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Developing a Bottom-Up Sportsmanship Solution

By Charlie Obermayer, US Lacrosse, 06/17/19, 12:15PM CDT

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Be part of the solution, and support this special sport that we all love.

Oh boy, it’s that time of year again! 

Spring lacrosse seasons are finishing up and the summer tournament season is about to begin. This is also the time when sportsmanship and conduct issues seem to hit a boiling point. 

A recent article by Newsday has made waves about verbal abuse directed towards lacrosse officials and officials in general. A simple search on the web will yield hundreds of articles written on this subject in just the last couple of years. 

So why is this still a problem? It’s a problem because everyone is too busy pointing fingers at each other instead of looking in the mirror first, and then sitting down at the table with all the parties in the local lacrosse community and coming up with solutions. 

Every year, US Lacrosse meets with representatives from the NFHS, NCAA and other large governing bodies to discuss and review rules, best practices, and points of emphasis related to sportsmanship. We all know that improving sportsmanship is an ongoing issue that must be consistently addressed.

We find that the rules we implement do seem to work, provided that they are followed. We also find that for those that don’t adhere to these rules, or don’t want to look in the mirror, or work together as a community to address the issue, the opposite is true. Sportsmanship and behavior gets worse.

If we don’t all get on the same page with our local officiating organizations, league administrators, coaches and parents, working together at educating and mentoring, the verbal abuse, the ejections, and the sportsmanship issues are not going to improve. 

We must hold each other accountable. If a coach has issues with multiple officials, maybe it’s not the officials. But, maybe it is. Have that conversation. Identify a way both groups can improve their communication. Assign some learning or reading for them to do before their next competition. US Lacrosse provides some great resources at learning.uslacrosse.org for both coaches and officials on communication, sportsmanship and integrity. 

As governing bodies, we want local groups to develop the solutions that work best in an area and community. Rather than continuing to legislate from the top down, let’s fix this issue from the bottom up. 

Lacrosse has always been a community sport. Regardless of role, every individual involved with the sport becomes part of that community and assumes some responsibility for growing the game. Be part of the solution, and support this special sport that we all love. 

Charlie Obermayer serves as senior manager of the Officials Development Program at US Lacrosse. 

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