Above, action from the 2017 Michigan Youth Lacrosse Association Championships. Below, the Okemos (girls) and Shamrocks (boys) teams.

Some people just don’t like surprises. Count Rob D’Oria among them, especially when it comes to youth lacrosse tournaments.

That’s one reason, among others, the general manager of the Dexter, Mich., youth lacrosse program will take several teams to the Michigan Youth Lacrosse Association (MYLA) Championships for a third straight year.

“We regularly go to tournaments where we’re surprised by the rules and by what officials allow or don’t allow,” D’Oria, who coaches a 12U boys’ team, said. “Some tournaments — it’s like, ‘What rulebook are you looking at? That’s an illegal hit in high school, let alone in a 12U game.’ At the MYLA Championships, there are no surprises, because it’s run the way we’re taught to coach.”

Okemos 14U

The MYLA Championships represents the first of more than three dozen youth tournaments between now and mid-July that participates in the US Lacrosse sanctioned tournament program. The initiative, a joint effort between the sport’s national governing body and many of the leading owner-operators in the event industry, seeks to elevate the quality and consistency of the youth lacrosse tournament experience.

“We are pleased and thankful for the leadership our industry partners have shown in working together with us to make youth tournaments the best they can be,” Robin Baxter, director of club accounts and sanctioning, said. “To have about 100 sanctioned tournaments throughout the year is an accomplishment in the brief history of this initiative.”

US Lacrosse sanctioned tournaments adhere to standards established in five operational areas of events: venue, game format, risk management, event administration, and use of US Lacrosse-certified officials.

The MYLA Championships, run by the state’s US Lacrosse chapter, also serves as a qualifier for the US Lacrosse Nationals. Participating 14U, 13U and 12U teams can earn points this weekend at the Legacy Center in Brighton, Mich., that will help them earn a bid to US Lacrosse’s 10th annual tournament that crowns the best of the organization’s 300,000 youth members. That event is set for Aug. 2-5 at DE Turf Sports Complex in Frederica, Del.

But before state pride comes community pride, a hallmark of the annual MYLA Championships. Community-based programs comprise the overwhelming majority of the 30 boys’ and girls’ teams (up from 14 in the event’s 2016 debut). They come from as far away as Petoskey — only 45 minutes south of the upper peninsula, according to MYLA president Mark Greaney — to compete for state bragging rights in a sportsmanship-first, family-friendly atmosphere.

Dexter, a far western suburb of Detroit, has had a program for high school-aged kids for about 10 years, but only in the last three or four has it invested in the development of youth teams, according to D’Oria.

“We’re always looking to challenge our kids to help build our program,” D’Oria said. “We’ll be playing some of the best youth programs in Michigan.”

And Dexter will do so at the reasonable cost of $295 per team. That’s in part because Greaney has a diverse background in the sport that includes running other tournaments and an offseason club. MYLA has secured, among others, national brands like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Maverik Lacrosse and local companies like LBLC Uniform as sponsors.

“Our event is a fun, community-style event that people seem to enjoy,” Greaney, who grew up in Troy, Mich., said.

“We started our tournament in the footprint of the [sanctioned tournament] standards as US Lacrosse was rolling all that out a few years ago,” Greaney said. “I had run other tournaments before. If we were to transition, it’d be pretty easy. The regulations are not onerous; they just make sure the tournament you run is quality, better and safer. I didn’t think it was very hard to operate it that way.”

Shamrocks 14U

Greaney started playing lacrosse in the seventh grade and did so collegiately at Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia. After that, he played in England for a year before returning to the United States. He’s coached in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association and at Detroit Country Day School. Five or six years ago, he started officiating in Michigan to set a tone for his community to get younger people involved in the game and because it’s “easier to recruit an official as an official.”

His tenures in other states and abroad perhaps discount him as pure Michigan, but he likely qualifies as pure lacrosse.

“Tournament sanctioning is very important for lacrosse, given its growth and the event industry surrounding it,” he said. “Bringing that check list and the NGB to ensure that quality, so that teams know when they go to a sanctioned tournament, it’s going to be a step above some of the other ones out there.”

Admission to the MYLA Championships is free, and fans can follow the event Tourney Machine.

Get Your Team on the #RoadToDelaware

The 10th annual US Lacrosse Nationals will bring together the best boys' and girls' teams from across the country for four days of high-level competition in a fun atmosphere Aug. 2-5, 2018, in Frederica, Del. Sign up your team for a qualifying event.

View Qualifier Schedule