April 24, 2014

From the Editor: As Good as Gold

New US Lacrosse program seeks best experience for you and your kids

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

This column originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription!

There's an old Cherokee legend about two wolves that reside within us all, a tale of internal strife as told by a grandfather to his grandson.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."

He continued, "The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Wendell Lee first heard this parable in a presentation made by Sid Jamieson, the longtime Bucknell men's lacrosse coach of Mohawk descent. Lee, the director of programs at US Lacrosse, could not help but think about the nascent Gold Stick Program that launched in January.

Lee, who has been involved in youth and high school lacrosse development from coast to coast (including New Jersey, Texas and Oregon) for 23 years, joined US Lacrosse last summer. His passion for the Gold Stick Program, which seeks to provide the best experience possible for youth lacrosse players by outlining seven standards for leagues to adopt, stems from his experience as a parent, educator and community leader.

I really can only identify with one of those roles at this time as a parent. And even though my son has not yet turned 1, I could not help but relate to the Gold Stick mission as Lee passionately avowed it at our most recent US Lacrosse staff meeting.

It's kind of like the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, I thought to myself. That resonated with me especially as I'm in the throes of moving my little family out of Baltimore City and into Baltimore County. Where are the best schools? Luckily, we need not rely solely on word of mouth. There are national and state accreditation programs and various ratings systems that will guide us in our decisions.

Nothing like that existed for lacrosse leagues until now. You want to know that your kid is safe, that he or she is playing for US Lacrosse-certified coaches, that the league employs US Lacrosse-certified officials, that proper safety and risk management protocols exist, that league administrators have a sustainable model built around the players' best interests, that they use nationally standardized rules, that there's not a win-at-all-cost mentality and that sportsmanship and life lessons are held in high regard.

"It's kind of like the Blue Ribbon Schools program. Nothing like that existed for lacrosse leagues until now."

Twelve pilot leagues affirmed the Gold Stick standards in starting in 2013 before the program's nationwide launch. Lee said the goal is to have 36 leagues enrolled by the end of 2014. It won't be easy for them to become accredited. The process, as developed by a committee with more than 100 years of combined lacrosse experience, is rigorous. It's meant to be that way.

Some well-established youth lacrosse leagues might balk at that and do things the way they've always done them. Our sport is at a crossroads in many ways. There's something attractive about its provincial past, but that shouldn't stop us from embracing forward-thinking initiatives, like the Gold Stick Program, that exist to protect the integrity of the sport and its future ambassadors.

Which wolf will you feed?

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