How Tournaments Have Changed Due to COVID-19

The HEADstrong Lacrosse Club of Lehigh Valley has been eagerly waiting to hit the field again. They got up and running during the month of July, participating in several tournaments every weekend. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there were several changes that would make tournaments look different than what the players and fans were accustomed to. 

Usually these three-day tournaments are held at large venues, such as college campuses or sports complexes, but due to the pandemic many of these sites are closed for all recreational use. This presented quite the challenge for tournament directors as they now had to find new venues that could accommodate. In addition to the difficulty in finding fields, the social distancing guidelines limited the amount of teams that could participate in these tournaments. 

HEADstrong Lehigh Valley assistant coach Brad Brachman explained that the format of these tournaments were more like playdays instead of the traditional tournament format. “Instead, most summer events put you in a pool of teams, had you play those teams, and then they had you get out of there so the next pool of teams could begin play,” he said. Out of the four events the team participated in, only one consisted of a playoff round. 

The referees also made changes to their officiating. “Refs modified face-offs to use the 2014 rules where the ball was already in place. This permitted the ref to set the faceoff while the players were six feet away,” Brad explained. 

Masks were worn by players, coaches and spectators alike and there were no team tents allowed, which discouraged large gatherings. The traditional “tent city” that has become customary at these weekend lacrosse events are markedly missing, giving the weekend the same absentee feeling of many current professional sporting events.

HEADstrong Lehigh Valley came out hot during the Summer Slam Tournament going undefeated with a 6-0 record. “Most of our team has been together for a few seasons, so the layoff in the spring did not affect our team chemistry. If anything, the kids were even more amped for summer lacrosse since it’s the only lacrosse we’ve had this year,” he said. Notable standout players at the Summer Slam tournament were goaltender Chris Cucciuffo and fogos Matt Barraco and Gavin Gibbs. 

“We were in uncharted waters with regards to how to handle this summer, so we opted to dip our toes in instead of diving right away. To date, we’ve had a lot of smiles, a lot of learning, and a lot of wins.” Brad said. 

The decision to return to play was not an easy one, but the club introduced safety guidelines throughout their practices so the team was prepared for what their upcoming tournaments and season would look like. “We have been very much enjoying the opportunities to be on a field again, even if there are limitations and adjustments based on the pandemic,” Brad said.