Last night there was an unfortunate event at the Logan High School versus Roy High School boys game involving a player being kicked while they were down and a fight breaking out in the stands among fans as a result, according to KUTV.
In any sport, this type of behavior is reprehensible. However, the fact that lacrosse is a relatively fledgling sport still trying to get a foothold in the state makes it all the more regrettable.
With sanctioning approaching for lacrosse at the high school level, you can’t help but wonder what kind of effects events like these can have for the reputation of the sport in the state. It would concern me as a member of the UHSAA to see this kind of behavior at these events.
Lacrosse is a sport that prides itself on its community and a growing-the-game mindset. However, in recent weeks this same mantra has been kicked to the curb by events such as the fight at Logan High School. Other events include the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team using racial slurs in a video that was posted to social media, which made an appearance on Deadspin. Then there were the three Native American lacrosse teams in South Dakota that were expelled from a youth lacrosse league after complaining about having racial slurs yelled at them. League administrator Corey Mitchell acknowledged there were issues in the league, but said he couldn’t do anything about them. And let’s not forget about another fight that recently broke at in Derry, New Hampshire between two lacrosse spectators.
This is nothing new, either. When I was a kid it was the Duke men’s lacrosse players that were charged with rape after an alleged attack that was claimed to have happened by a stripper at one of their parties. The players were found innocent, but the damage had already been done in the media. While those players were innocent, they certainly didn’t set themselves up for success by placing themselves in those circumstances. There was also George Huguely who was found guilty of murder in the death of his former girlfriend Yeardley Love. These tragic events left a black eye on the sport that seemed to leave us unable to recover from.
These events are tragic, and I believe shouldn’t be used to politicize any agenda in any way. However, if we as a lacrosse community want to become a major sport that people follow on the field, then we need to first look at our behavior off of it.
I grew up playing the game when lacrosse was still a relatively new sport in Utah. I played in one of the first youth leagues when I was in the sixth grade. Everybody knew everyone else and respected each other. The main concern was with growing the game and mentoring youth.
I remember going to countless camps put on by Drew Searl and Jim Beardmore over at Sunnyside Park in Salt Lake City, Mason Goodhand running clinics for youth out in Millcreek or the BYU Lacrosse camp that Jason Lamb had been running for a number of years. It was people like them that helped grow the game, taught life lessons and made everyone feel welcome. They made it exciting to be a part of the sport. As the game grew, everyone helped where they could to get new players to experience the great game that is lacrosse.
That’s what we need now. As the sport continues to grow, we as a community are going to experience a lot of the growing pains that will begin to come as a major sport. All eyes are going to be on us as a community for how we handle this transition. Are we going to fall into the trap of poor behavior that many other sports have faced? Or are we going to be better and provide a space for everyone to participate in a positive environment and teach them how to be upstanding men and women in the process?
I hope we choose the latter. Lacrosse has too many quality people in the sport for this kind of negative behavior to happen to it. As the state watches how we handle the transition to a varsity sport, I hope we will act better than we have in order to create an positive environment that everyone will want to be a part of. There are more important things than playing the game, there are the aspects of teaching moments for youth and providing a community to fall back on.
We have a target on our backs. Let’s make sure that we don’t miss the mark.