What is lacrosse? Lacrosse is probably the most exciting combination of every popular sport rolled into one. It combines the agility of Basketball, the endurance of Soccer, the physical contact of Football and quick eye-hand coordination of Hockey. Many kids start playing it as their “second” sport and find that it becomes their favorite. In the past it had a misplaced reputation of being a violent Native American game but in truth, the modern game involves much more finesse than brute strength. Far from a game of violence, the Native Americans referred to lacrosse as “the medicine game.” In times when a member of the Nation became injured or sick, the medicine people would call upon the healing forces of Mother Earth to remedy the illness. The healers and spiritual advisors would then prepare and administer the medicines obtained from Mother Earth and would call for a lacrosse game to be played to strengthen the power of their medicine. True, Lacrosse is a contact sport and some checking is permitted but injuries are quite rare if properly fitting equipment is worn. Body checking is not permitted at the youth levels.
What does the RUSL Lacrosse Club do? We are a non-profit organization of volunteers who love the game. Our mission is to promote the game of lacrosse in Oakland county at the Youth, Scholastic, and, Adult levels. At the youth level, we offer an “in-house” developmental program. When the kids move into the middle and high school years, we supplement the Scholastic programs with fall and winter programs and summer tournament activities. At the adult level we try to provide an alumni game, a summer college night, and recreational activities at the Box.
Is my son eligible to play lacrosse for the RUSL? RUSL activities are open to any child who resides within Oakland County. Non-residents are not eligible. In the past, girls have played in the boys program but we recommend that girls participate our girls program. Women’s lacrosse is very different from Men’s lacrosse in a variety of ways and some of the habits learned at a young age playing boys lacrosse may be difficult to break later on if your daughter decides to switch to Women’s lacrosse.
Does it matter which side of Town we live on? No. At the youth level it makes no difference at all. We divide our in-house and tournament program into balanced teams regardless of where you live. At the Scholastic level, starting at the 5th grade, we do start to divide teams based on what middle school you go to. Even so, whether at the youth level or scholastic level, we are one Club with two teams but one common purpose.
Can my son play on his best friend’s team? We try to accommodate reasonable requests, especially as they relate to carpooling and family needs but ultimately, that is a matter left to the discretion of the Program Directors and Coaches. In the past some requests just couldn’t be met in order to keep “balanced teams” and at other times, some kids needed to be split up because, together they were quite a handful for one Coach to handle. We don’t typically encourage these types of requests in the hope that kids learn social skills of making new friends.
What does it cost? Our program fees are comparatively much lower than many other youth sports. We make every effort to ensure that cost is not a barrier for any child and will consider most reasonable requests to accommodate financial hardship that would otherwise prevent participation in Club activities. Requests for program fee waivers should be directed to the age level program director, in confidence, and will be considered on a case by case basis.
Where do my fees go? We are a not for profit organization. We have no full time employees and do not own any of our own playing surfaces. Fees cover insurance costs and “Partnership fees” charged by the Town, the cost of one time expenses like jerseys, replacing rental equipment, replacing worn out nets, lining the fields, and simple administrative costs like copies, website fees, postage, etc. We give out a college scholarship to graduating senior at all three (3) Rochester High schools.
When will I get my jersey? Jerseys are normally handed out by about the third or fourth week of the Spring youth program. This is because we need to wait until registration is over before we order them and we need to get the kids broken into teams before we can assign them numbers. Kids get to keep their spring "house" program jerseys. If you join for the first time in the fall or winter, we usually have some jerseys left over from the spring that we can give your son. We have separate jerseys for tournament teams which the kids do not get to keep.
Where do you play? At the youth level, our Spring Program will be at Avondale Park. In the fall, our scholastic age programs continue to use the same field but while the youth programs play on local middle school fields. In the winter, we use RARA gym space
What is your policy on playing time? Maximum, meaningful playing time is the overriding goal of our Club and equal playing time is the norm. However, equal playing time is not guaranteed in either of the scholastic or youth programs. For example, playing time may be affected if a coach feels it is unsafe to have a child out there. To achieve our goal of maximum playing time, all we really ask is two things: effort and attendance. Effort means trying your best, whatever “your best” may be, given your current skill level. Attendance means you make reasonable effort to make it to all practices and games. Attendance must be viewed in the context of other things going on in life. Conflicts with scholastic activities or family events are to be expected. But a repeated pattern of absenteeism, especially at more competitive activities such as tournaments may be construed as a lack of effort on or off the field and may impact playing time, at the coach’s discretion.
