Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer Laxing

TigerBlog got a picture taken with his daughter Sunday afternoon.

In the moment, though, his focus was divided. Oh, it was on the same spot, and it was on photography and it was on Miss TigerBlog. There was just an 11 year divide to deal with as well.

The occasion this past Sunday was the final summer club lacrosse tournament MTB would ever have. These club teams run through the end of the summer after a player's junior year of high school, and so this was it for MTB and her Ultimate teammates.

Much like TigerBlog Jr. back when it was his turn, MTB has spent a large chunk of her summers playing lacrosse. And it all ended Sunday, on a sweltering field in Malvern, outside of Philadelphia.

TigerBlog has been to summer lacrosse tournaments basically everywhere from Massachusetts to Virginia. There was one earlier this summer in Richmond, on TB's birthday, actually. That's okay. It was a great birthday.

Some tournaments, like the one this past weekend, have been close enough to drive to, though her first game both Saturday and Sunday was at 8:50. You can do the math as to what time you have to get up to be there in plenty of time.

These tournaments follow a familiar script. There are multiple games, usually two or three per day, against teams with creative names and colorful uniforms. Many, but not all, tournaments then have a playoff round, which extends the weekend out should your team make it that far.

There are teams from all over, so it's a chance to see how good the competition is from surrounding states and regions or even from all the country. These club teams are for the more serious players, and they have to be players whose parents are okay with the idea of spending their summer weekends on these fields, with the same families year after year, instead of at a beach or a picnic or something.

They also have to be players whose parents are okay spending vacation money on summer lacrosse, between club fees, travel expenses and everything else. 

Both of TigerBlog's children have benefited considerably from their summer lacrosse experience. It made them better players, yes, but it also has helped them learn so many of the lessons that sports can teach - about teamwork, hard work, what it takes to improve, dealing with successes and failures.

TigerBlog Jr.'s first lacrosse tournament actually predated his club experience. It was back when he had finished third grade - yes, that's young - and he was playing rec lacrosse with an organization called Lower Bucks Lacrosse. It was his second year playing, and the first time he was on a team in a tournament.

It dawned on TB in the middle of last week that that tournament, the first for TBJ, was played on the same exact hot, sweltering dusty fields as the one MTB would be playing on this past weekend, in the last one for her. That tournament had been 11 years earlier.

That's a full circle, no?

MTB got dragged to that first tournament for TigerBlog Jr., but she was always a good sport about things like that. In fact, one of the best pictures of MTB that TigerBlog has was taken at that tournament. She was wrapped up in a blanket and lying on the grass, oblivious to the lacrosse being played around her.

Here it is:

That spot of grass is about 10 feet away from where TB and MTB got their picture taken this past Sunday.

With four or five tournaments per summer, and probably 16 summers worth for the two of them combined, that would be, let's see, 16, times, say, 4.5, equals ... well it equals a lot of lacrosse. And that doesn't include winter and fall tournaments, camps and everything else.

The world of club lacrosse is not the only one that is busy this time of year.

The three-day tryouts for the U.S. men's national team for the 2018 World Championships - to be held in Israel - conclude today on Tierney Field outside of Baltimore. Princeton is represented by Tom Schreiber and Tyler Fiorito, and those two plus Zach Currier played in the Major League Lacrosse all-star game last weekend in California.

Currier, a Canadian, has a strong international future ahead of him, though TB isn't sure what the selection process for the Canadian team is. 

The Women's World Cup begins today in England. If you're a Princeton fan, you can root for the home team if you like. Olivia Hompe, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton lacrosse history, will be playing for the English team.

If the men's World Championship final next year in Israel figures to be pretty much a lock to feature the U.S. and Canada, the Women's World Cup is a bit more wide open. A bit, at least.

The Americans are the huge favorites, but the Canadians, English and Australians are all thinking about playing in the championship game as well.

If you want to read more about the English team, click HERE and HERE. Both stories have quotes from Hompe.

The second one, by the way, is from the BBC, and it provides an interesting perspective on lacrosse. For an even better one, read THIS story from the BBC, which looks to teach the game to a British audience that might not know much about it. 

Lacrosse in England is actually very big, though it obviously is nowhere near what soccer is. TigerBlog has seen the English lacrosse team play Princeton on international trips in 2008 and 2016, and he's been impressed by the stick skills and lacrosse IQ of the English.

There are 25 countries who will compete in England in the Women's World Cup. The top six are the four TB already mentioned, plus Scotland and Wales.

The English play the first game of the tournament, this evening against Wales (that's a 6 pm start there, so that's 1 in the afternoon here, TB believes). The U.S. and England will play in the round-robin phase Saturday.

There will be eight teams in the quarterfinal round, with play-ins from the second division to help set that field. The championship game will be played on Saturday the 22nd, so the tournament moves relatively quickly.

You know. Like the last 11 years.

There is still plenty of lacrosse to be played for both of TB's kids. Just not in the summer club tournament format.

To some, it's everything that's wrong with youth sports and college recruiting. There are some arguments that can be made in that direction.

To TigerBlog?

It's been a really special 11 years, and it's been the source of an amazing connection for him with some great people he's met along the way - but especially with his kids.

And now it's over. He'll be able to sleep late on his June and July weekends from now on.

It's just that they just won't be the same.

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