There’s one sure way to start a fiery sideline debate.
Make a list.
Name the best boys lacrosse players in Section 1 this season. Please, be objective and consider the intangibles. Academics matter in this equation. Character is very important, too.
Got a list?
Narrow it to nine players and label those who make the final cut U.S. Lacrosse High School All-Americans.
And then stand back.
“It’s the most significant individual award we give out each year,” said Brian Kuczma, a former All-American who starred at Yorktown and now chairs the Section 1 coaches association. “I think a kid today who receives the award should be proud of what they have accomplished because of the parity in the game and the number of athletes in the section that can play the game. It’s staggering when you look at 50-something teams and most of them have a player who could be a standout on a top team in the section.”
For the dedicated few standouts who logged hours and hours on the wall, it’s a crowning achievement.
“I guess it depends on who you ask,” said Joe Ceglia, another All-American who played at Yorktown and now chairs the Section 1 lacrosse committee. “I would have traded my plaque for a state championship, but I can see why kids who don’t have a chance to win a sectional title would focus on that.”
And every season, really good players are left off the list.
This spring a lot of standouts aren’t even going to make the jump from watch list to finalist. We have talent in every corner of the section. We have a growing number of programs competing with traditional powers.
Coming up with the list of candidates is a season-long process.
Back when the best players wore embarrassingly tight shorts, Jim Turnbull, Frank Vitolo and Ted Georgalas were able to pick All-Americans in a matter of minutes. The founding fathers of Section 1 were on the sideline for every meaningful game and didn’t have to consider kids from Pleasantville or Mamaroneck or Pelham.
When the sport began to grow, there was a North-South divide.
A streamlined process was put in place last year to make selection process more democratic and objective. There is now a committee of coaches that includes two representatives from each class and two at-large representatives. All of them were nominated and elected by peers.
Ceglia is the ninth member of the committee.
“The design of the committee is great because it’s a cross-section of Section 1,” he said. “And everyone was elected by peers who trust we are doing the best thing for each of the kids and for lacrosse.”
Yes, the system has critics and most of them had a candidate left off the final list.
Guidelines for what makes an All-American are established by U.S. Lacrosse.
It takes more than an early commitment to play big-time college lacrosse to join the elite these days.
“There’s an expectation now that because a kid has committed to a Division I school that they are automatically an All-American,” Kuczma said. “There is more that goes into being an All-American. We don’t just look at the athlete. We also look at the person.”
A set formula determines the number of slots available each season. U.S. Lacrosse allows one All-American for every six established programs in each region.
This is not a participation award.
It’s important to know what happens behind the scenes. Before the season begins, a watch list of players is assembled from nominations submitted made by coaches. It’s updated halfway through in order to ensure a deserving candidate is not overlooked.
At the end of the season, the list is updated with stats, and each of the finalists is scrutinized. It helps to be productive on a quality team. It helps to play a competitive schedule. It helps to be recognized as a team leader. It helps to be a returning All-American.
“The committee sees most of these players and reaches out to other coaches for input,” Kuczma added. “We have a pretty good picture of each kid going into the final meeting.”
It comes down to a secret ballot.
Each member of the committee ranks up to nine players first to last. There’s a points system in play. Each of the nine candidates with the highest totals has to appear on at least five ballots to be named an All-American.
So make your list. Compare it to the names that drop at the end of the month when the committee emerges from its final meeting and then we can talk.