Are there opportunities to play field lacrosse? Of course the scholastic programs, modified through Varsity play in the field during the scholastic year. After the scholastic season ends, kids typically continue to participate, through our Tournament program at a few local tournaments including our own “Webster Classic.” At the youth level, we also participate in local tournaments but that is an optional “extra.” To play for a RUSL Tournament team, you must be an active member of the Club. At the youth level you must fully participate in the “house league.” You cannot play just on the Tournament team. That takes a special commitment. We do have tryouts for tournament teams but we do not have “cuts” per se based on talent. We use the term “tryout” to make it clear that participation requires at least some extra effort beyond just showing up and getting playing time. We seek to obtain maximum participation for all Club functions limited only by availability of coaches, safety concerns for the players and limitations imposed by Tournament rules that are beyond our control.
Does my son have to specialize in lacrosse? NO! We openly advocate that kids play a variety of sports. Rochester has a rich tradition of OAA Championships in team sports like Hockey, Basketball Football, and Soccer. On the other hand, we recommend that the kids at least touch their sticks once in a while in the off season. Not a lot necessarily but at least a little bit. Lacrosse is a spring and early summer sport. All we really ask is that when it is lacrosse season, you try to play lacrosse and leave your other sport for the off-season as much as possible. Of course those other sports probably say the same thing and we understand that. We do offer “off-season” lacrosse activities as well but they are far from “mandatory.” Generally, we offer lacrosse 3 months on, 1 month off. If you want to play lacrosse year round, in the fall and winter, we offer fun off-season programs. But by all means, feel free to play other sports. Cross training can make you a better player, prevent burn-out, and enhance overall body development. Plus, other sports are fun! Be an athlete.
My son never played before, is it too late? It is never too late. There are many college and even professional lacrosse players who never touched a stick until after middle school and even a few that started in college as a “second sport.” To be sure, lacrosse is a finesse game and it can take a little time to get the hang of it but it’s nothing that a stick, a ball, a brick wall and hard work can’t cure relatively quickly.
Do you offer a Lacrosse Camp? YES, we do. We will put the camps on our website working with the city of Rochester. There are many wonderful local and national summer lacrosse camps that promote their ability to take your son to “the next level.” Often times they are run by ex-college stars, current Major League Lacrosse stars or college coaches and the cost is quite substantial. At the older ages, some even offer “exposure” to college scouts. As parents all we can tell you is to do the research. One or two weeks at a high priced camp is not going to make your son taller, faster, or bigger. The fact that the director of a camp is an “Allstar” or prominent college coach does not guarantee that he has any experience or training to teach children and even more importantly, that the counselors he hires to help run the camp have any experience or education with teaching children. Camp should be fun first and developmental second.
As a parent, I never played before, how can I help? Prior experience is not needed. Some of our best coaches never played before. Sometimes a little knowledge can actually be dangerous. Every year, our club offers a coaching clinic that offers more than enough of all you will ever need to be a coach. All you really need is a little more knowledge than the kids you will be coaching. Since they are new to the game as well, that does not take that much. In addition to coaching we have a great need for logistical support with equipment, field set up, bookkeeping, and concessions. Just ask, we want your help.
Do you have an elite or select team? No. Our youth programs are developmental. We don’t rate and group kids based on talent. We attempt as best possible to create “balanced” teams and to that end, coaches do assess relative ability to ensure balance. Experience tells us that no-one is really all that “special” before they reach the Junior Varsity level because they are no-where near full development emotionally or physically. No question there may be a disparity of talent at any age level but our club fully embraces the concept of “Positive Coaching” and we believe that the goal of youth sports is not to win championships or get scholarships, it is to raise young boys to be successful, well adjusted adults, through life lessons of team work, hard work, and dedication. Even more talented kids can learn from working with their less talented peers. Great people don’t do great things, they inspire those around them to rise to their level.
