Brian Holland is a life long athlete and 3 decade long elite level lacrosse player having gained his skills on the field playing for long time New York State powerhouse West Islip High School where he lead his team in points, was Captain his senior year and got voted M.V.P. Moving onto NCAA Division 1 leader, Hofstra University under Coach John Danowski. Brian again held leadership roles having been named All-Conference ,captain of the '95 Hofstra team , ranked in the top 3 midfielders in scoring for the '95 Division 1 lacrosse season and was voted to play in the North-South Senior game. He has since remained active in lacrosse through officiating, coaching and promoting the sport in the Carolinas for over 12 years. Brian’s current passion has lead him to bring lacrosse to the Upper State of South Carolina where he has been instrumental in growing the game. Through his company Performance Edge Lacrosse, he is aiming to produce great leaders who play great lacrosse and in addition to his company he is currently the Upper State District Rep in South Carolina and the original and present Head Coach at Nation Ford High School where, in the first six years of the building the program, he has lead the Falcons to the playoffs for the last five seasons. Brian loves to help struggling players identify and learn how to succeed using their hidden personal strengths and leadership skills on and off the field in preparation for college and life.
Lacrosse is the fastest growing game in the United States as one might notice with the subtle reminders of lacrosse goals in the yards of many local schools and homes. While popularity grows one key factor that is being lost amongst growing the game is the inadequate training of officials. Those who call the shots during competition will undoubtedly effect the ability for coaches to coach a good game and teach rules to players.
Will This Affect The Ability to Recruit from New Markets?
Overlooking the quality of training for the officials will make consistency in calls difficult. While varying from state to state and region to region, new markets are having difficulty making sure new officials are familiar enough with the game before taking the jobs offered. All are working hard but they are not given much to begin with. The result is a lack of consistency, the inability to remember age appropriate rules and poor judgment on how aggressive to be with the inherent contact level of this sport. As a coach for both youth and older travel teams, this makes it very confusing to new players who are penalized by one official while another official does not make that call. This is especially confusing when another section of the country calls for a drastically different level of contact as the norm.
How are Lacrosse Officials Trained?
Currently there is very minimal testing that officials must pass to be certified to referee a lacrosse game. It amounts to their ability to read a rule book and regurgitate the answers on an online multiple choice test. This does nothing to help with their judgment calls, alertness or ability to pace the game. These experiences are only gotten in the athletic events themselves or expressed and taught by well seasoned officials, none of which are a current requirement for entry level officiating. Lacrosse is not a sport that you can officiate just because you can officiate other sports like football and basketball.
While officiating needs to be addressed, the difference in rules at different levels of play makes lacrosse officiating confusing. This is why having experienced mentors available becomes paramount for good reinforcement of coaching in both the fundamentals and specific skill sets such as defensive stick work which can be a key factor in recruitment numbers from an up and coming region of the country.
Are We Dropping The Ball?
In my opinion this is one area where US Lacrosse and individual state high school leagues have really dropped the ball. The current focus on changing age brackets and field sizes for safety and recruitment exposure is valid but ignoring who is training the referees is placing athletes at greater risk of injury and poor performance ratings than size or age group alone.