Lacrosse may still lack regular attention and respect from those outside the game, but soccer was once like that too in the U.S.
Behind the Clipboard By Clay Kallam
I play lacrosse but I don’t get any respect. I could play other sports, but I really love lacrosse. But it doesn’t seem like people here think it’s a real sport. Why is that? It’s a great game, and you have to work hard to be good at it.
P.F., Walnut Creek
Lacrosse is a real sport, there’s no question about that, and I think you’re probably wrong that a lot of people don’t respect it. More likely, a lot of people really don’t know much about it — just like people way back in the day didn’t know anything about soccer and didn’t think it was as good a game as it is.
Still, the fact that lacrosse was a regional sport (the Northeast) for years and years makes it foreign to a lot of people in California, and what people don’t understand, they usually don’t appreciate. Many people also look at lacrosse and some other “newer” sports, right or wrong, as sports kids play when they’re not good to enough to play the traditional games.
For example, the unfounded assumption for many is that kids play lacrosse because they can’t make the softball or baseball teams, so then it follows that the lacrosse players must not be that good. This is simply wrongheaded thinking, but hey, we still have the designated hitter in the American League, so it’s not like wrongheaded thinking doesn’t stick around way too long.
Another issue with lacrosse, as with many sports, is that it’s not a good TV game (or even in person, really) because you can’t see the ball very well. The only way to know if someone has scored, as with ice hockey, is by the reaction of the players rather than actually tracking the ball into the net. That’s frustrating for casual viewers, and it’s a problem hockey has never quite overcome.
But, again like ice hockey, once you’ve actually played the sport you realize just how physical it is, and just how much skill is involved, and how fit the players have to be. It’s a big field, with just ten players, and the midfielders are running the whole time. The goalies also play with minimal padding and protection, and taking a hard shot off the leg or body is going to leave a painful mark.
The sport is growing rapidly, though, and not just in Northern California, but all over the country. As time goes on, I think more familiarity with the game will make it easier for people to respect the athletes who play it. That’s what happened with soccer, which was barely considered a sport in this country way back in the 1970s — primarily because so few Americans had actually played it seriously, but now the English Premier League is all over television and Major League Soccer is adding franchises.
That’s probably not much comfort now, as the ignorant will still continue to assume that what they don’t know about must not be worth much, but your best course of action is to try and rise above the naysayers — and then see if you can get them out on the field and try to play the game.
It won’t take them long in that situation to see what lacrosse is really about, and why so many people love playing it.
Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
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