Every year there will be a shiny new toy. A lacrosse tournament you must attend, a team you need to make, a coach you need to have and a lacrosse travel program you need to play for. As a lacrosse father, I was guilty as charged. I felt the pressures, stress, and obligations when my oldest son was a youth player. For all-star lacrosse teams, it was the Adidas All American team, then Brine All American team and now Under Armour All American team. For prospect days, it was Top 205, Jake Reed and Nike Blue Chip. After that, it was 3D Blue Chip and AA travel teams. Now, it is National travel lacrosse teams.
I can tell you from experience, that being a father of a player on some of these competitive lacrosse teams can be great, if done for the right reasons. Unfortunately, at the time, I did it for the wrong reasons. I thought I needed it to validate my son as a player and I thought he needed it to be recruited. I was wrong! (I am as shocked as you are😊) It might help his exposure at bigger events, but most times I see athletes playing for themselves. The talent might be better, but the lacrosse is not. Your chance to shine can be limited. For example, if a team has a talented face-off player and 80 % of the time the ball is in the offensive zone, as a lacrosse goalie, you might not see but 3 or 4 shots. You also have parents and hometown lacrosse coach’s telling players that passing the ball is bad because the chances of you getting it back is slim to none. (Guilty again) I learned later what the right reasons are.
My son got to play and meet new friends from all over the country. Many of them he keeps in touch with today or plays against in college. He learned some humility and that he was as good as some, and not as good as others. He also learned what it’s like to practice against kids he didn’t know, and it put him outside his comfort zone, which helped him grow as a lacrosse player and person. At the time, these things meant nothing to me.
Families need to realize that most of these big travel lacrosse teams are designed to be profitable. What started out as local travel teams have blossomed into big business. Today, big travel teams buy other travel teams. The kids get the shiny new helmets, jerseys, gloves, shorts, socks and wear it whenever possible. They believe they are on the big stage and the next stop is UVA, Duke or UNC calling. For 99% of the kids who play lacrosse in the U.S, this will not be the case. For many, they will play in high school and move on. For others, they will continue and play club or college lacrosse.
The most important thing that I received as a father, from my sons playing on All-Star and Shamrocks travel lacrosse teams, was time. Time to talk to them about life. Time to break bread together. Time to hear about troubles they had. Time to discuss faith, family, education, goals, friends, dating, drugs, alcohol, and everything in between. These fleeting moments are what makes all the craziness worth it to me.
Speaking of craziness, I would like to recap the Southern Stars National Lacrosse team tryouts. This is a work in progress, but it is not for reasons that many of the parents think. The teams are picked based on talent and talent alone. So far, I haven’t seen many kids that I thought got cut that deserved to be on the team. Last year, I thought one of our Shamrock goalies deserved to be on the team and this year, I thought there was one attackman and possibly one defenseman that had a good enough tryout to be on a team. (Attack other than goalie is the toughest spot to make because they only take 4) No travel lacrosse clubs are guaranteed spots and the founding lacrosse organizations all have one or two age groups that are very talented. For example, our 2023 team is very good. They are well represented on the Southern Stars 2023 team. The 2023 Fusion team is also very good, and they have strong representation. The 2025 Miners team and the 2027 Team Carolina teams are very good. They should have many of their kids make those teams.
As coach’s we all want our kids on these teams. It is awful going home knowing you must break a kid’s heart, that might be on the bubble for one of these teams. At Shamrock tryouts, I heard people say it was political, but that cannot be further from the truth. There are some college and high school coach’s participating, that do not coach for any of the founding organizations. They write down numbers, not names or clubs, of who they think are deserving. Most of the time, I thought they were spot on. The one attackman this year that I thought had the best chance was the last kid cut on a very good team. Again, not easy because they only pick four attackmen. Last year, he was not in the top 10 and this year he was top 5. That player put in the work, and I am sure as he continues to do so, he will be ready, by the time he has a year of high school under his belt. That is the time you want to be on teams like this, if you are doing it for the right reasons as discussed.
Steve and I both understand what it is like to tell your son that he didn’t make a team. It is awful but for us, it motivated them to get better. I would rather have my son cut than be on a team that he didn’t deserve to be on. I can also tell you that coaches and directors make mistakes. Sometimes we do not get the entire team right, but it is never done with malicious intent. The Southern Stars travel lacrosse teams are supposed to be the very best teams we can put on the field, regardless of who you play for. A real advantage of being one of the founding lacrosse travel clubs is that a player that is a toss up to make a team, would be given preference, when competing with a player who is not on one of the founding lacrosse travel clubs. I hope this gives you a better understanding but if it doesn’t, please feel free to contact me directly.