Smiling faces, parents cheering, kids using their sticks like shovels to dig out the ball, and creative backyard style lacrosse made for a perfect February day this past Sunday in Manlius, New York at the Powell Lacrosse Great Upstate Snow Game.
Before the first games, Ryan Powell gathered the boys and girls playing in the elementary school divisions to tell them the story of how the Snow Game started. What began 5 years ago as some friends going out in the backyard on a snowy day to play some 3 on 3 lacrosse, has quickly evolved into a 50 team event where players travel from all over to join in on this unique experience.
“I would rather you guys try a between the legs shot when you’ve got a 1 on 1 opportunity than try to play for the championship,” RP told the group of excited little laxers. “Try something different. The Snow Game was developed for people to have fun.”
The Snow Game brings 3rd graders all the way up to guys in their 50s out to play lacrosse in snowy Upstate New York.
The games were 10 minutes long and no scores were kept. Playing basketball style defense and with someone playing goalie the games were a continuous 3 on 2 where ball movement and creativity were the name of the game.
Playing with a tennis ball in the 6 inches of crunchy snow, players could dive for ground balls, make sprawling saves, try an Air Gait, and make plays they wouldn’t be able to in a regular lacrosse game. Players would sometimes scoop up the ball along with a big chunk of snow and send it flying as they shot the ball and snow all at once.
RP was on the loudspeaker all day commentating some of the games, saying hi to anybody who walked by, taking pictures with players, and yelling out things like “let’s see those smiles” or “everybody has to do a mandatory snow angel!”
Running up and down on the fields kept the players warm and the parents cheered from behind the snow fences with coffee and hot chocolate in hand. After every game the players high fived and then plopped down in the snow to do snow angels and somersaults.
The team names were equally as creative as the plays on the field with names like “Ice Ice Baby,” “LAXecutioners,” “Your Mom’s Favorite Lax Team,” or “Chix With Stix,” while the 21+ division had some fitting names like “Achy Bones.”
Former Syracuse star and current Connecticut Hammerheads attackman, Brad Voigt hopped into some of the 7th/8th grade games that needed an extra player and later was hammering quick sticks on the back side with the Chilly Willies squad in the 21+ division.
The older guys were going hard, but not too hard for the most part as they didn’t want to be too banged up for work the next morning. Guys on the sideline were chirping the guys on the field, guys were battling for the ball in the snow, and there were plenty of highlight reel goals.
Some of the kids who played earlier in the day even got to watch their dads play and see how much fun they still have playing lacrosse with their friends.
Having the Snow Game is so important for this next generation of lacrosse players. With so much emphasis on club lacrosse and skill development at such an early age for these kids, being able to be creative and not have coaches yell at them is huge for growing their love of the game.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many happy faces during a lacrosse tournament as I saw on Sunday.
The Powell Brothers gained many of their legendary skills not on a practice field, but in the backyard letting their creativity flow freely. The Snow Game brings the spirit of their backyard games back to life and back to the sport’s roots where all that was needed was a ball, sticks, and friends to play with.
We can’t wait for next year.