Can the USA be beaten?

Here at The Report, we’ve seen our fair share of lacrosse tournaments. Most recently, of course, was the U19 women’s World Cup in Hannover which saw the team from the USA claim the trophy in a ferocious victory that was – let’s face it – predictable from day one.

That’s not to say that the women of the USA team didn’t give their all on the pitch. In fact, they soared through the competition with ease and victorious celebration becasue of their neverending passion and enthusiasm on the pitch.

It’s fair to say, however, that the majority of people had pegged the Americans as the would-be victors from the day that the tournament was announced. Indeed, the majority of teams that I spoke to weren’t even bothering to focus on the thought of beating the US, but instead aiming for more seemingly attainable goals – second place, a medal, top five etc.

At the men’s World Championships in Manchester in 2010, I don’t think this was the case as we saw Canada and the US battle it out on the pitch in two fiery and ferocious games that saw the Canadians walk away victorious after their first battle. When the two teams met again in the final the clash was incredible and the talent displayed on the pitch spectacular, however it seemed to be another inevitable set-up that many spectators had not just predicted but 100% expected to happen. USA v Canada in the final was inevitable.

So what I want to know is this: do you, the lacrosse-ing masses, think that the US dominance of the sport can come to an end in the next few years? As far as I’m aware in the women’s game no team has really come close to achieving the brilliance displayed by the US team in recent years. While the Aussies put on an impressive display in Hannover – and have one memorable victory over the US team in 2005 – their play was still no match for the Yanks and they too failed to make a dent in the Americans’ impressive goal average.

In the men’s game, it seems more likely that the Americans might suffer defeat at the hands of their Canadian rivals and yet they still seem somewhat unbeatable?

There has been much conversation about the standard of lacrosse across the globe, inspired by the performances of every team at both the men’s World Championships last year and the women’s World Cup last month. At every international competition the number of participating teams increases, bringing with them a larger and more publicised tournament.

Which is great for the sport, right?

Definitely, and if anything, the dominance of the US players should inspire newer international squads to achieve so much more than they might have ever thought possible. However, when you look at the resources that US Lacrosse have at their disposal, I fail to see how any other international body or team could rival them.

But, I’m open to suggestions and that’s exactly what I want from you guys. Let me know what you think by commenting below. Or, if you have a particularly strong opinion on the topic – I’m lookin’ at you CuseFan! – then whack us an email at archlevelreport@hotmail.com.

17 Comments

    1. That’s true. Although it seemed to me that the Aussies just didn’t have the same control over the game as the US team this year. Their score line in this year’s final was more impressive than most however so perhaps America have reason to be concerned?

      Do you think the Aussies can win back the senior women’s title in 2013?

  1. Will the USA be beaten? – Yes
    Will USA Lacrosse always be dominant? – Yes

    IN the Men’s game Canada are no flash in the pan, they play a completely different style of field lacrosse, based on their grounding of Box Lacrosse.
    Men’s 2006 – Canada win Final 15-10
    Men’s U19s 2008 – Canada should have won round robin game vs USA
    Women’s 2005 – Australia win Final 14-7
    Women’s 2009 – Aussies lost 8-7 in Final to USA
    Women’s U19s 2011 – USA won Final 14-11 having been behind v young Aussies

    The biggest key to success is playing your own game, don’t try to copy the Americans at their style of play.

    The Aussie women although small in number have a competitive advantage against the Americans as the best Junior players compete on a regular basis against the best senior players in the Country. This competition in State League and Nationals helps the development of elite players, as they are in direct competition with players older and stronger than them.
    This tough love style of competitive structure means the very best juniors in Oz are challenged more than their International sisters.
    The Australian Coaching of Women’s Lacrosse is a lot more demanding of it’s players skill development than other NGBs, England concentrated on athletes, which is great but they weren’t great lacrosse players.
    – Stick Skills
    – Stick Protection
    – Dodging
    – Offensive movement Off ball
    – Offensive Strategy
    The kicker comes in when the best of the Aussie Juniors are then picked up by NCAA Colleges and their solid foundation is developed in Div NCAA Competition and Coaching, then you have the perfect combination (see 2005). Jen Adams, Sonia Judd, et al

