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One of the big calendar events for Primary kids is the National Pop tournament, where Primary (elementary) Schools from all over the nation (including Scotland and Wales)enter local and regional competitions in order to qualify for the National Final.

For the staff it’s a long day, usually early start, set up and take down, plus refereeing what is the most frantic paced game of Lacrosse you’ll ever see.

The game is played with the molded plastic stick and a soft ball is used. Teams are 5 a side (must have boys and girls) and the ball can only be carried for 4 seconds. No keepers and small 3 by 3 goals makes it high scoring and exciting.

This year was the 20th National Pop final and the winners were Hale Preparatory School from Cheshire.

On another note the New Zealand girls took on Scotland and lost 18 to nil, then the Scots took on Australia and lost 22 to nil.

Let’s hope the teams were experimental (unless your Australian of course, in which case watch out the worlds in Prague).

Part of the job in the South is attending some of the big games that come up every now and then, great gig.   It also gives the opportunity you network with a lot of people all at once. Plus the English Lacrosse Ass had it’s AGM just before the game, any excuse.

Cobham Lacrosse club are a new junior girls club out of West side of London, and they are part of a great sports facility based around the Rugby club, really nice facilities and excellent playing fields.

So it was a natural place to hold a warm up game for England and Australia, both in their last throws of preparation for the World Cup in Prague. Of course, it will be slightly more difficult for Australia to make any changes to personnel if they’ve got something wrong.

One thing Cobham managed is to attract a good sized crowd to the game, with 1100 plus tickets sold, a triumph in an area where Lacrosse isn’t that well known.

With sponsors and merchants all around the whole site looked great, the atmosphere fantastic and the weather sunny the beer “just” right, what more could anybody want.

The game itself was interesting, England raced into a 4 to 0 lead only to be gradually pegged back by a more settled Australian team. England though played to their strengths scoring on fast breaks whenever Australia lost the ball. The final score of 8:6 was a good one for England, after all Australia are the current world champions. But if one analyses the game the England goalie with at least 4 saves  was a big factor, plus I saw the pipe hit 3 times. The actual world cup games will be interesting.

The game was also watched by the New Zealand team who are being hosted by Reading Lacrosse Club, they will play a few friendlies (one against Scotland) before going over to main land Europe.

This weekend sees the National Pop Lacrosse tournament in Hertfordshire, 20 Primary Schools (Elementary to the US readers) with reams of eight 11 yr olds trying to become National Champions, It’s fast furious and exciting. I love it. For the staff it’s a 6 am start on a Sunday morning, someone tell me what a lie in is.

Recruit, Recruit,  Recruit

Wow, the season’s over like it seems only yesterday and we’re already preparing for the next one.

For the English Lacrosse staff that means interviewing potential coaches to go into the Local Development Officer  (LDO) and School Community Officer  (SCO) Scheme. So two weeks of flat out interviewing in Baltimore was the order of the day (taking in the final four weekend of course). I must say, the standard of applicants from the US this year is outstanding, lots of coaching and lots of teaching experience, coupled with a good playing ability.

For those not in the know, the LDO program has been running since 1983 (the SCO about 10 years ago) when it was decided that the game in England needed a push, what better way than to bring in outside expertise.

Now 26 years later we bring in over 80 coaches, we place them at clubs and large (mainly boarding) schools. The contracts are for a year, and this crop of coaches will have the extra incentive of a major tournament at the end of the season (yes the World Cup in Manchester is now one season away). Of course a lot of the work is making sure the right coach fits the right program, and that’s what June is all about, we’ve looked at the coaches, time to fit square pegs into not so square holes. Given that the majority of the SCO’s are in the South of England, that means lots of miles and telephone conversations for yours truly.

On the South domestic front Lacrosse is now in tournament mode and the domestic closing tournament “Bluesfest 09” was this weekend This is a two day camp over affair and extremely popular, the tent village goes up on the Friday, and the partying starts, lots of Lacrosse (Men’s and Women’s) on the Saturday, live band in the evening, more lacrosse on the Sunday…job done. With well over 400 players staying over (including the referees) it’s a mammoth job for the host club Walcountian Blues, and they should be congratulated for getting it all to run so smoothly. The Men’s final was between the Northern guest team called Jedi Lacrosse and the LDO team (not sure of the name, might have been SOCO and Lime, without the lime). The Women’s was between Croydon Foxes and the SCO team called Gin and Juice, there is definitely a theme being used by the Americans.

