A record number of teams from all over the West kicked off the fifth annual Park City Ski Town Lacrosse Shoot-Out Thursday night.
“We’re growing between 10 and 15 percent a year in terms of overall player numbers,” Michael O’Malley, tournament director, said. And this year is no exception.
Boys’, girls’, men’s and women’s club teams come to Park City year after year for the chance to play out-of-state teams that they don’t face during the season.
O’Malley said Park City offers three key things that allow the tournament to continue growing as it enters its fifth year. Unlike most summer youth tournaments which are in the East, “we thought we could have a tournament central to the Western states.” He said Park City is “easy for people to travel to from all over the West. So first of all we had the location.” Next, as a resort town, Park City provides all the necessary lodging, food and entertainment for team members and their families. Third, the fields at North 40 at Treasure Mountain, Ecker Hill Middle School and Dozier Field at Park City High School provide quality playing space for youth.
“When [players] see the quality of those venues, they’re really very pleasantly surprised,” O’Malley said. “The folks at Park City Recreation and Basin Recreation really put out a good product there in terms of playing surface and the venues.” These three ingredients were enough to draw 65 teams from Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, California, Washington and Utah between the seven divisions.
O’Malley contributes the growth of the tournament partially to the growth of lacrosse all over the country. “It’s a really cool game, and so the appeal of the game has really promoted its growth across the country and Utah’s no different,” he said.
With more than 10 teams from Utah, including players from Park City, O’Malley said local teams “use this tournament to gauge how Utah lacrosse is improving” in comparison to other teams from around the West.
The tournament is organized in a “jamboree” format for boys in divisions for third and fourth grade, fifth and sixth grade, and seventh and eighth grade and for girls in divisions for seventh and eighth grade and ninth through eleventh grade, as well as a smaller men’s and women’s division. But kids don’t only play one another; they learn about the history and spirit of the sport.
“The last thing we do at this tournament is really infuse our participants with a feeling for the spirit of the game,” O’Malley said. Based on an American Indian sport, lacrosse has “great spiritual underpinnings” that emphasize respect for other individuals involved with the game, including players and referees, he said.
O’Malley is hopeful about the continued growth of lacrosse, especially within the girls’ division, and plans to expand the divisions to include younger grades as the tournament grows and interest in the sport expands.
“We had to turn teams away, mainly because of booking out our available field space,” he said. “So we think we’ll be able to expand in future years as we add more playing fields.”
Teams are scheduled to play all day on Saturday, June 20, at the three locations. Games are free and open to the public.
For full schedules or more information on the Ski Town Lacrosse Shoot-Out or lacrosse in Utah, visit utahlax.org.