If you don't have a select or elite team, why do you have tryouts for your tournament teams? We have tryouts because it is a commitment to be on a tournament team. For many kids this is the first time in their very young lives where they are required to compete athletically in order to make a team. That is a very intimidating thing for a small child. We teach that hard work is rewarded with a sense of belonging to a group of other kids who are willing to make that same commitment. In the adult world, the Marine Corps has a similar philosophy to graduate from boot camp called the "Crucible." Recruits finish their 12 weeks of training by surviving a series of team building drills, over a 54 hour time frame, without sleep, by "simply showing up." No-one would ever accuse a Marine of being coddled by simply "showing up" for the "Crucible." It is a punishing test of every recruit's ability to subordinate himself to the unit. Our tournament program is by far nowhere as intense but that fundamental concept is still at the root of our club philosophy toward participation on our Club teams. Participation on our tournament teams also requires participation in our house league program. Showing up for an additional tournament team tryout or practice on a weekend, is the test. It sends a message from us, as adults, that if you want to be a part of our tournament program, you are welcome. You're one of us.....we're on your side. If that means losing every tournament game so be it. If you are committed to our program and getting better then, we are "all in it together." We play to win and we want you there because we believe in you...but you have got to do the work... it is a two way street. That is a great life lesson for a young child and it is age appropriate for what they are capable of comprehending at the primary school level.
My son seems bigger, faster and better than most of the kids his age, can he play up an age level for better competition? At the youth level the answer is typically no. Exceptions may be made at the sole discretion of the Program Director for your son's age level but usually it is for the safety of the kids in the program and not for the benefit of the more talented player. As a general rule, please don’t ask to play up. If it is an issue, be assured, the Program Director is aware of it and he will contact you. If your son is better than all the other kids in the program, congratulations, we are grateful to have him. He is a role model that we need. By playing with others who are less skilled at his age level, he will develop, we hope, the intangible leadership qualities he would not acquire by playing up. All of his peers around him will start to play up to his level and more importantly, he will develop friendships with kids in his own grade level that will last beyond his high school years.
Can my son play for other elite or select teams? At the youth levels in lacrosse, elite teams have not quite enjoyed the strong growth they have in other sports. We would strongly discourage it at the youth level if it did since it is impossible to gauge “talent” of any child before they reach puberty. We do not have a “select” or “elite” team of our own. We do rate kids for the purpose of creating balanced in-house and tournament teams. There are opportunities for kids to play for Select teams outside of the Town once they reach the Scholastic Level and even some opportunities at the youth level. Ultimately, we realize there is little we can do to affect what parents permit or commit their children to do. We don’t encourage or discourage participation in “elite” lacrosse programs as our mission is focused on promoting lacrosse in Oakland county area. Our efforts as a Board are more communally focused in nature, hoping to capture the true spirit and origin of the Native American game. Many Rochester families have had wonderful experiences playing for outside teams while many others have found the added cost, travel, and competition simply just too much. We encourage parents to seriously weigh the pros and cons of participation in these types of programs and make a well informed, intelligent decision of what is truly in your son’s best interests after gathering all the information that is available. They are only young once, make it count.
What is the truth about lacrosse, college, and scholarships? According to the NCAA, for Divisions DI, II and III, only 30 per cent of student athletes are on any form of athletic scholarship. Division III doesn’t offer any athletic scholarships under NCAA rules. In Division I, the Ivy and Patriot Leagues for example, don’t offer any scholarships. The majority of the D-I and D-II teams are not fully funded, meaning the College does not offer the maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA. Of the small number of "fully-funded" Division I men’s lacrosse teams out there, each only has a maximum of 12.6 scholarships to hand out for the entire team of 40 - 50 players. Mathematically, that means, at best, a 1/4 scholarship if everyone on a fully funded team is awarded "something." That is nice but a small drop in the bucket when most private college tuition ranges from $30,000 to $50,000 a year. According to Dom Starsia, the head coach at the University of Virginia, they have only offered the “full ride” three times in the history of their program and they are perennially a top 10 team. While the number of “fully funded” programs remains relatively flat, the number of athletes playing the game at the high school level has exploded, particularly out west and in the deep south.