This week sees the Australian Women play England at Cobham Lacrosse club (near London) before both teams go on to Prague to compete in the World Cup, a real coup for a new and upcoming club, 1100 tickets sold is a great achievement in an area not known for lacrosse.

On the update side, in case you’ve actually read my other Blogs, Mike Carey (bad leg, remember) is well on the mend, the wounds have all but healed (fantastic scars) and he’s starting to jog, although he won’t be fully mobile, he still intends to attend two US camps this summer, the firs being at Navy, brave or mad….you decide.

Sports blogs should start at the beginning of the season. This is my belief. Some keen bloggers may even start in preseason – set the scene, highlight the potential big guns etc etc, but that’s a little keen for me.

So “Why,” you’re probably thinking “Is he starting his blog at the end of his season?” I procrastinated. I am a procrastinator, I even meant to write this blog last weekend, but didn’t.

The season over here in England runs from September – starting with the Bath 8s organized by fellow my blogger to Nik Roberts to April where the Flags festivals bring the curtain down.

I’m not going to batter on about my club, and the league, and how our the flat above our changing rooms got burned out and no-one told us so we turned up for a game and had no changing rooms – luckily the weather was nice and the opposition understanding, at least not today anyway.

Today I am going to talk about me and my life with lacrosse.

My life started at the age of 19 ¾. Well not exactly…but you get what I’m saying.

It was a Sunday in 2003, 11 days into my time at Loughborough University, I was hung over – and the sight of people doing karate or taekwondo or something was making me feel sick. Then all of a sudden, there was a girl stood on a table. She was wearing hot pants – or at the very least short shorts. She had in her hands a lacrosse stick. I was smitten.

Yes, that is correct – I started playing lacrosse to meet girls, sue me*!
(* I wouldn’t bother, I don’t actually have any money)

So I started to play lacrosse based mainly on the fact that there were only about 10 other guys in the club and around 30 girls. The girls team were (and are currently) National Champions, there was no men’s team. We played mixed – a bastardized version of women’s lacrosse that involved running faster than the girls and shooting really hard from point blank range. The club now has over 100 members with about 50/50 gender split, two womens teams, and a mens squad that won the National Cup (2nd tier) competition.

We finally had enough guys to get a team going towards the end of my second year (of three) we played some tournaments at home and abroad (Ireland) and played some friendlies against other nearby unis who were at a similar stage.

In fact there were enough unis nearby at a similar stage that the next year SEMLA started a league for us. We did ok. I personally did ok, played some 2 way middie, took some face offs (even won 4 or 5 I think) scored some goals got some assists and didn’t get into any fights. Oh and I captained and coached the team made up mostly of guys who like me hadn’t picked up a stick until they came to uni. It was at the very least stressful and sometimes it was even fun.

Then I left uni and moved back home to Newcastle. I knew the Uni (not to be confused with the Poly) had a team, but they recently had tough on non-students playing so I was without lax. It was tough. I played some rugby drank some beers for a year then decided to get back into it.

So during the 07/08 season I travelled to Leeds to play…2 hours on the train and a 45 minute bus ride to the ground…I thought I was mad, so who knows what the rest of the boys thought.

Then in April It happened. I got an email. From a Dr Mark Webb. “Let’s start a club in Newcastle” it said. “Okay” I replied. That was that sometime in the middle of March 2008. Now a year later Newcastle upon Tyne LC (new website to follow shortly) is finishing 4th in the League and lost a close Nigel Wayne Trophy (aka John Wayne Shootout) final to Leeds 11-6.

Not a bad first 12 months (give or take) in my opinion…not a bad first blog either…

The promotion to the Southern premiership was decided on Saturday via the play off between Bath LC the winners of the West Division 1 and Croydon LC East Winners. Bath came out winners 10 to 9 in a game that ebbed and flowed. Full report on Bath’s web site

www.bathlacrosse.com the game was watched by Mike Carey, mentioned in an earlier blog, Mike gets the staples removed and the skin stitched up this week, and he is hoping to get to the Annapolis Lacrosse camp in the summer for some light training. Croydon now have the right to challenge the 9th placed team in the premiership (Hillcroft LC)  for the right to replace them.

The pictures are from the playoff game

3312009_2_actionIt’s funny how the smallest things can just grow out of all proportion.

One of the Bath players (only just 18) slipped and ran into one of his own defenders in the warm up before the Cardiff Harlequins match. The resulting dead leg meant he had to stand out of the game. That night it all went crazy, he ended up on the operating table having large, and deep cuts down either side of his thigh, the “Dead leg” had caused Compartment Syndrome, his thigh was sliced open (and kept open) to release the swelling. It is a rare condition, especially in the thigh, it is usually found in the calf muscle and can cause drop foot,  only the second case the consultant had seen. Sadly the player was booked to go to the US for a couple of summer camps, at this rate he’ll be lucky to play next season. Could have been worse though, people have lost a leg down to this thing.

On a brighter note, Cheadle LC, one of the biggest in the country came down to Bath for a two game weekend, winning both games, although the first was pretty close fought, 9 to 6 in the end. Being an outpost of Lacrosse these visiting teams are important, kids need games.  In the evening the Cheadle kids went on a ghost tour of the city, one kid was heard saying it just wasn’t scary enough, let’s hope the local specters didn’t here that and decide to up sticks and haunt Cheadle, some poor tourist guide will be out of a job.

The Men’s game in the South is coming to its final climax, Bath beat Portsmouth University and now go into the East v West Playoff on Sunday 4th against Croydon LC, playing for the right to take up the bottom slot in the Premiership. Should be a good close game and a fitting end to a good season. There will also be a “Best of the West” v “Best of the East” game for all comers for each league plus a Veterans game for the over 40’s (not a vast amount of running in that one).

On the development front, it looks like there may be a new club formed in Maidstone, Kent and Plymouth University are starting to turn out a side.  Bristol City Council held three days of School sport, which Lacrosse was a big part of, the coaches, mainly from Bristol University Ladies team managed to keep nearly 400 kids occupied over three cold windy days, running mini tournaments and giving out medals.

Several clubs are gearing up for Easter tours, the biggest being Spencer (South London) who take a team of U14’s to the US East Coast., a remarkable achievement, these kids have saved and fund raised for this chance, let’s hope they have a great time.

For me, Easter is a time to get a break and recharge the batteries, or maybe watch some Lax, you never know.

The pictures are from the Cheadle tour of Bath.

3312009_1_squads 3312009_3_action

What a great weekend, I love the Flags. Three good senior games, plus the South of England Men’s Lacrosse association (SEMLA) ran the Harrow cup at the same time, the Harrow cup is for U17, U14 and U12 teams in the South. Basically lots of Lacrosse players of all ages in one place, Reading Lacrosse club. Reading is pretty central to most of the cubs in the South, so is often used for tournament and the like. Plus it’s a great venue, good fields and good facilities.

Spencer LC a team from inner London won two of the senior trophies, Minor and Senior Flags, whilst Cardiff Harlequins repeated last year’s victory over my team Bath.

Bath LC joined with Portsmouth Pythons to form a team for the U17, but didn’t do too well, although the kids enjoyed themselves. So much so that we split the squad and they played for another 35 minutes after the tournament was over, well worth driving the mini bus for.

On Sunday all the American Local development officers met up for the end of season wash up, free lunch on me.

Development wise things are really starting to bubble, looking towards September, who wants a coach, which clubs will be expanding, new clubs, etc etc. All this means a lot of miles on the motorway by the Development team, I’m clocking over a 1000 miles this month. For the connoisseurs, the coffee at Michel Wood Service Station is pretty much exactly the same as at Reading, but Reading has Ben and Gerry’s ice cream, I think I’m addicted to Cherry Garcia!

Photo 1 some action from the Intermediate flags.
Photo 2 The Cardiff Keeper had a wonderful game.
Photo 3 The combined Portsmouth Pythons, Bath U17 squad.

It’s tournament season, especially for the Ladies game and as one of the staff, mucking in is the name of the game. The National Schools tournament over 4 days brings together all the big Lacrosse playing schools at U19 and U15 age groups, it’s open to 1st and 2nd teams (strings) so involves literally thousands of school girls, dozens of coaches (both kinds, the ones with a whistle and the ones with wheels)  and of course lots of spectators (mummy and daddy). For the staff that means wearing fluorescent jackets and waving your hands around a lot.

Bus drivers though, in my experience will do exactly as they want to, it amazes me how those guys throw those huge monsters around, especially when you see “mummy” unable to get into a parking bay in her 4 wheel drive Chelsea Tractor.

One big advantage of the whole event is that I get to catch up with lots of the School Community Officers, they are out and about managing their respective teams, friendly rivalry of course.

