Moments that will stand out to me are seeing a packed stadium for the final game between the U.S. and Canada, Uganda becoming the first team from Africa to compete in the championships (and securing a pair of wins), along with Israel coming together and playing tremendously despite everything that must have been on the players’ minds amidst what was happening back home.
One (and possibly only) negative was pace of play. The tournament made me appreciate what the NCAA and Major League Lacrosse do have (30-second timer-on and shot clock, respectively). The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee is meeting next week and there are rumors that a shot clock is imminent. Either way, the NCAA does have a system in place to limit a team’s possession time and avoid stalling. The international game often featured well over two minute possessions. Sometimes, a two-minute possession can be great lacrosse, but too often, we saw two minutes of standing around and milking the clock. There is a difference between a deliberate offense and stalling. Stalling is what needs to be eliminated in order to attract more fans to the fastest game on two feet.
The growth of lacrosse is evident in youth programs, at the high school level and in the college ranks. When thinking about the growth of lacrosse, it is ironic to think the United States was led by Richie Meade, who is head man at Furman (a program that just finished its first season). Meade is helping growth the sport in several ways. Fellow first-year program in 2014 Richmond advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season. The Spiders nearly shocked the Virginia Cavaliers in their first-ever game, which looking back, was no fluke but rather a sign of success to come.
Richmond is a prime example of why lacrosse has a bright future. More youth are playing the sport, which leads to greater demand for high school teams and more need for college programs. Otherwise, where would those additional youth play as they move through the ranks? There are considerably fewer college lacrosse teams than say basketball, which means the talent gap between the best and the worst is small. I think adding more college teams would be a negative if there wasn’t talent to fill those rosters, but there is talent. There is an influx of talent with nowhere to play. The same is true of Major League Lacrosse; the league could probably field double or triple as many teams and add loads of talented players who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play professionally.
Finding roster spots for talented players is a good problem to have. If that’s lacrosse’s biggest problem, it means the sport is on the rise. The hard part – generating interest and increase participation – is well on its way. Now, it’s about finding spots to put them. Whether it’s youth, high school, college, professional or the international game, the sport is growing and there is no looking back.