Lacrosse is normally a spring and summer sport. And with temperatures in Baltimore averaging 15 below zero with 40 mph winds, it was hard to think about running across a field.
But the cold wasn’t a factor for the dozens of hopeful athletes who turned out for the United States Indoor Lacrosse (USIL) USA Junior Tryout Series last weekend.
"It was hot out there!" said Matt Stagnitta, 17, of Montgomery, New Jersey. "The game is a lot faster inside!"
Over the course of three sessions (two on Saturday, one on Sunday), USIL coaches looked for the best new talent for the US Box Lacrosse Team. Players ranging in age from 16-19 years old tried out to join the team, which competes internationally in box lacrosse. The developmental program feeds into a variety of lacrosse teams, including college and some who are preparing for professional lacrosse.
Unlike the outdoor game, box lacrosse is usually played in a field house or hockey rink covered with artificial turf. The games have similarities, but they are different in many ways, too. For example, players have to make more precise passes, take short quick steps, and have good “burst speed.”
“Box lacrosse is faster than field lacrosse because there is a lot less ground to cover,” said Erik Holt Vice President of USIL. “In box lacrosse, you have to make decisions quicker and you have less room for error.”
Holt both coaches and plays professional lacrosse. He said he was looking for indoor players with fundamentals of stick handling, speed, and field awareness.
The tryouts began with registration, where players got their jerseys and numbers so the coaches could identify them. Many talented players brought their own "lucky" gear or followed pre-game rituals to get ready.
Graham Husick, 18, a goalie from Seattle, spends an extra 90 minutes before team arrival to prepare his equipment and tape his ankles the same way every game. Husick plays box lacrosse in Canada (where the game is more popular), as well as hockey. He said he was looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a spot to represent his country.
Husick and the other hopefuls went through rounds of shooting and passing drills, based on position. They also had the opportunity to scrimmage one on one.
Coaches like former pro Keevin Galbraith looked for players that had both speed and endurance, as well as the ability to make explosive plays.
But there’s more to earning a spot on the USIL roster than being an excellent physical player. You have to be good at the mental game, too,
“Many of these young men are good players, but we are also looking for players of character to represent the United States in international competition,” Galbraith said.
At the end of the weekend, USIL officials selected a team of 45 players. And then practices begin, followed by a few exhibition games and tournament play in the US and Canada. The biggest competition on the calendar is the World Indoor Junior Championship.
But that's more than a year away. The goal right now is to make the team. And the players who turned out for the tryouts gave it their all.
Players sprinted across the turf, fighting for the ball. Some slammed into the boards and glass separating the field from the first row of fans that came to watch the tryouts. There were many players in the stands who were too young to try out. They watched and dreamed, hoping to one day take the field wearing the USA jersey — just like the young men on the turf mere inches away.
For more information about the USIL and other tryouts, visit usindoorlacrosse.org.
Photo: USIL, courtesy Tres Starkoski