    Men’s :
    Canadian men dominate the scoring ranks in NCAA Men’s Lacrosse, again thru competitive advantage at Junior level, Big Goalies + Small Goals = Hard to score
    The successful Canadian attackmen have to become adept at hitting the target and moving the goalie (fakes) to create an opening, the defensive pressure in Box Lacrosse also means they must be experts at off ball play or they would never get a chance to shoot.
    Add in the NCAA Divi 1 College experience and you hit the jackpot again.
    That is as long at they stay true to their game.
    Jeff Zywicki (5’9″) was voted best attack player in 2006 after a high scoring tournament, he isn’t particularly big, strong or fast. He didn’t take the ball out and skin his defender 1-on-1, but he gave the USA defenders fits, as he could get open in a phone booth, catch anything thrown at him and put the ball in the net.
    2010 they selected Dan Dawson 6’6″ who the USA defenders were far more comfortable with, more orthodox.
    2010 Canada also suffered from injuries John Grant Jr was playing on one leg and their shutdown SSDM blew his knee out in the final, Brodie Merrill was subpar, Chris Sanderson was amazing just to be there and finally Paul Rabil had the game of his life, his 3 goals in the FInal were probably his best shots ever, he simply isn’t that accurate or consistent usually (check NCAA & MLL)

    Way Forward for England Women:
    – There should be a more open minded approach to external Coaching influences in Centex and National Squads
    – There needs to be a Open Door policy to talent identification and development (not elitist – old girls network)
    – There should be a regular high level competitive structure or League (how often do the best players get to play against each other?)
    – Grass roots development needs to have better Coaching on New Fundamentals (The game has changed from wooden sticks & cradling in front of your face)
    – Games Promotion – Women’s Lacrosse is a fantastic sport

    Compare difference between two Women’s World Championships held in Germany this year.
    WFA World Cup – Sold out Stadia / Worldwide audience / TV ratings in USA
    ILF(IFWLA) U19s World Cup – ZERO video coverage, poor website, dodgy stats

    In this instant gratification society, where information and sporting entertainment must be live and in HD. The Lacrosse World Cup didn’t happen.

    There is no documentary proof it took place.

    Men’s :
    England now has a Head Coach who has experience of NCAA Lacrosse as well as playing in England for a number of years at Walcountian Blues. I don’t believe he will have the same communication and man management issues that the previous incumbent had.

  2. The ELA are currently looking at re-developing the way that the women’s leagues in the UK are run with the aim of developing a “super league” that will enable the best players in the country to play against each other. I do think that they need to be so much more transparent about the way that they run things however and take more steps to promote the game and the changes that that are being made to the sport AS AND WHEN they happen, not as an after thought.

    Most players in the UK are unaware of Centex at a young age unless they are picked to go. I think more publicity about the program would give younger players something to look up to. That should have happened with the World Cup this summer but you’re right, the overall coverage was terrible.

    In terms of the men’s game I think Matt Bagley will do great things for the team. He’s been an amazing presence at Blues and will continue to do so for the coming years.

    In terms of the international side of things, I wasn’t trying to diminish Canada’s success at all, I think they’re a great team. But at the end of the day – regardless of the circumstances – they lost to the US in 2010. The Americans were clearly the stronger team on the day and they walked away with a trophy that they deserved.

    What I’m wondering is if, as the game grows, other countries will begin to catch up with the front runners – the US, Canada, Aus – or whether the gap between them will just grow?

    Take New Zealand, for example. I spoke with their coaches prior to the competition and they had high hopes for their performance in the World Cup. As a relatively small team they were, however, worried about facing up against the big guns like the US and Canada. When they started playing in Hannover they just seemed to crumble in the face of strong international competition. As the top teams continue to improve, will this leave the smaller teams trailing even further?

    To my mind the one exception to this is the Welsh side. They had a tremendous tournament in Hannover and showed incredible talent on the pitch. When they came up against one of the big contenders, however, they were just unable to keep up….

    Do you think this is a symptom of things to come?

    1. Correction: it wasn’t New Zealand’s first World Cup.

      I’ve watched them at the U19s in 07, and Senior WC in 05 and 09…

  3. Charlie, I’m beginning to enjoy your blog 🙂

    You raise some interesting Big Picture points on the game that I love.

