The Vail Shootout: A Lacrosse Pilgrimage

Since the 1970s, the awe inspiring Rocky Mountains have been the backdrop for a one of kind event that has become the the ultimate summer lacrosse destination for players young and old. A tournament simply known to those who have made the trek west as “Vail.”

The Vail Lacrosse Shootout is one of the oldest lacrosse tournaments in the country and each summer is one of the premiere destinations for elite high school, college, and post-college teams as well as Masters and even Zenmasters teams for players 60 or older. In 1973, Jim Soran and Flip Naumburg started this tournament where legendary players and figures have come for the past 47 years to make their mark on lacrosse history in the shadows of the Rockies.

This year’s tournament begins on June 29 and Powell Lacrosse would like to honor one of lacrosse’s greatest events that has stayed true to itself and the sport after all these years.

Before professional lacrosse, winning the Vail Shootout was one of the biggest accomplishments a post college club team or semi pro team could achieve and one of the greatest showcases of the best players during the summer. The sidelines would be packed with fans as teams made the pilgrimage to the mountains to try and be crowned Vail Champions. The national teams from the United States, Canada, and England came in the 1990s to prepare for the World Games against competition they could not find anywhere else. The games were broadcast as one of the biggest events of the year.

Many people say there is a magic in the air at Vail. It must be a mixture of the altitude, the high spirits of all those in attendance, and a love of the game of lacrosse.

To really get a sense of what the Vail Lacrosse Shootout is all about all you have to do is learn about the man who was there at the start. Flip Naumburg was a larger than life figure who unfortunately passed away from a heart attack in May 2018, but his influence is still ever present in the lacrosse community and especially at Vail. He led Colorado State University to four MCLA National Championships, he is the inventor of the offset head, inventor of the Rock-It Pocket, and could always be found at Vail doing what he loved.

You only have to look at how Flip’s life was celebrated last summer at the tournament to understand his impact on those he played with, coached, and whose lives he touched. His ashes were put into a lacrosse ball that was then played with and was used to score a goal in the Supermasters championship game with our very own Casey Powell standing behind the net.

What better way to honor Flip than to have him continue to be a part of the game and the tournament that he loved so much.

Always hosted around the 4th of July, the Vail Shootout is a celebration of the sport of lacrosse and of the great country that it is able to be played in. No matter the players’ ages they are all playing hard for a championship, but are there more for the experience of the tournament than anything else. Teams are usually made up of alumni from different colleges or just a good group of friends who want to get back out on the field to play the game they love.

The lacrosse brings out the competitiveness in everybody as they battle it out for a couple days of games, but after the days games are done they can share some laughs and drinks after a long day of lacrosse to celebrate life with stories, songs, and a good time in the wonderful ski town of Vail. The older players wake up the next day possibly a little sore from the games the day before and the festivities that Vail’s nightlife has to offer, but excited for another day of lacrosse and more fun times ahead of them.

U19 club teams like the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) use Vail as a chance to bring teams of young men and women together to play high level lacrosse and have an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives before many of them finish high school or begin their first year of college. There are no college coaches and the only pressure put on the players is to have a good time and compete for a championship while doing it.

More than 2,000 players and their families will gather in the next week to write this year’s chapter of Vail history. The best of the best may no longer play here every summer, but it remains as one of the highlights on the lacrosse calendar as players from all over the world make the journey to play on these legendary fields and embrace the magic of Vail.

Powell Lacrosse is a proud sponsor of the Vail Lacrosse Shootout and will have a tent at the tournament all week where all are welcome to look at our gear and apparel or talk about lacrosse. Powell is proud to support the Vail Lacrosse Shootout as the 47th edition of this legendary lacrosse tournament will surely be another memorable 8 days at 8,000 feet.

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