On behalf of the Board and Executive, I welcome you to the 2019 season!
This year, we are embarking on a new journey to improve the state of lacrosse in our community, focusing on the RRLA and minor box lacrosse. Over the years, our sport has been challenged by many factors, leading to a level of fragility, which became evident at our 2018 AGM in October last year, when many of the board members stepped down after many years’ tenure. This has led to challenges and opportunities for the league, and box lacrosse, to head in a new direction and culture change.
Already, you were most-likely affected by some changes within the RRLA. These changes were derived from three experience surveys the league issued to over 500 members of our box lacrosse community, each zone’s coaches and our officials. The surveys were to gauge the experience of the three main pillars identified as the foundations of lacrosse; players, officials, and coaches.
This survey yielded some of the most insightful and measurable data the league has collected to-date. Of the over 500 members issued the survey, we had a response rate of 203 full completions and 233 returns. For those who completed the surveys, we thank you and look forward to asking for your input again after the season.
Some changes which came directly out of the surveys were:
• Tiering the league, notably Peewee and Bantam. The intent is to have a safer place for our new or lesser-skilled players, officials and coaches to learn and develop without the intensity experienced in an “A” loop. The “B” loop is key to the health of the league, and we must have a place for these players, officials, and coaches to have a positive experience. Tiering age groups where we have enough numbers is a large initiative designed to have broad effects to improve the experience and health of the game.
• We have extended the season into July (by 2 weeks only) to allow more time to play games and give teams the ability to hold more practices. The intent behind this is also surrounded by the concept of development. Having many games scheduled without practice time is not how the game will grow. Players and coaches need time to build chemistry, work on skills and systems. We have stayed off weekends, save for dates in Sagkeeng and the annual tournament weekend which is May 31 to June 3rd, where zones host particular age groups.
• Along with extending the season, we have also added two extra games to provide better value and more gameplay. We are working to find a suitable amount of games vs. value to ensure the player experience is optimized.
• We have started a marketing committee to help promote and develop the sport, which is developing a tangible marketing plan, one which successors at the Board-level can follow for continuity, and one which at the zone-level, will guide communication, promotion and education to our local neighborhoods. New this year, we now have a Facebook page and Instagram account and working on a Twitter feed, so please like, share and follow us!
• Working on bringing back the Jr division, starting with a drop-in, on a consistent night with officials to maintain a level of play. We need to keep players in the game for as long as possible. Past players are a source of coaches, officials, and volunteers. The longer we keep our players involved the high chances of success we retain them as contributors to the lacrosse community. Having a place for junior-aged players to play, is essential to the development of programs such as the Manitoba Blizzard and senior men’s’ league.
• The Officials’ experience is on-par with the player experience. Without officials, we don’t have a game, or at the least, a very good one. The officiating was another main concern across all surveys. We are working hard to dissect and get to the root of how was can improve the training and development of officials. This is like the development of players; it will take time, lots of time. While we undertake the assessment, we ask our members to be patient and remember, officials, are developing, just like our athletes and coaches, so please be understanding and let’s change our culture in lacrosse to one of support for our officials. Next time you are at a game and hear negative comments towards the officiating, we hope you will be a leader and let people know it is a work in progress, just like player development.
Other initiatives underway include working to get athletic trainers attending or assigned to each team or zone (older age groups first), restoring integrity in decisions, with a focus on registration and player transfers, and making it easier for players, officials, coaches, and families to transition between hockey and lacrosse.
At the RRLA we are focusing on the experience and changing our culture. Players, coaches, and referees are all a huge part of our sport and if we can make their experience a positive one, then this is truly when we can see our game grow and develop the way we dream it to be!
The RRLA and each zone are always looking for motivated and enthusiastic volunteers to help move the game forward. If you are interested in helping out, we need you! Please contact the RRLA or your local zone rep to see how you can contribute.
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See you at the rink!
RRLA Vice President
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