The Scoop Winter 2016 - Page 28

scrums involving a large amount of players. With a varying degree of playing surfaces across the state, something as simple as a groundball can prove difficult for even the most experienced athletes playing on a different field surface than what they are accustomed to.

Obstacles aside, can a grass field provide advantages to those teams that don’t have turf field? Martins seems to think so: “Our players tell us that learning to play on grass and this focus on ground ball scooping, running, and stick position helps them greatly when they move to turf fields. Once we get to turf fields our kids really can see the difference and so do the coaches. We feel that games played on grass—and our home field—give us a bit of an advantage against teams who are not used to the grass playing surface.”

While a grass field can help players practice good fundamentals, Murray noted that in Northbridge, it’s imperative that the grass fields are maintained properly in order to provide satisfactory field conditions for the players. This is something that those with turf fields don’t have to worry about. “We work very closely with the Parks and Recreation Department in Northbridge: they’re great to work with and always do what they can to make sure the grass is cut an appropriate length and the fields are lined properly,” said Murray.

Ned Eastman, the Sandwich Youth Lacrosse president, noted the emphasis of preparing for different field conditions to make sure its players are ready at all times for different changes in playing conditions. As Sandwich uses both turf and grass fields for its youth programs, Eastman explained how techniques and the speed of the game change with the playing surface. “We talk about different scooping techniques based on the playing surface. Also, our coaches emphasize how best to maintain procession on missed shots by reacting to the different surfaces (i.e. ball gets out of bounds quickly on turf, but could remain in bounds in longer grass),” said Eastman.

To the casual fan, the differences between turf and grass may seem minor. But even the slightest change in field surface can cause problems for any player. From groundballs to game speed to maintaining a players’ footing—these are all things that throw players for a loop. Knowing this, coaches all around the league continue to make a conscious effort to prepare players for whatever may come their way.

TURF FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT

The long New England winters have a tendency to linger, leaving remnants of the harsh conditions on the local grass fields in early spring. The wet, soggy fields can leave coaches and town board members scrambling for alternative field options. However, this has a tendency to affect the programs with a turf field less. Martins noted this as the biggest difference between programs with and programs without turf:

“No question that is the biggest advantage. Not having to worry about the official opening of the town grass fields allows programs to be outside on a normal size field when other programs are in school gyms or indoor practice facilities.”

Murray and Ginolfi echoed similar sentiments towards some of the challenges associated with a grass field. But Murray noted that the presence of turf fields in Massachusetts have helped with early season scheduling: “If possible, we usually try to schedule away games at turf fields early in the season. As the weather gets better, we find it’s best to play our home games then.”

Even though Martins, Murray, and Ginolfi realize the grass field comes with its fair share of challenges, these are obstacles that a dedicated board of directors, coaches, and players can all overcome. While Martins acknowledged the early season schedule conflict that

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