Ski Town Shootout set to start
This Friday, the Utah Lacrosse Association will celebrate "Honor the Game Day" and they plan on honoring it in a very big way. The day will be wrapped in with the third annual Park City Ski Town Shootout, a regional lacrosse tournament that brings some of the West’s best to the fields in the area.
The opening ceremonies of the tournament features a ceremony called the "Running of the Balls" brings all of the athletes together at the fields at Ecker Hill International Middle School at 9 a.m. on Friday to build a pyramid of lacrosse balls with each layer representing a different and important facet of the game. The formation builds on ideals like respect and the history of the game, a uniquely American sport created by native tribes. The pinnacle of the pyramid is marked by a lime green ball which signifies the spirit of the game.
"Honor the Game Day’ is part of a nationwide effort by the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to bring teamwork and sportsmanship and positive play back to youth sports across the nation. According to tournament organizer Michael O’Malley, the emphasis throughout the entire event this year will be on restoring and encouraging positive values to the game.
"We’re excited to officially be part of the nationwide effort," O’Malley said.
The tournament will have other new features this year as well. For the first time since the event’s inception, there will be a number of female competitions taking place at Quinn’s Junction. Eight 15-and-under and 17-and-under teams from Utah and Texas will take to the field for head-to-head competition. There will also be three women’s Masters teams, featuring a mix of high school coaches, former collegiate players and recent high school graduates.
"I think it’s great, because it helps promote the sport in our state," said women’s event organizer Kathy Shurtleff. "The women are out there. This tournament will help the state to promote that."
On the boys side, there will be 12-and-under, 13-and-under and 15-and-under
teams to make a total of 30 boys teams from Colorado, California, Texas, Washington and Arizona. This year, they will also welcome an Eastern team from Virginia. O’Malley said that at this year’s US Lacrosse Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., the Park City Chamber did an excellent job of promoting the tournament, which led to the interest of some Eastern teams. He hopes that this kind of exposure will continue to expand in the years to come. Across the board, between age and gender, there will be a total of 40 lacrosse teams present at the event.
"We’re already getting some returns to the buzz," O’Malley said.
He is also hoping that the Western teams can learn from the higher caliber of play that an Eastern team will bring. He says that Utah is not far behind, but learning from long-running programs will benefit the quality of lacrosse in the state.
"One of the reasons we put this tournament together is to expose them to talent and something to strive for," O’Malley said.
The tournament has seen growth each year. What started out as a small 12-team tournament grew last year with an increased number of boys teams and O’Malley hopes to see the girls division continue to expand as knowledge of the tournament spreads throughout the Western region.
"We’re growing up," O’Malley jokes.
He says the tournament is a microcosm of what’s going on throughout the state. In the last 10 years, lacrosse has expanded at a heart-stopping pace, said O’Malley adding a strong governing body in the ULA, along with strong training programs for both coaches and referees has helped to reinforce that progress.
"These all have a long-term, positive effect," O’Malley said. "I think we’ve got a group of coaches committed to improving the product."
"We’re really excited to see it take off as well as we had hoped," O’Malley said.
There will also be an adult men’s division, which O’Malley says will be filled with men from the adult summer league, as well as high school referees ands coaches.
"You’ll have the opportunity to see if those who teach can," O’Malley said.
He is also planning to watch some of the smaller boys play, which he affectionately calls "bobble heads," carrying sticks almost bigger than their bodies.
"I see the future of the game," O’Malley said.
He says that’s some of the best entertainment and competition will be among the older high school teams, which will feature a number of players that will go on to play Division I lacrosse in the coming years.
He also hopes the Ski Town Shoot out will become one of the marquee events on the Park City schedule.
The tournament will run all day Friday and Saturday, June 15-16. For more information on the tournament, including the "Running of the Balls" ceremony and game schedules, visit http://www.utahlax.org.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.