A few weeks ago, we wrote about the opening of the L.A. Box Lacrosse League season in Torrance. Last weekend, I had occasion to check out a box scrimmage in Ventura County and stumbled upon a venture that speaks very well for the future of lacrosse — box and field — in Southern California.
Justin Eaton runs West Coast Lacrosse, which operates in both Ventura County and Orange County. In talking with Eaton about the growth of box, he first mentioned that his organization had grown from four teams last year to 15 this year in five age groups. But, he said, the real story was a co-operative effort with a number of other Southern California clubs that is being called SCILL — the Southern California Indoor Lacrosse League and includes nearly 50 teams and 1,000 kids playing box lacrosse this fall.
“What we’ve been able to do in Southern California is phenomenal,” Eaton said. “We have players and coaches representing some of the best programs in the state, everyone working together to create something bigger than they would have been able to create on their own.”
SCILL is made up of clubs like Propel, Shooterz, Coyotes and Lax West out of San Diego, Golden Eagles out of Orange County, Inland Empire Box Lacrosse and West Coast Lacrosse. Together, they’ve formed a super-league with north and south divisions playing box games every week and leading up to playoffs and a league championship in November.
But more than trophies, the hope is more young lacrosse players develop their skills faster through the arena game, then translate them to the field game.
“Box lacrosse is the single most important thing kids in L.A. can do … to catch up with the East Coast,” said Eaton, who played at Langley HS in Virginia and then at NCAA D-III Ithaca College in New York. “It promotes four key things: Tempo, physicality, stick skills and lax IQ. It’s a much faster game, which forces decision-making to be faster. Being in a contained space, you can’t run away from pressure; you always have people on you, so you learn better stick protection. Shooting on small goals with very large goalies improves accuracy.
“Box fundamentals are a cut above field fundamentals. These kids don’t even think about it anymore — they’re making one, two three fakes before they shoot, and their shooting percentages are high.”
With teams in U-11, U-13, U-15, junior varsity and varsity, Eaton and his SCILL collaborators believe they are helping Southern California catch up with a trend that is playing out on college fields more and more each year.
“People have really started to educate themselves on what box lacrosse is,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt that ESPN commentators talk about all the Canadian players in the game now. NCAA coaches have been doing it for a while, and over the last few years, everyone has caught on. We’re watching box lacrosse become almost a prerequisite to play in the NCAA. More and more coaches are going to demand that players have box experience and the IQ that comes from it.”
What’s encouraging to us here at Southland is both the rapid growth of the indoor game in Southern California and the cooperation of so many clubs over such a broad geographic area to make something like this happen. That spirit of cooperation among clubs who normally might be competing for players or attention is encouraging.
“I am trying to make a living on it, I don’t deny that,” Eaton said, “but at the end of the day, this is a lot larger than someone trying to make a living on lacrosse — it’s about growing the game. This is what Southern California needs.”
Here are some pictures from Sunday’s scrimmages at the VC Arena in Camarillo: