San Diego Box League Soars in Year Five; Four Champions Crowned At League Finale
SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Box League, powered by 3d Lacrosse, exploded to record numbers this fall as the league drew players from across San Diego County to compete over the course of six weeks.
Hosted by 3d San Diego and in its fifth season, the San Diego Box League, also know as the SDBL, swelled to close to 500 local youth and scholastic-age players. Those players filled the rosters of nearly 40 different teams that trained and competed across Varsity A, Varsity B, Junior Varsity, 7th/8th-grade, 5th/6th-grade and Peewee divisions. The league also featured a High School Girls Division for the first time.
Participation in 2017 represents twice that of what it was in 2016. The growth is tremendous for a league that essentially started with a handful of teams in 2013.
“I saw box lacrosse as a better tool to train players,” said 3d San Diego Director Zack Burke, who founded the SDBL in 2013 and has overseen its growth.
“After training in the box and playing box for a season, our players came out of the box season so much better at the little things – cutting, picking off the ball, the two-man game. I realized that a lot of the things I wasn’t able to teach as well on the field, I could teach better in the box.”
Burke, who played professional box lacrosse for the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League, said he saw the need to fundamentally change the way coaches in SoCal viewed the game of lacrosse as a field-only sport.
“Field lacrosse is about structure and discipline and everyone being on the same page, whereas box showcases more of free-flowing style of play and gives players freedom within an offense to be more creative and requires a greater level of pure skill in many scenarios,” he said.
“What we are aiming to create are hybrid players. Some of the local clubs that we now consider partners have begun working with us because they’re seeing the value of an off-season training program that wasn’t overwhelming to the players but provides a huge benefit.”
Each week during the SDBL season players from each team gathered for box-specific training sessions aimed at helping each player rapidly develop skill and learn in the fast-paced confines of the box floor. While not competing for championships, the SBDL this year included both a Peewee Division for players in fourth grade and below and a Girls Division as well.
“By infusing 3d Lacrosse’s hybrid training into the weekly session, the participants get a lot out of this experience,” Burke said. “They’re not just sent out there to play. While unnecessary physicality in our league is strictly policed, we work hard to ensure each team is playing box in the true style, as that is how all the players get the most out of it.”
The culmination of the 2017 SDBL season, four champions were crowned on Oct. 26 as the final league games were played out at Kit Carson Park.
In the Varsity A Division, Poway took home the trophy with a hard-fought 9-8 battle over Torrey Pines. The Varsity B bracket saw St. Augustine celebrate the championship with an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Valley Center.
The 7th/8th-grade Division was won by Coronado, with San Marcos finishing as runners-up via a 9-4 finish. Carlsbad was the last team standing in the 5th/6th-grade Division after a 9-6 win over Coastal.
Most of the region’s most recognized programs were represented by teams or players in the SDBL this season, including Torrey Pines, La Costa Canyon, Coronado, Cathedral Catholic, San Marcos and more.
“There are no established high school programs missing from this equation and we are really seeing programs develop through this type of box lacrosse engagement,” said Burke, who also the head coach at nearby Poway High School.
“When you look at the teams that competed in championships, it seemed to come down to teams that had developed their skill within the box environment. Successful teams were ones that ran their offenses, used the full shot clock, and they stuck the shots they had to. Regardless of who won, at the end of the day, all the teams and players involved in this league walked away having improved.”
Other coaches who served on the benches throughout the SDBL season also pointed out the benefits for the players, observing enhanced skill and confidence in their players.
John Tolla, the head coach at St. Augustine High School and the coach of the SBDL B Division champions, said this was the first year that the program competed in the league.
“The experience my guys gained was invaluable,” Tolla said. “We got to play against a very high level of talent and against teams we will need to beat next year on grass. Winning the ‘ship’ brought with it the confidence and the mind shift we were missing last seasons. Thanks to Coach Burke and all the other coaches for a great fall season.”
Gregg Bensinger, the coach of the Carlsbad 5th/6th-Grade championship team, said only a few members of his team had played box prior to this season, but the entire team took away a great deal from their experience.
“It certainly helps them improve their lacrosse skills and IQ,” Bensinger said, pointing to the benefits of every participant playing offense and defense with a short stick.
“The ball staying in play, the faster pace, playing in tighter traffic – it leads the kids having to make quicker decisions. The smaller field and more contact makes the boys keep their heads up and stay aware of where both the offensive and defensive players are, and it keeps the ball moving. They’re already looking forward to the next box season after the spring field season.”
Leading up to the SBDL finals, news broke that the National Lacrosse League will be bringing a team – the San Diego Seals – to the Valley View Casino Center, just down the coast from some of the area’s top scholastic programs and most active in box training.
In the wake of the announcement, Burke said there was something special taking place on the night of the SBDL championships.
“You could feel the energy during our championship games, with the stands packed and people getting fired up rooting for their teams,” Burke said.
“The timing certainly feels right with the with box clearly becoming a part of the lacrosse culture here in San Diego. With the excitement for our league and its growth, it feels like it’s all coming together. It’s almost like we’re seeing a new style of lacrosse being born in front of us, and this region is only going to continue to crank out great lacrosse players because of how much people love box and are buying into training the right way here.”
To learn more about the San Diego Box League and other offerings from 3d San Diego, visit https://3dlacrosse.com/training/find-your-market/san-diego.
About 3d Lacrosse
3d Lacrosse is the nation’s fastest-growing lacrosse services company, offering innovative training, premier events, select travel teams, showcases and leagues for boys and girls ages six through 18 at all levels of organized competition. Founded in 2009, the Company trains more than 35,000 athletes annually using its proprietary Box-Field Hybrid™ Development System that combines the tight stick-handling and ball control of box lacrosse with the team-based field strategies used in Division I college programs. In addition to lacrosse-specific training, professional coaches help players develop lifelong skills, including dedication, teamwork and critical thinking under pressure. Based in Denver, 3d Lacrosse also has offices in Annapolis, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco and Westfield, N.J. Learn more at 3dLacrosse.com.
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