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For the last two Sundays of February, players of all ages got back to the roots of lacrosse as they came out to play in the elements at the Syracuse and Rochester Great Upstate Snow Games. 

The Snow Games were born from all of the backyard games the Powell brothers played growing up where they went outside to play no matter the weather. Ryan Powell brought those games back to life when he got a few friends together and played the first Great Upstate Snow Game in 2016. Since then it has grown every year with 80 teams playing at the games in Syracuse and over 40 in the first Rochester version of the event. 

The Syracuse Snow Game saw us playing in the deepest snow we have ever had at the fields in Marcellus, NY. As I walked the fields with RP the day before the event, there was almost 2 feet of snow that came up to our knees. We made some calls and were able to recruit the help of some locals with snowmobiles to rip around the field to pack it down. We ended up having a solid playing surface ready to go for the next day with another few inches of fresh powdery snow falling that night to cover the snowmobile tracks. 

With snow-covered trees surrounding the field and the sun shining overhead, it was a picture-perfect day with 8 fields ready to see some backyard-style snow lacrosse action. 

Things were obviously a bit different this year with all of the players and staff required to wear masks. The parents also needed to stay off the fields and a safe distance away but were still able to watch and cheer on their kids from a hill overlooking the fields. A dozen players from the Utica College men’s team came to help set up and be on the sidelines to manage each field. They brought some great energy as they encouraged the kids to try between the legs shots and do fun celebrations. 

Playing basketball-style defense and with someone playing goalie, the games were a continuous 3 v 2 where ball movement and creativity were the name of the game. 

In the first round of games, the 7/8 Grade Boys Division trudged through the snow and were scooping up a pile of snow every time they went for the ball. Some shots even stopped just short of the goal line as they got stuck in the snow. The snow got more packed down as the day went on, but by the time it was the Men’s Division’s turn to play at the end of the day the fields were closer to an ice rink as they became slick and plenty of divots formed. They still sprinted up and down going for diving shots, making big saves, and having a blast. 

RP was on the loudspeaker all day playing music and commenting on the big plays happening on the fields. In between games he had the kids compete in the fastest player race, leapfrog race, and snowball long toss to win prizes for their team. 

It was an incredible day of laughs, great plays, sportsmanship, and one of the coolest lacrosse events I’ve ever been a part of. 

The following weekend we brought the Snow Game to Rochester, NY for the first time. The warmer weather and rain during the week melted most of the snow at the fields at Total Sports Experience leaving only scattered patches of snow, but that didn’t stop the players from having a great day of lacrosse. 

By the end of the first round of games, the fields were a mixture of snow and mud, but the kids were loving it as they continued to dive and battle for the ball. Players from the Penfield High School team helped us at the event on the sidelines of each field telling the kids not to be afraid to go for some trick shots. 

All of the teams in each division brought some amazing energy even without the snow. The Men’s Division seemed to have the most fun on the day chirping each other and sliding in the mud. There were plenty of highlight-reel goals and saves. We even saw some muddy front flips. 

You can never predict the weather and it was wild to see the difference one week can make especially when the two locations were only about an hour and a half away from each other. That is just Upstate lacrosse in a nutshell. It was incredible to see how happy the players were to be outside playing lacrosse again and being in an environment where creativity and fun are the most important part of the day.

We hope that an event like this encourages young players to want to go out in their own backyards, invite friends, and play their own snow games. They may not have noticed while they were playing, but having to get low and dig for the ball in the snow, dodge on an unsteady surface, and play in the elements will make playing in a regular game on turf seem easy. 

Thank you to everyone who came out to play. Looking ahead to 2022, we will be back in Syracuse and Rochester, but be on the lookout for some potential new locations. What better way to get back to the roots of the game than to play in 2 feet of snow one weekend and then on muddy fields the next. 

For more info on the Great Upstate Snow Games visit www.rhinolacrosse.com

 

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