Blogs and Commentary

March 16, 2010

Berger Bytes: Compete with Class; Honor the Game

by Stephen Berger | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Long Island Lizards star and US Lacrosse Men's Division Associate Stephen Berger wants your feedback on all things safety and sportsmanship.


This time I am putting down the flip cam and putting the ink to the paper… Let's go!

What’s going on lacrosse fans? How is everyone doing? Stephen Berger here from US Lacrosse and the Long Island (or as I like to call it, STRONG Island) Lizards… Fuhhgettaaabbboouutttiiitt!

I hope everyone’s lacrosse season has kicked off in some fashion. Whether you have had your first game already, been prepping for that big game or are just lacing those cleats up for practice, I would like to wish everyone the best of luck this season and am looking forward to following all ages and levels of competition.

One of the main reasons I am writing this blog this season is so you can follow me around all spring and hear all the funny and entertaining stories I have -- sort of. If you want more of that, then follow me on Twitter.

My main purpose with US Lacrosse is to take larger focus on the safety of the game, primarily concerning concussions and high/late hits, as well as with sportsmanship on the field and in the stands. I thought it would be a great idea to really push this message out to the lacrosse community.

The Men’s Division this year launched a Safety and Sportsmanship Awareness Campaign, and the primary objective for this is to promote USL messaging on the importance of safety and sportsmanship at the youth and high school levels to US Lacrosse players, coaches and officials, as well as chapters, youth leagues, state associations and high school area chairs.

It's not like lacrosse is unsafe or that our athletes, coaches and officials have lack sportsmanship. But we're trying to make sure that as this sport grows vastly across the country, it is taught the correct way, the rules are enforced and followed, and the integrity of the game is preserved.

Our mission is simple and to the point: US Lacrosse encourages all lacrosse players, coaches, officials and spectators to “COMPETE WITH CLASS and HONOR THE GAME” by adhering to the spirit of the rules, especially those that minimize risk for players and those that pertain to participant sportsmanship.

The key words in there are “COMPETE with CLASS and HONOR the GAME!” (as you see in our campaign logo). I think those key words describe what it means to be a true athlete. It does not matter what sport you play -- sportsmanship is the No. 1 rule in competition. No matter how heated the rivalry is, how much hard work and effort you have put in, or how bad a call was made by the officials, it is so important that we remember why we are playing the game.

Does winning matter all that much? I understand no one likes to lose, and officials are going to miss calls, but when all is said and done and the final whistle is blown, what really matters is the friendship and bonds that I feel are unique to lacrosse. With our sport continuing to grow and flourish in nontraditional areas, it is important that these new players understand where the game has come from and that it has a lot of tradition and history to it. New players, parents and coaches must realize this sport is special, has a longstanding tradition and is unlike any other sport out there.

Respecting where the game has been and come from, in my eyes, is the first step of being a good sport in this game. The second is to completely understand the rules of the game before you become that obnoxious fan or parent on the sideline that embarrasses your son. No one likes the know-it-all parent on the sideline, not the least of whom is your son on the field.

If you are able to respect the game and its tradition, as well as understand the rules of the game, than these are two easy steps to become a better sport on and off the field, and realizing that it's not all about winning or losing.

I mean, what do you all think? Is it all about a W?

I am looking forward to blogging over the next few months, and am really excited to present a new topic each time I write. I'll make sure I keep it fresh for everyone, but if you have any items you would like me to talk about, write about, etc., please let me know. As I like to call it, READERS CHOICE!

I want to make this blog a lot of fun, but also informational, raising some key points to make sportsmanship a larger initiative in our game today.

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