Lacrosse finds its way onto the High Country map
In the High Country, when you’re spotted running around with a stick with a net on it, people think you’re catching bugs.
It’s not often hundreds of individuals wielding lacrosse sticks converge in one area of the Rocky Mountains. But that all changes in Vail every Fourth of July.
The Vail Lacrosse Shootout is one of the world’s largest lacrosse tournaments and takes place this week for the 30th straight year.
The problem with having a tournament of this caliber in Vail is that, the area lacks a booming lacrosse scene of its own. OK, more accurately, the area lacks a lacrosse scene. So, the fact that the place is swarming with some of the world’s greatest lacrosse players is of no interest to most people in the Eagle and Summit county communities.
On the whole, Colorado is what many people in the lacrosse world would refer to as an “up-and-coming” mecca for the sport. While boys and girls in some parts of the East Coast are virtually born with lacrosse sticks for umbilical cords, many visitors and residents of the Rocky Mountain region couldn’t distinguish a lacrosse stick from a badminton racquet.
I grew up in the Denver suburbs, when women’s lacrosse was only available as a club sport at a few of the Front Range high schools and as a sanctioned sport at even fewer of the Front Range high schools. As someone who has competed in the Vail Shootout off and on for the past eight years, I’m familiar with the confusion of the typical summertime tourist who inadvertently stumbles upon a lacrosse tournament in the middle of a ski town during his or her Fourth of July vacation. A year rarely goes by when a visiting Texan or native of some nether region of the United States, unversed in the spectacle of a lacrosse player, doesn’t accost me with the question:
“What are ya doin’ with that thar butterfly net?”
Sometimes I tell them I’m on a quest to hunt down the exotic Rocky Mountain mutant dragonfly. But usually I try to explain a little bit about the sport of lacrosse, from my limited Colorado-grown knowledge of it. Both men’s and women’s games use the same type of zone defense and offensive passing dynamics as those used in basketball, I tell them, but the game is played on a field. The two games are very different in many ways, I’ll say, the men’s game characterized more by legal body checks and contact, etc. Since the person accosting me is lucky enough to be in town during the Shootout, I’ll tell them the best way to understand lacrosse is to watch a game or two.
The coolest thing about lacrosse is, even in Colorado where, among the typical sports enthusiast, it is not a renowned sport, there are some genuine die-hards out there and some definite niches.
Interestingly enough, it was a core of Colorado teams that kicked off the Lacrosse Shootout in Aspen 30 years ago (and Team Texas was one of the first non-Colorado teams to participate).
“It started as a Colorado local tournament with four teams and a keg of beer,” said Matt Peterson, Shootout co-organizer of 16 years. “This is the 16th year for the women’s tournament. The event slowly grew over time. Now it is one of the most prestigious annual lacrosse tournaments in the world.”
In addition to many of the top U.S. players, over the years the Vail Lacrosse Shootout has also featured the best men and women’s teams from Canada, Australia, England and Scotland.
So, in lieu of watching fireworks this Fourth of July weekend, visitors and residents of the High Country hankering for a unique spectacle might swing by Vail, Avon and Edwards to catch some of the best lacrosse they’ll ever see. For information on teams, game times and field locations, visit http://www.vaillaxshootout.com.
For those who can’t make it to Vail to check out a lacrosse game this weekend, they’ll have another opportunity in Breckenridge Aug. 3-4 with the fifth annual QuickStick tournament at Carter Park. The tournament mainly features men’s teams from the Front Range, but for the first time this year will also feature a women’s exhibition game. As Colorado Women’s Lacrosse Association president Michelle Secor points out, an exhibition game is how women’s lacrosse became a part of the Vail tournament 16 years ago. Secor is responsible for founding the Vail women’s tournament as well as administering its growth. For years, she has tried to spread interest in women’s lacrosse throughout Colorado.
In my two years in Summit County, I have encountered several former lacrosse players who have expressed interest in generating a local outlet for the sport. If there are any women interested in participating in the QuickStick tourney in Breck this August, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information and playing position. There’s always room for more niches.
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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