I’ve worked the Niagara Lacrosse Showcase and Invitational at Fort Niagara for the past three summers and have gotten to see firsthand what it takes to make a lacrosse event with over 1,500 players, their families, referees for every game, vendors, and college coaches run smoothly.
It is a well-oiled machine that is meticulously organized, but is a little chaotic as it’s actually happening.
I remember going to lacrosse tournaments as a kid and being amazed at the seemingly never ending amount of fields, lacrosse nets, gear tents, and teams. I would show up to play my games, look at all of the cool gear, buy a tournament t-shirt, and leave once my team was done. As a kid you don’t really understand that every tent, table, water jug, and net had to be set up by someone and then taken down after the tournament is over.
Behind every lacrosse tournament there are a group of people making sure everything comes together. The Lax Federation runs the Niagara Invitational as well as several other events during the year and has it down to a science. Games might start at 9 am on Friday, but the workers and organizers are there when the sun comes up and have already spent two or three days lining fields, setting up nets, backstops, tables, and everything needed to make sure everybody has the best experience possible.
Each day we line up the golf carts around the headquarters tent so they are ready to drive out to the fields and Lax Federation Director Mike Wright walks by and says “there we go I want this running like an aircraft carrier!” The headquarters tent can go from 0 to 60 in an instant with one call over the walkie talkies.
Golf carts and walkie talkies serve as the lifeblood of any tournament where at any moment a trainer could be needed, refs aren’t at a field, the endline balls are gone, coaches or parents are ready to get in a fight over an illegal stick, fields need water, and a dozen different situations could arise. The golf carts rip around the fields with tournament workers like myself in our neon green staff shirts getting asked head scratching questions by parents or yelling at kids to put endline balls back.
Trying to keep the club team coaches, referees, parents, players, college coaches, the park workers, game videographers, the food vendors and everyone in between happy is a balancing act. With the rain or the heat complicating things, it’s almost impossible to have everything go exactly according to plan.
Despite the questions and the running around, there are always pleasant surprises working the tournament. Like driving college coaches or players’ family members who need help getting to the field on the golf cart and those quick conversations on the way there about where they are from, if they have done anything fun in Niagara, how their son’s team is doing, and sharing a quick joke are quick moments that stick with you. Lacrosse brings people together in an amazing way.
On one field 10 year olds could be piled up around a groundball raking and whacking at it as their parents cheer and yell. A few fields over Rising Sophomores and Juniors are doing everything they can to not only win, but also impress the college coaches dotting the sideline. As I watch I remember that that I was in those players’ position not too long ago.
Now, as I’m working a tournament rather than playing in one it is a whole different experience.
Running on 4 hours of sleep with coffee and red bulls keeping us going, cruising around on the golf carts, stepping in to ref a game, struggling to move a heavy soccer net, trying to calm down coaches or parents, and playing pranks on each other are stories from the past few summers my friends and I talk about all the time.
As the tournament ends with the championship teams getting crowned, the players and parents packing up, and after the last net is put away there is nothing better than finally getting home and getting to lay down after the wild marathon that is a lacrosse tournament comes to an end.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite or craziest memory is from a lacrosse tournament that you have played in or worked at.