When you talk about growing the game of Box Lacrosse, it seems so simple. A few sticks, some balls, a goal, and you are good to go. In fact, it is way more complicated than that.
Canada nearly churns out NLL players every year by the 100’s. So why is it that the USA is struggling to produce players? The majority of NLL teams are in the USA, new markets are in the USA, even the majority of the defunct markets where the owner folded the team are in the USA. So why is it that the USA does not grow players?
Most of it is a matter of access, access to equipment, access to box time, access to team training, access to box coaches. The thing is the Internet has virtually solved the equipment issues in the past 10 years. In many Cities finding a box can be an issue, but with the Roller Hockey craze and indoor soccer craze of the early 90s many cities actually have Boxes sitting for days on end without a foot in them. Then the issue is team training? No, there are tons of lacrosse teams. The issue is Box Coaching, when the NLL finishes the season the players all go back to Canada.
The USA for the most part has produced very few players. To put it into perspective, in the 35 years there have only been 2 players to play Goalie from the USA. This could soon be 3 players with Skylar “MOOSE” Whinery, currently signed with the SEALS. He is from Denver Colorado, Denver is one of the hotbeds of US Box Lacrosse. With systems that go all the way up, from novice, peewee, Bantam, Midget, HS elite, and CBLA leagues. Moose was a big part of that program and that system.
Moose is now a San Diego Seal. The thing is, the Seals are not just Building an NLL Franchise. They are committed to growing the game of BOX LACROSSE. For the past 3 years, Players (Cam Holding, Wes Berg, Austin Staats) have been living in the San Diego Market. Growing the game of Lacrosse, putting sticks in the hands of kids, and teaching the game at Schools and Rec centers. When Moose Signed with the Seals (he went undrafted) he packed his bags and headed to live in the San Diego Market also.
Teaching lacrosse wasn’t enough for the guys that live in the San Diego market. They wanted a program to build on. In November they held tryouts for the Junior Seals with the intention of practicing and playing in tournaments. 150 kids tried out for the 4 teams the Seals were offering. But with the Pandemic in full swing tournaments were pushed sideways. Still, there was a lot of practice with boys in full gear working on their game.
The Seals held a second tryout, again 150+ kids tried out. In the box the drills are faster, the passes shorter and the learning curve is steep. But the Seals managed to fill out 4 teams, including 3 goalies (the hardest spot to find a player that wants to play). Last week all 4 of those teams Traveled to Denver for the 2021 Battle in the Box, and played some of the long-established western programs, from Denver, Cali-lax, and 2 teams from Texas. With a strong showing from all the Junior Seals teams, the novice, peewee, Earned 2nd place.
The practice Grind continued and yet again, Cam Holding wanted to build MORE. 2 girl box teams were created, and a Female Box Coach Kelsey Cuje was brought in. Again this is just growing the game.
Cam Holding and Wes Berg are nothing but DRIVEN. And they created a team in the CACBLL the Royals, that is College Box Lacrosse. It is safe to say that Box Lacrosse has arrived in San Diego. With San Diego hosting teams from the Western USA in its very own Tournament in 2 weeks, and a week later USBOXLA Nationals in San Jose. In the Fall there are plans in the mix for a Fall Box Rec League in San Diego.
The future for this sport is very bright in San Diego, and remember these NLL players are not just teaching a sport, They are setting up a blueprint on how other NLL teams can grow the game in the USA and so far being very successful at it.