on the roster are victimized. If you're not playing, then the school's probably not giving you a scholarship that would force you to stay on. If you don't think that being a part of the program is worth the time commitment and is adversely affecting your college experience, quit. You can still express your passion and love for the game as a fan.
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Postby Ryan Winters on Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:14 pm

After every game by the time opposing players have reached me to shake my hand I usually hear "that is the largest team I have ever seen". It brings a smile to my face. The Florida mens Lacrosse team has a 50 something roster that have all seen playing time 4 times in the fall, and 3 in the spring. I don't make cuts and all experience is welcome, since I have been coaching no player has been declared academically ineligible. You want well rounded mature adults come to Gainesville, my players off the field activities range from the student senate, Fellowship of christian athletes, to bartenders. Someone wants to play lacrosse while at the University of Florida I'm not going to stop them, I'm going to ask they treat me and every player with the same level of respect. So if your a 15 man roster good for you, but for the record I'll take my 55 in a spelling bee or a lacrosse game.
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Postby PigPen on Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:42 pm

I played 63 players in a TX HS varsity game once-no joke, it was a rout and I emptied the bench-the Parent run board wouldn't let me make cuts :cry:
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Postby OAKS on Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:00 pm

Many sport club departments won't let teams officially cut players as well.
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Postby Johnnielax13 on Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:33 pm

I think the author of this article is out of touch with his audience. An interesting look at the current state of lacrosse, but it is always easier to say "when I played. . . "

The main reason the MCLA exists is to provide an opportunity for college lacrosse teams who want to play in an organized league.

To assume that a player's college experience of academics suffered because he did not play "enough" for a team is giving lacrosse too much credit, and the player not enough. Playing for the Johnnies was one of my favorite aspects about my college experience (despite spending a lot of time on the pine).

Most teams have dues steep enough to keep players devoted, and keep the less serious players away. If you have 40 guys who want to play lax, and are paying out of pocket for the opportunity, who is to say they can't travel or dress?

The Johnnies have historically had one of the largest teams in DII and I doubt the team would have it any other way.

Are college sports there to get us to the next level or are they there to help us become well-rounded, mature adults? I would like to think the latter is true and that by restricting the number of players on a game roster Lacrosse could step up, be a leader and set a precedent that the major college sports, especially college football, could follow.

I agree that club level college lacrosse is designed to help you become a well rounded mature adult. But I am missing the correlation of roster size to the growth of an individual. I think the perceived problem of a large roster is non issue.

I understand that the author is trying to start a conversation, and while I feel this is an interesting topic, I think the author makes a lot of broad (and inaccurate) assumptions.

But I look forward to hearing how the rest of the message board feels about the post.
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Postby Karl Lynch on Sun Mar 30, 2008 9:39 pm

We had a year when most of our new guys had no game experience. We scheduled two scrimmages that year against DII schools and only allowed the rookies to play. The guys that got lots of ice time were not allowed to play.

The DII team liked playing us because we provided a different look than they usually saw and our guys loved it because they got to play in real games without the chance of the top lines crowding their space.

It worked really well.

We have not had enough guys to do it again, but I would do it in a heartbeat if I had a team of 35 guys or more.
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