Men’s League Fixtures
One of the things that has kept Lacrosse alive has been the ability of the game to sustain credible and disciplined competitive structures. We have been fortunate in my life time to have outstanding administrators. For many years in the South the job of league and fixtures secretary was carried out by Ron Balls who has been a leading figure in national and international Lacrosse from the 1970s until today. To Ron a World Championships with 50 or so teams is an enjoyable challenge not a thing to prompt concern.
In the North it was the great Norman Barber who kept the League system running. You would always get a team out rather than admit to Norman that you had failed! More recently the idiosyncratic John Partt played a leading part in keeping the show on the road.
In the last 20 or so years there have been many significant changes in the social and political landscape which have had a profound influence on all sports including Lacrosse.
The working situation is that the world is now 24/7 with the obvious changes to people’s employment regimes. In my youth many people in Altrincham were blue collar workers employed in world renowned engineering companies like Linotype, Kearns, George Richards, and Budenbergs. These were companies which offered lifetime employment. You started as an apprentice and, hopefully retired 50 years later. You worked 8am until 5pm with an hour off for lunch and you went home to have a cooked meal provided by your wife. The classic scene at 12noon and 5pm was thousands of men on bikes coming out of Atlantic Street. If there was overtime it was usually Saturday morning which left you with Saturday afternoons for watching or playing sport with Sunday family days, a big lunch and Sunday School. Mothers did not work – they were housewives. Even at the posh schools like MGS, WHGS, CHS, SGS few people went to University and went into careers in Manchester in banking, law, and accountancy, all of which left Saturday pm free for Lacrosse or whatever.
Today in most families women have career jobs, so child care is a joint responsibility.
Holidays are also becoming an issue. In the olden days you had two weeks in August now you have your summer trip. Your skiing trip in winter is an essential then there are the add-ons like a long weekend in Barcelona, Amsterdam or Krakow.
The other thing that has changed is the number of people who are required to enable a club to run a team/game. In the past a captain selected a team and he ran it. A coach was something you took from Chorlton Street Bus Station. The referee turned up and refereed the game. No need for a CBO or another official.
These days a Junior team needs a manager, a coach (maybe an assistant coach) an official and possibly a CBO. For Timperley’s 4 teams that means 16-20 adults. For senior teams 3 refs are required with ideally a couple of coaches, a couple of CBOs perhaps 6 people. So whereas in the past no volunteers (perhaps 6-8 for junior games were required) the game today requires around 25 non-players to run the programme when people have lots of other things to do in their lives.
The modern game clearly needs a structure to reflect the needs of today. In my opinion Nick Hewitt, who has taken on the challenge, has done an excellent job in setting up a new structure. There have been more interesting, closer games and the split in the leagues has kept interest alive. I think that as the structure beds in the competition will only improve.
The one issue that has arisen is the introduction of double header weekends which certainly do not fit in with modern life. Apparently the aim is to clear the way for the England team to prepare for the World Championships. If that is so I do not understand how A and B teams are affected by that. Indeed I do not understand why Premiership teams are involved. Only perhaps 20 players are affected by Israel.
The reaction of the clubs and players was clear from the fact that 3 of the four Premier 1 game scheduled for last Sunday ended in concessions. Players do not have the appetite or capacity for two games in a weekend.
Lessons need to be learned. There is no need for the season to end in March. It can easily go on into April or May. In one year Alan Holdsworth phoned me in Menorca in June to let me know 1st team results.
Under 19 Boy’s Lacrosse
It was a body blow to hear that the U19 Cup Competition has been put on hold.
Since Timperley initiated Sunday night U19 competition some 20 or more years ago the Floodlit tournaments have, in my view become in the development of the game.
In the 45 years following the 2nd WW the major source of players for Manchester Lacrosse was the 4 Direct Grant Grammar Schools, Cheadle Hulme School, Manchester GS, Stockport GS and William Hulme’s GS. Other Schools like Broadway (which produced many top class players who went on to win international honours and provided the basis for the long time dominant Cheadle club) and Audenshaw GS made important contributions. There were a number of very good club based junior programmes such as Stockport (who have produced a host of top class players), Mellor of the Hodgsons, Oxley, Hall and McCallister, Urmston which can only mean Mike Roberts who probably played more international games than anyone else in the game, and South Manchester and Wythenshawe (John and Peter Speak , Ron Murgatroyd and Tony Jordan and even Graham Lester who was not as good a goal keeper as he thought he was, but probably a better referee that he thought.)
For many years this structure sustained the game and the retention rate ie the junior players who went on to play senior lacrosse was amazing at nearly 50%. For most sports the retention rate was in single figures. So the game in Manchester survived and sometimes thrived.