    I don’t agree about the 2010 Men’s Final there is a bit of revisionist history going on there. History is written by the winners but prior to the Final the Canadians were favourites for the win as there was no answer to JGJ on attack, and Canadian Team were a happier bunch (loosey goosey) but Rabil’s performance, Crawley missing a sitter, injury and some creative use of the rules on face-off vs Snider all swayed things in US favour.

    As for International Development of new Countries to rival the Big Boys I don’t see any shocks anytime soon.
    Men’s
    USA – CANADA (both have professional players/coaches)
    Iroquois have potential to cause an upset but lack depth of numbers, they do have the talent though and Professional prospects

    Australia, Japan, England, Germany look to fall further away due to lack of professional coaches and Leagues as well as losing the numbers battle. If anything Japan having the biggest potential if they can continue rate of growth and start junior development in schools. The game but full contact and technical suits the Japanese culture of sport, perhaps the legal production of a safe HGH may be required though. The Japanese dedication and discipline to training is exemplar.

    A real wildcard would be China if they decided it was a sport of choice, numbers game but 1000/1 shot.

    Women’s
    USA – Australia (Classic Rivalry)

    Canada & Japan have most potential if they create junior development and grow the link with the Men’s game.

    England has huge potential with the historical roots of the games in Public Schools but the lack of long term vision and will to be inclusive rather than exclusive hinders chance of success.

    But as in Australia with the Club structure there is always the possibility that exceptional individuals can have an impact because it is such a niche sport

  4. Couple of open questions:
    will the restructure change things much really??
    Word on the vine is that a historical and popular ladies lacrosse club in london, that plays in the top south-east division is going to fold. Why…….lack of numbers.
    In my opinion, sunday is not the best day for games. Hangovers, london socialites, – Women getting towards peak child bearing age, have kids and give up club ball, so even post partum they are not able to pass on their knowledge at the club level to new junior coming through. There isn’t a lot of coaching at club level is there – it tends to be a couple of older players running drills that they have done in the past without input for individuals.

    As for Centex, does it not have a fantastic money making drive behind it?
    The players still only see each other play. And i do not think that more people in the program will do anything to improve lacrosse standards.

    The majority of the U19 Japanese women had been playing lacrosse for 6 months. When I heard that I was even more impressed with their group game result against England. Their coaching was unorthodox, and with more experience, and that sort of accelerated improvement, they will get better. Also worth noting that there were (and I am not being exact) about 3 England players that got the majority the goals in the rematch.

    1. I have never thought that Sunday was the best day to play and I’ve never really understood why men and women can’t play on the same days. One argument is that refs would then be a problem but as far as I know – certainly in London – the women and the men ref their own games. Surely it would make more sense to play both men’s and women’s on the Saturday. That way there would be more of a club atmosphere for the mixed clubs and, I think, more supporters – my boyfriend plays lacrosse on a Saturday and I play on a Sunday, therefore if we want to watch each other’s games there is little time for anything else in the weekend. If men and women were to play on the same day (granted not always in the same location) there would be a crossover in spectators and it would give people a chance to see both games in action.

      In terms of coaching, I can vouch for the ELA in that they are doing what they can to improve this. The LDO scheme is bringing better coaching to certain teams however it means that there is often a split in the prem teams especially – those that have LDOs playing for them and those that don’t. The LDO scheme is really pricey and most clubs can’t afford to do it, it’s only the big, established ones that can.

      With the league restructure, one of the big changes will be the abolishment of the territorial teams. South, West, East, Midlands etc will no longer exist and will instead be replaced by regional teams – South East, North etc. The main issue I see there is that some regions will have a HUGE influx of players – London and the surrounding areas, for example, while others will be really short of players. This means that they are taking away the opportunity for good, territorial players who might not make it into the reginoal squad, to play at a slightly higher level than the league games.

      The Japanese team were incredible in Hannover and I know I wasn’t the only one to be really impressed by their performance. The same can be said of the men in Manchester.

