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Team USA and the Heart of the Game

April 21, 2014    2795 Views

Morgan Crutchfield | @mccannlax

Team USA and the Heart of the Game

John Strohsacker

Years from now when someone asks me, “Why lacrosse?” I’ll tell them it was the equipment that caught my attention.

I was walking along the sidelines of a Saturday practice at Champion Challenge in January when I noticed a row of lacrosse bags in perfect alignment, all turned the same way, all zipped. As odd as it may sound, it was that line of uniform equipment bags that was my first indication that lacrosse was going to make a huge impression on me.

As you may or may not know, my journalism credentials run to travel articles in magazines and on blogs. Coverage of events at Wide World of Sports put me at Champion Challenge that weekend, but the impressions that I left with of a level of dedication and professionalism in lacrosse that I had not seen elsewhere motivated me to find a way to talk to anyone who would listen about the sport.

I have been a sports fan and an athlete for most of my life. In any given year, I attend professional events from soccer to football to baseball and occasionally I make it to the ice for some hockey. My family hosted international softball players prior to the ’96 Summer Olympics and I played sports through the entirety of my undergraduate career. In short, I have been in the presence of some of the world’s best athletes in and out of their arenas.

In the time since I walked by that line of equipment bags, through a whole lot of research and some fantastic games, I have come to the conclusion that lacrosse players, especially those at the highest level of the game, are different. I have arrived at the idea that lacrosse—in its players, its coaches, its professional staff and its fans—has more heart than most any sport in the country and maybe in the world. It’s a bold statement, but over the next few months on the way to the 2014 FIL World Championship, I’m going to show you why it’s true.

My style may be a little different than what you’re used to seeing from US Lacrosse. I’m not great at stats or in-depth analysis of the merits of a zone defense. I know that I don’t want to get hit by Paul Rabil’s 111-mph shot, but I don’t know the mechanics of his form that put that kind of speed on the ball. What I do know is that the things I think have been missing from popularly regarded professional and elite sports for a long time—humility, sincerity, and dedication—are found in every member of the U.S. Men’s National Team and in players across the country at all levels. Lacrosse is preserving the legacy of the kind of athletes my grandfather used to tell me stories about, and more people need to know it.

So what’s the big deal about a line of equipment bags? The uniform presentation showed that even in the smallest ways, the U.S. Men’s National Team was ready, on the edge of one of the biggest games of their careers, to play as a team. It showed that no man was too important, no matter his background, to take the time to do things the right way. That line of equipment demonstrated a care and respect for the game that was exemplary. At no time during the rest of the event did that level of care and respect dissipate, and that is a very big deal.

I want to thank everyone who reached out after my original post and the staff at US Lacrosse for giving me a voice in their forum. I hope you continue to read as I follow the U.S. Men’s National Team to Denver, and as I explore the heart of this game through them and those around them.

Morgan Crutchfield is a travel journalist who is quickly becoming a lacrosse fanatic. She lives with her 10-year-old son in Central Florida. Follow her on Twitter @McCannLAX.

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