Paul Krome | @paulkrome
Coach Gene Isnardi wanted the attention of each of his players after his Long Island Express (N.Y.) defeated two-time defending boys' national champion FCA (Md.) at the 2011 US Lacrosse U15 National Championship.
"I sat them down facing me, and I told them to absorb the moment," Isnardi said after the quarterfinal win. "I have an older son, Nick, at Army, that I used to coach. I've been texting him about this tournament. He texted back that he remembered how lacrosse tournaments are such great times. I told them they can't just run off the field after a game. Don't lose focus, but enjoy each moment with your teammates. You don't get many opportunities to play for the US Lacrosse National Championship."
Summertime youth lacrosse tournaments can provide kids with opportunities for growth and memories to cherish for a lifetime, and US Lacrosse's signature youth event ranks among the most anticipated each year among a landscape dotted with tournaments.
That didn't happen by accident.
The national governing body of lacrosse is in the midst of researching, developing and publishing national standards for all aspects of lacrosse participation to ensure the most positive experience in the sport for players, coaches, officials and fans. The US Lacrosse Gold Stick Standards outline seven tenets for the operation of an ideal youth lacrosse league or organization.
Similar standards for tournaments and events, researched and developed by the US Lacrosse events staff after consultation with sports organizations and tournament directors across the country, are on the way.
"They haven't been formally approved for publication, but we have been operating by these standards for our events," said Beth Porreca, director of special events at US Lacrosse. "Our top priority is a positive and safe experience for our youth members and their families."
US Lacrosse works with local convention and visitors bureaus to make many of the less visible logistical and operational aspects top notch, so that teams can simply show up, play and have fun. Keeping in mind that US Lacrosse recommends all tournament follow the organization’s age-appropriate youth rules, Lacrosse Magazine presents five questions parents should ask before registering their kids or teams for tournaments.
What happens if my kid gets hurt playing in the tournament?
While players may be content to "shake it off" after a big hit or wrap a hurting body part in ice for a few minutes, a misdiagnosis or, worse, no diagnosis of an injury can cause more complications down the road.
"The US Lacrosse events staff was very concerned about ensuring player safety," said Ben Huffman, sports director for the Warren County, Ohio, Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has hosted US Lacrosse youth events over the years. "US Lacrosse folks have standards they want the local organization to meet. They start walking through months out — the detection system for injuries, where the trainers are located on the fields, where the ambulance will be on site. They walked around the facility looking for divots or holes in the field. They looked at the goals — do they look great and are they safe? They met with the head trainer and the local fire station's EMTs."
An automated external defibrillator (AED) on site is a must, and an ambulance should be on site if its response time to a 911 call from the facility exceeds 10 minutes.
Are the officials certified?
Scrutinizing officials remains a sad link among all sports, and that's sometimes magnified in lacrosse, where the increase in the number of players has outpaced that of qualified coaches and officials. To minimize criticism of officials by parents, coaches and players, tournaments would be wise to use only officials that participate in the US Lacrosse Officials Education Program. The multi-level training program includes a variety of online and in-person clinics, rules review, and mechanics instruction, and it allows officials to be certified by the national governing body of lacrosse.
"Some tournaments have teams coming from all over the country, with different levels of skill and experience," said Charlie Obermayer, officials program manager at US Lacrosse. "Using US Lacrosse-trained officials removes at least one aspect of doubt about a tournament, because you know the officials have the teaching needed to keep the games safe and fair."
At US Lacrosse's Regional and U15 National Championships, officials had to pass the organization's online youth rules exam in order to be eligible to work.
And it's not only using US Lacrosse-trained officials, at least two per game, but also hiring enough of them so that they don't lose focus as fatigue sets in from working multiple games.
Does the tournament require participants to be members of US Lacrosse?
Membership in US Lacrosse comes with numerous perks, including accidental injury insurance and general liability coverage for players, coaches and officials. Parents can have peace of mind that their kids will play under the auspices of coaches and officials who, by becoming members, pledged to uphold the US Lacrosse code of conduct.
Requiring US Lacrosse membership does not, however, equate to a tournament being sanctioned or endorsed by US Lacrosse.
Is the tournament itself insured?
"I discovered during my research into non-US Lacrosse tournaments that many do not have the right insurance coverage, and that's a big problem," said James Lenz, a sports event planner. "Some event owners just assume that if the players are US Lacrosse members, that's adequate. It's not."
Together with its insurance partner, RPS Bollinger Sports Insurance, US Lacrosse publishes a risk management manual online at uslacrosse.org/membership.
What's the host hotel like? And who's in charge?
For parents of teenagers, this is a significant question. Are you sending them with just the coach? Or will other adults chaperone?
"The issue is outdoor-corridor hotels — we don't want kids being able to just walk outside from their room," Huffman said. "We get a lot of requests for hotels with traditional lobbies."
Coaches and parents will see US Lacrosse event standards in place as the organization hosts the 2014 World Lacrosse Festivals and US Lacrosse Regional and U15 National Championships, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited.
Paul Krome is the associate director of marketing and public relations at US Lacrosse.
An edited version of this story appeared in the July 2013 edition of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. To start your subscription, become a member of US Lacrosse today.
Photo Credit: Scott McCall
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