      As for the England squad, there just needs to be so much more publicity and transparency about what is going on. That’s what we tried to do with the U19 profiles. People should be able to see who is representing their country in an international tournament and should be able to understand more about how the selection process takes place. Look at the Olympics and the football World Cup etc. We all understand (or could understand if we wanted to!) how the athletes are chosen and we can follow their journey in the build up to the tournament or competition. The same needs to happen with lacrosse.

  5. “Also worth noting that there were (and I am not being exact) about 3 England players that got the majority the goals in the rematch.”

    http://u19womenslacrossewc2011.de/wordpress2/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Day8_eng.pdf

    18/20 goals were scored by Nugent (8), Smith (6) & Taylor (4)

    There is nothing wrong with this and they should have recognised early in the first game where the England advantage was and stayed with it.

    The sad thing though is that technically, the Japanese players were more proficient than their English counterparts and the English girls had to rely on athleticism and physique (BFS) to win.

    There are lots of points been raised on here and it’s easy to lose track.
    – National Perfromance (U19s)
    – Competitive structure
    – Skills Gap
    – Long Term International Development and sustainability

    The most important point you raised was that s certain Ladies Lacrosse Club maybe going to shut down.

    All the other suggestions for development and growth and simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic if as a community we can’t keep a Club a float due to lack of players.

    Clubs Growth – Player Recruitment – Sustainability should be priority A1 for ELA.

    There is no point having contact with 30,000 kids in a year with pop-lacrosse if there is no where for players to play if they want to transition to Lacrosse.

    Name the Club and let’s get a Campaign started to Save our Club

  6. Some of my thoughts –

    1) The school lacrosse season is too long. Playing in the states I had a school season of 3 months with practices every day except sundays. This helped with my skill development which the current English system of girls playing in school for 7 months and only playing twice a week hinders. It is difficult to have girls remember what they learned from previous weeks and the time that you have to work with girls is often wasted because there is no consistency.

    I was still playing year round and I did not get burned out because I had four different lacrosse seasons to play in with different teams and different goals. Spring was your serious school representive season, winter was an indoor season preparing you for spring, summer was mixed teams playing with girls from different schools and fall was the relaxed pick up leagues.

    2) You will lose a lot of players if you move the day from Sunday. Lots of the qualified referees are teachers who have their own school games on Saturdays. Also, it’s just womens sports. We don’t go support each other the way men will go watch a friends game. So thinking that more people will watch on a Saturday is a bit foolish. The girlfriends that do play lacrosse because their boyfriends do are another group which you may lose if you move it to Saturday.

    3) We need to get english girls thinking of themselves as lacrosse players, not girls that play lacrosse. I wonder how many are watching lacrosse clips on youtube, buying lacrosse styled clothes, following NCAA games or just playing around in their back gardens when friends come over. That is the difference and why America will stay ahead.

    Also we get money to university for being good……

  7. Are territorials broke?
    If not then why ‘fix’ it.
    Sounds like boardroom decision making nonsense. Should it not stay the premier competition in the UK? Perhaps a further regional competition alongside?
    Surely one of the biggest travesties is England pulling their players away from club lacrosse, and pulling all their players out of territories in certain years.

    1. I think the ELA’s thinking is to try and align themselves with the structure of other English sports as created by the government. Most other sports that are publicly funded have a regional/county structure and it is this that the ELA are trying to copy.

      In order to make that work, however I really think they need to work on improving the structure that already exists rather than diving into a new project headfirst.

  8. So while we’re on world lacrosse, I’ll throw the cat amongst the pigeons:
    obviously, people here might not have seen it, but what do people think about England playing the way they did against the Haudenosaunee and beating them 27-3.

  9. I’ll add to that by saying that the Americans were a class act. Classy coaches, disciplined play, and goal differences of 12 (maximum that counts) when games could have been one way traffic.

  10. @Cusefan Some credit shpuld go to the Team USA coach for their 2010 World Championship win. I saw Pressler’s lecture at the Coaches Convention after he was appointed Head Coach, and it was clear then that he had one intent only …. to select a team to beat Canada. He went out of his way to get players to buy-in to that, even to the extent of restricting, or changing their natural game. Many questioned some of his selections, but it worked, and in my opinion he out-coached Huntley in the final.

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