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I recently had the opportunity to speak with US Lacrosse’s Rob Scherr about the trend toward younger recruiting in college lacrosse. He was a heavily recruited keeper out of Baltimore’s McDonogh School before heading off to Johns Hopkins. “I’m not speaking for U.S Lacrosse when I say this, but it’s my personal opinion that it’s crazy how recruited kids are getting younger and younger. These guys should be focusing on school, and getting better, not deciding where they will go to college by their sophomore year in high school.”

I asked him what he thought was responsible for this sudden shift in the recruiting process? He said, “As the game is growing, and we see more players like Will Yeatman coming out of the west coast, college coaches think they have to jump on these kids before someone else does.  It’s just competition.  I remember getting my first letter and it’s a very exciting time.  But when you’re that young you don’t really know how to make a big decision like that.”

The US Lacrosse U-15 National Championship is set to begin July 6, 2009. It will be held in Bel Air, Md. at Cedar Lane Sports Park. The tournament will have boys and girls youth programs from across the nation, competing and representing their respective teams and regions. The girls will kick-off the event July 6, crowing their champion July 8, while the boys start July 8, finishing their National Championship July 10. This 5-day event is special for several reasons. It’s never been done before. And with the more recent trend in recruiting with college coaches striving to commit players at a younger age, it’s refreshing that this tournament has nothing to do with recruiting and everything to do with having fun, building strong competition, and honoring the game. US Lacrosse’s public relations manager Colleen Sperry Aungst explained the origins of the event to me, “Based on the success and positive participant and spectator experience of the US Lacrosse National Youth Festivals since 1998, there was a big desire to roll out a national championship event like this for the lacrosse community. It is our responsibility to take a leadership role in launching the inaugural event to establish a benchmark standard of quality and experience for everyone involved – players, coaches, parents and spectators. ”

In order for a team to register for the tournament they must be a member of US Lacrosse, which means that some states will have an advantage when representing their regions, like Maryland, New York, and New Jersey, simply due to the fact that they have more US Lacrosse members in those regions. The list of teams competing can be found on the US lacrosse site (http://www.uslacrosse.org/news/2009/u15ncteams.phtml).

The West coast amongst other areas has been developing strong youth programs within the past few years, but can they compete with the East coast? Former Johns Hopkins standout goalie Rob Scherr definitely believes so, “I know all those teams will do well. If you’re a great athlete it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” Colleen agreed, “The breadth and scope of lacrosse talent is far reaching these days. There are incredibly competitive teams coming to the National Championship from all over the country.”

Perhaps some new rivalries as intense as the ones Maryland and New York natives are used to will begin at this tournament. One thing is for sure. Come July there will be two new U-15 lacrosse champions, but where will they be from? Tune in to E-Lacrosse to find out.

After speaking with a close friend who happens to be a Division I assistant coach yesterday who was scouting a high school game I realized that the west coast timetable is a bit different. As high school playoffs are still concluding for most of the country, here on the west coast, players are already beginning to dive into camps and equally as important summer leagues.

The summer experience is a bit different than what one might be used to on the east coast. When moving out of populated city areas, such as LA and Phoenix, you find that the rising spots of lacrosse are making both courageous and unique efforts to keep guys playing and loving the game.

The structure of the old Hero’s lacrosse league or Loch Raven lacrosse league in Maryland does not yet exist here in that capacity. Instead, passionate individuals and even the owners of lacrosse retailers have worked to establish a more casual inviting summer league lacrosse experience.

What is amazing is that if you were to spend a few minutes networking through a west coast lacrosse forum you could find a high–school or college field almost every night of the week in the Northern California Bay Area and have an opportunity to play.

A great example is a gentleman named Jaime Poore, a former Chico State standout who hosts a pickup session for all ages on two fields in the town of Santa Rosa California every Tuesday night. He creates a feel of community by using his resources in a developing lacrosse area. He knows that a contribution from every level of player is critical to drive the growth of our sport. It is an amazing vibe to see a Sonoma State starting midfielder get on a line with a rising Varsity high school player and help them pick up their level of play without being annoyed that the high school guy doesn’t get the same concept of team offense and defense.

As long as we have people like Jaime that teach for the love of the game, the growth of lacrosse is in great hands out here.

header_cliWhen moving to Northern California in 2004 from the traditional hot bed of lacrosse we call Baltimore, I certainly did not anticipate being in an area where in a matter of 5 years lacrosse would be pushing to the forefront of the college and high school scene. I am happy to share with the world that lacrosse has not only hit the west coast with force, it is here to stay.

The following blog entries will not only be my perspective on the game, but also highlight the individuals, the events, and the happenings that are growing the game we love and bringing it to new unprecedented levels on the west coast. From Phoenix Arizona, to Newport Beach California, to the Bay Area around San Francisco, to Portland Oregon, to the even Puget Sound area in Washington.

Check back in with me as I share this side of the country with you through my daily travels and interactions.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is excited to return as a regular e-lacrosse contributor again after a few year hiatus. Pat has been involved with lacrosse for most of his life. He was a standout multi-sport athlete at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, MD continuing on as a scholarship lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins University. There he would later serve as an assistant coach managing arguably the top face-off trio in the nation of now MLL stars Kyle Harrison, Greg Peyser and Lou Braun. Now in California, Miller is the head lacrosse coach of Cardinal Newman High School, a quickly rising power in the Northern California lacrosse scene, as well as helping with the ASU Men’s lacrosse program in Tempe Az. His company Amplify Your Game provides lacrosse players and coaches with various affordable learning opportunities and networking.

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