For those not in the know, the English Lacrosse Association in conjunction with the large Private girls schools employ American graduates with Lacrosse coaching experience, they stay for a year (some longer) and basically coach girls Lacrosse. They are spread out a bit and tend to really look forward to the times they can get together and have a wee drink or two (or more!). For the Guys it’s all based around clubs, and they run mixed training at all sorts of levels and ages. As the South Development Office I have to keep a “paternal” eye on the current crew, we have a couple of mass meetings a year, and mine are due this weekend, cool.

For me the big highlight has been Bath LC’s first ever junior girls game, we took 20 girls up to Rendcomb College near Cirencester for a couple of games, considering half of them had never played on a full sized field, I was extremely pleased with the results, losing 7 to Nil and 3 to 2, definite improvement. I just need to get them a uniform now!

Wednesday was Pop Lacrosse day, in Wiltshire this time, 90 kids all running about, great stuff.

Like I said it’s tournament season.

The National U12’s went really well, although my lot struggled, but they are only 9 yrs old and some of the 12yr olds are giants!

Me I’m a year older, feel it too, my Bro got married, we all got very drunk, the wedding was cool, sort of mix between western and Chinese, we elders had to drink tea with the couple and offer “sage” advice. Tough for me as I don’t even take my own advice.

Flags finals and Harrow Cup (U17 boys) over the weekend, as I said before predictions on a post card.

Photo 1:  SCO’s all together, Apparently Americans are the best :)
Photo 2:  After a goal at Rencomb

Things are heating up in the South men’s leagues,  the Flags finalists have all been decided, which means 3 finals on one day hosted by Reading Lacrosse Club on the 14th March.  For those that don’t know, FLAGS is the traditional name for the English knock out tournament. Teams are seeded, dependent on their league status, and entered into one of three levels; Senior, Intermediate and Minor.

Once in the draw it’s a straight “winner takes all” right through to the final.  It is a great opportunity for clubs from the East and West divisions to compare standards.  Through to the Senior final are Spencer (South London) and Hitchin (Hertfordshire); Spencer, have beat Hitchin twice in the league and will go into the game as favourites, but who knows on the day.

In the Intermediate it’s a repeat of Last season’s final, Bath v Cardiff Harlequins, both from the West, Bath hold a slight upper hand in league games, just like last year, but Cardiff took the flags and that really spoilt the Bath party. In the Minor its Spencer 2 (East) against Penarth (West), this one should be close, Spencer 2 are very experienced whilst Penarth (just South of Cardiff in Wales) are full of youth.

Predictions on a post card.
 
Why is it called “Flags”, apparently in the very old days (yes before this bloggers time) there were no cross bars on the goals, just a couple of 6ft posts with flags on the top, seems it was tradition for the winners to take the flags off the posts as the spoils of the game. I’ve seen the South Flags, and they are over 100years old, kept in big wooden cases, quite a bit of history on one old bit of embroidered cloth.

Goal mouth action top right, see the Flags and no cross bar

Goal mouth action top right, see the Flags and no cross bar

On the development front it has been real quiet, it’s the end of Half term (mid semester) all the schools, and hence the coaches, are away on break, mostly skiing, out of sight out of mind. It doesn’t stop the “Money go round” though and bids for finance at local levels are in the pipeline.

The Regional Pop Lacrosse tournaments are starting to roll out, this week its Hampshire,  lots of 11 yr old kids running around with pop lacrosse stick, I love it, their enthusiasm is contagious.  At the club we’re about to host the National U12 8 a-side tournament, on the recreation ground in Bath,  and that will trigger the invites for the Bath eights in September, it’s one of the biggest in Europe and takes a lot of pre planning. E Lacrosse filmed the whole thing in 2004.
 
Me ,I’ve got a wedding to go to (my Bro) at the weekend, way up next to Lake Windermere in Cumbria,  lots of family and lots of booze. Oh, and I have a Birthday on Tuesday, celebrated by refereeing the aforementioned Pop tournament, then coaching the girls team, might get a pint in afterwards.  :)

Snow snow and more snow, the South of England was really bad this week, the whole country stops for a quarter inch of snow, so 4 inches really put the brakes on absolutely everything.
 
But we still go on looking for new players, the men’s and women’s  youth teams in Trowbridge, Wiltshire looked to have recruited a couple of likely candidates, sadly the games were all called off over the weekend and we didn’t get to see their skills.

Nice gloves though..

Streborkin

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