In the late 1980s and 1990s there were big changes. Industrial action in schools saw much less sport and sports like lacrosse suffered; PE teachers found Lacrosse a difficult sport to deliver; the Direct Grant system ended and schools became independents and believed that soccer would be more potent in delivering pupils. By the mid 1990s there were no schools playing men’s Lacrosse (although MGS retained it as a club activity) and the game relied more and more on running their own junior programmes which clubs like Brooklands and Timperley did very successfully. In the olden days there were no specific age restrictions on when a boy could play senior Lacrosse. If you were good enough you were old enough and 13 and 14 year olds often played on senior teams.
As Health and Safety reared its ugly head it was not deemed suitable for boys to play with and against men so the age limit for playing senior lacrosse was set at 16.
At the same time the standard of senior Lacrosse particularly in the top Leagues was rising significantly so the jump from junior lacrosse was becoming increasingly difficult and few made the jump.
For 16 year olds to make the move required a sympathetic a more structured route and that was found with U19 Lacrosse.
The pluses are numerous;
• It is a natural follow on from U16 and a player continues to play with his friends and team mates. Players who are in the 1st Year at University are eligible to play so it provides a link.
• It is generally pretty well coached and officiated (certainly compared to A and B teams)
• U19 Lacrosse is fast, furious and great to play in.
• The standard of play tends to be reasonably good.
• It is a great shop window for Lacrosse and a place to go on a Sunday evening.
U19 Lacrosse is an absolutely essential part of any strategy to take the game forward. It is essential to its survival and cannot be kicked into the corner. In any forward planning U19 Lacrosse needs to be the first thing on sheet.
Someone needs to take the initiative and protect the future of the game.
Competent v Qualified
I was probably the person who insisted on the requirement for an official being competent (although being additionally qualified is desirable).
Competence opens the door to senior players officiating games, particularly junior games. A person who has 6-16 years playing experience, perhaps at the highest levels, has a feel for and understanding for the game that no end of on- line testing can replicate.
Additionally, using senior players makes a tremendous contribution to club identity. The senior player gets an appreciation of the efforts put in at junior level and the junior players get to see top class players at close quarters – the way that heroes are created!
Maybe some senior players will see a future in officiating and therefore take the steps to get qualified.
It is good to see people such as parents putting themselves forward to support the game. The online testing system does facilitate qualification though I hear that the process is not as speedy as might be hoped. The issue is that if you have not great experience in the game then making the appropriate call in an instant is challenging and the potential for making the wrong call significant.
In recent games qualified referees have taken the field against Timperley and even our U12s know they are not competent.
I am not sure how the decision to insist on qualification came to be made but it is not to the advantage of the game and its clubs. I hear that there are some concerns as to the speed of the process but people have to realise that the system does not have people waiting for them with nothing to do.
The reason for the change seems to be confused. I am told that it was a requirement for liability insurance. I very much doubt this and if it is the case then we have the wrong person speaking to the wrong insurance broker/company.
Over the years SEMLA seems to have generally been able to make the right decisions more often than in other parts of the country, aka the North. In the early 1970’s the South was more receptive to rule changes than in the North. Hard borders, off side, 10 a side and the use of substitutes were introduced a couple of years before and more readily than they were in the North.
It is rumoured that SEMLA have declined to introduce the “must be qualified” rule. If that is the case they have made the right call and continued the tradition of regional independence.
Pitches fit for Play
It seems that terrible winters are now par for the course and mass postponements the new norm.
It does not seem that in the past as many games were called off as we have today.
Last Saturday the U12A travelled to Mellor to play on a pitch which was a hark back to the great days of Outwood Rd, and South Manchester and of course Mellor. To say it was wet would have been a massive understatement but although my memory may be a bit blurred I am sure that pitches like this were not that unusual. Saturday was a day for some fun and people were not going to be deterred by a bit of mud/snow/frost. Today it would seem if a pitch is soft then it is unfit. It needs to be protected for the future. In my book the purpose of a groundsman is to make a pitch playable. The future never comes. Grass is a remarkably resilient surface and the old TSC mud heap always recovered. These days we have seen TSC, with its “new pitches” in my view playable when all games have been cancelled.
We should always err on the side of letting our members play games.
If, in fact, we are seeing prolonged times of wet winters then perhaps we need to think out- side the box. A off the wall suggestion would be build a new ATP pitch (G4) somewhere at or very close to TSC. Even where the 1st team pitch is.
Updated 15:13 - 14 Mar 2018 by Tom Slater