All this means that out of that pool of students, only about 4,000 of them will go on to play college lacrosse at DI - DIII. Of those, considering that DIII offers nothing, DII offers very little and a small number of fully funded DI programs offer 12.6 scholarships, only about 150 graduating seniors will get anything ....which most likely will only be a partial 1/3 to 1/4 scholarship. Leaving those students who are lucky enough to get a partial scholarship and the majority of athletes at "unfunded" programs to look for “need based” student aid (based on parent income), merit based scholarships (your grades), student loans (very often the case), or payment out of personal savings. Those programs that offer scholarships expect a lot from their athletes, year round. Those programs can demand 3 or 4 times more time and effort from what was expected of them in high school. The bottom line is that, for the most part, College lacrosse is still viewed by most colleges as nothing more than extracurricular activity offered to attract students who are academically qualified and capable of paying something close to full price. It can be a memorable part of a college experience, worthy of pursuing. We are proud that RUSL Lacrosse has produced a lot of college athletes So do the homework...make sure, either way there are no regrets. Make those early years after high school count. You are only young once.
What if my son wants to quit? The choice to quit a sport is not the end of the world so long as it is for the right reasons. On the other hand, "brick walls are there for a reason." Whether its over them, through them, or around them, "brick walls" make you prove to yourself, how much you want it. Age appropriate life lessons of overcoming obstacles, of pushing yourself through uncomfortable experiences, and overcoming them is at the core of our Club's philosophy. We do not tolerate bullying or abusive coaches. Our goal is to make the game fun. Experience shows that a child is less likely to quit a sport if you as a parent are invested and involved in the Club. Nothing shows you support his effort more than your own gift of time and energy to the Club. Our Club has a designated “dispute resolution chairman” to look into serious matters. If you feel there is a serious matter, the parent and the coach should contact the Club president. Refunds of club fees after the season has begun will be addressed on a case by case basis. We are all volunteers and sometimes well intentioned coaches miss the mark when trying to motivate kids because they simply can’t think like a child. We believe the success of our program is gauged by how well we treat our least talented players, not our best. But it is a two way street. You have to give back. Bring something to the table rather than just identifying the problem. Help us provide a better product, if not for your own son, for the other kids in the Town. Your feedback counts.
What do you mean by “Ferociously and Totally” committed to promoting lacrosse activities in Rochester? It simply means that we are committed solely to the communal origins of the Native American game. To this day, according to Lacrosse Magazine, “the concept of “community elders” passing the game to the next generation is so important to Native Americans such as the Onondagas, one of the “Six Nations” of the Iroquois, just south of Syracuse, that once a year, members from ages 10 to 80 gather to play the game the way their ancestors did. The field has no boundaries, the game has no clock, and the players wear no helmets or pads. It is lacrosse, pure and uninfluenced. Everyone uses a wooden stick and everybody who shows up plays. Prayers are said before and after the game to give thanks to the Creator for the sport. There is no set number of players on the field, and no sideline or endline. In the late 1700s, records show an Iroquois game with 600 players on each side played over miles. Teams aren't evenly split, either, and could be unbalanced in a four or five-to-one ratio. Most times teams are divided based on the players' clans, but games can be played between the young and old. It could be five against 30. It all depends on who shows up and players range in age from 10 to 80.”
It would of course be naïve to think we could create the same type of homogenous culture as the Iroquois. Rochester is a large, diverse, and growing community that hardly resembles the small farm town it once was just a few decades ago and life is far more complex than it was when the game was created. Moreover we acknowledge there are numerous, wonderful lacrosse activities available outside Oakland county But as parents and ambassadors of the game, we all feel that Rochester is a great place to watch our kids grow and play. Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports around and it is starting to become a big business as well. “For profit” lacrosse activities have their place but we are part of a more grass roots effort that returns the game to its “uninfluenced”, simple, communal origins. That is why we are “Ferociously and Totally” committed to promoting the game in the Town and nothing more.
Want to learn more? Any one of our Board members would be happy to answer any questions you may have. We love the game. Questions about a specific program should be addressed to the particular Program Director for the age level of your child.