|Washington Stealth players, coaches launch training academy|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
|Wednesday, 22 December 2010 09:50|
Drop by Woodinville Indoor Soccer Center on a Saturday and you might be confused. The arena has been taken over by boys with sticks, wearing helmets and lots of different kinds of padding. They’re playing box lacrosse, also known as indoor lacrosse or simply box. It’s an indoor version of lacrosse, which originated in Canada, where it is the most popular version of the game played in contrast to the traditional field lacrosse. There are several differences between box and field lacrosse and those familiar with both say they are completely different games.
"The general idea is the same," explains Lewis Ratcliff, a member of the Washington Stealth professional indoor lacrosse team. "But, box lacrosse is more physical and in your face. The reason for this is because the playing field is smaller, which means the players have less space to move in. It’s much faster paced, so there are more scoring chances, and players are allowed to check one another."
He adds that the size of the goal differs, too, with indoor goals smaller by several feet. And goalies in the box version wear pads that rival the biggest hockey pads.
Additionally, the number of players on a field differs. Indoor lacrosse rules state that only six people, including the goalie, can be on the field from each team.
This is contrary to outdoor lacrosse, where 10 are allowed from each team.
"There are differences in defensive and offense techniques, too" comments Ratcliff. He adds, "Overall, it’s a more aggressive game, which makes it exciting for both players and spectators."
In an effort to build up the sport in Washington, the Stealth has teamed with Walax.com, the leading source of lacrosse information in the Northwest, to offer a box lacrosse academy.
The eight-week instructional training program, which was underway at Woodinville Indoor Soccer Center, is geared toward youth from fifth grade through high school.
Stealth President David Takata says, "We have been planning for the launch of the Stealth Lacrosse Academy since we arrived in Washington. Through the Academy, we will ensure that the region’s lacrosse players receive top-notch instruction from professionals with a proven track record of building athletes in a challenging, but fun environment."
Nearly 160 young lacrosse players from the area signed up for the program, filling all available slots in the middle and high school sessions.
The boys, most of whom are currently members of field lacrosse teams, come from all over the Puget Sound area, even as far away as Bainbridge Island. Very few have had any true indoor lacrosse experience.
"In the beginning, it was a challenge for them to learn the different rules and strategies, but they’re really getting the hang of it now," comments Ratcliffe, who serves as the program’s floor director. "I’m really impressed with the progress they’ve shown in a relatively short time."
Ratcliff, a native of Victoria, grew up playing box lacrosse as a child in Canada.
He understands that there is a learning curve for kids in the U.S. that start their lacrosse careers on the field outdoors.
"In Canada, we learn box lacrosse and then we try to translate to the field game. It’s the opposite here. But, it’s a new way for them to enjoy the sport and it will help them take their field game to a new level."
According to both Ratcliff and Takata, lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country with Washington state leading the way. Takata explains that it is a transformative sport that attracts kids when they get into fifth or sixth grade.
He says, "It’s at this point when kids who played soccer or baseball for a number of years make the change to lacrosse. With baseball, it’s the boredom factor. It’s also about the time when the pitching changes – it gets faster, they’re throwing curve balls – and as a result, they start to weed out players. Then there’s just the fact that kids are looking for something new to do."
Most, when they begin playing lacrosse, take to the sport because they like the action.
With box, this aspect is heightened even more. And then there’s the fact that this version contains elements of a variety of different sports, including football, soccer, hockey and even basketball.
"Kids who try it once, most always come back," notes Ratcliff. "They get hooked, just like the spectators."
When it comes to fans of the Stealth, this trend is most noticeable. In its first year in Washington, the team won the National Lacrosse League 2010 Champions Cup. At the beginning of the season, attendance to the games at Everest Comcast Arena was low.
Then the sport caught on and the numbers gradually began to improve.
By the time the championship games were held, the venue was sold out.
"Our idea with this academy is to grow the game from the ground up," explains Ratcliffe. "Hopefully, it will create new players and new spectators for the sport." He adds, "This is a great area because there’s so much potential here. And we’ve already generated a lot of interest and support, without doing much marketing."
For more information about the Stealth Lacrosse Academy, visit www.stealthlax.com or www.walax.com.