Ninth Annual Fall Brawl Lacrosse Tournament On Tap
Teams from Battlefield, Colonial Forge, Forest Park, Hylton High, Kettle Run, Liberty, Osbourn Park and Seton to participate
Lacrosse is typically known as a spring sport at the scholastic level and a club sport in the summer. But the weekend before Thanksgiving some 2,000 student-athletes from northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC, will meet in the ninth annual Fall Brawl Lacrosse Tournament.
The event was conceived by Marty Joyner, a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher, to help student-athletes prepare for the next season. Joyner said that in 2002 there were just a few fall tournaments, many of which required travel. So, he called on family members and friends who have a similar love for lacrosse to help him organize the first Fall Brawl. Now, tournaments are "a dime a dozen," which he calls a testament to the fact they continue to "survive and grow each year."
A high school coach for 22 years and recently certified to officiate at the collegiate level, Joyner says his initial reason for organizing the tournament was somewhat selfish: he wanted all of the players from his school team to have an opportunity to play together in the off-season. He talked with some of the kids' fathers about coaching a team for the tournament because high school coaches are not allowed to work with their student-athletes outside of the sport's official season.
This year's tournament will have close to 140 teams with approximately 15 players per team, something Joyner says he never envisioned. The event now has seven divisions, including one for girls, and it has expanded from a one-day event to a two-day tournament played at two locations.
Saturday, November 20, the JV Division meets at Robinson High School on Sideburn Road in Fairfax. The U9, U11, U13, U15 Divisions will square off at Lanier Middle School on Jermantown Road, also in Fairfax. The Varsity Division will play Sunday, November 21, at Robinson. And the Girls Fall Brawl will be held the following Sunday, November 28, at Lanier.
"What has fallen into place here in the sport model in the area is that there will be offseason clinics sponsored by the area's youth associations. The tournament gives those participants an opportunity to play together once as a team before they meet again in Spring." Thus, Joyner says, "the tournament creates a lot of camaraderie."
Joyner says his primary goal was to make it a fun tournament. While he fully supports tournaments that invite college coaches and scouts in hopes of some players getting recruited, Joyner says he didn't want a fierce competition factor. He achieved that by having all players wear tournament T-shirts instead of their school uniforms. And instead of each team having the traditional 10 players on the field he cut that to seven so the athletes get more opportunities to touch the ball.
Additionally, games are only 25 minutes so that if a score does get out of hand it does not become an embarrassment for the losing team. The shorter games also give each team an opportunity to face six other teams (four for the younger divisions) so they can go up against more teams with different strengths and weaknesses.
Joyner says the tournament is also an opportunity for parents to "have an absolute blast." With all teams from a particular division playing on the same field the entire day, hundreds of parents stake out a spot close to the field and set up tables, tents and chairs, usually next to parents from other schools so they have a chance to meet new people with a similar interest.
And there is a charitable aspect to this tournament. Spectators were asked to bring used clothing and nonperishable food that will be donated to a needy organization. Additionally, proceeds from concession sales will go to the Finish Hard Foundation, created after Dennis Stewart, assistant head coach for Boys Lacrosse at Lake Braddock High School, suffered a massive stroke in 2009. The foundation helps with Stewart's needs, stroke awareness and continued growth of lacrosse.
Joyner notes the sport has had a difficult time being accepted across all demographics. Typically, he says, the sport shows up in the private schools first, then branches out to the public schools in more affluent communities, and eventually other suburban schools. But not many teams can be found in urban areas primarily, Joyner says, because of equipment costs, which can run as much as $500 for pads, gloves, helmet and stick. U.S. Lacrosse does have funding available for minority programs.
Further information about the organizations mentioned in this article can be found at http://www.fairfaxfallbrawl.com/, http://www.finishhardfoundation.org/http://www.uslacrosse.org/. Tournament Director Marty Joyner can be contacted at and firstname.lastname@example.org.