DU MLAX Feature: Matt Brown's Box Lacrosse Vision
DU MLAX Feature: Matt Brown's Box Lacrosse Vision
British Columbia-native Matt Brown has been involved in lacrosse for most of his life. As an attackman for the Pioneers from 2002-05, he accumulated 137 points in 56 games, the sixth-best scoring total in DU's all-time history. As the offensive coordinator, he led the Pioneers' attack men to a No. 4 national ranking in scoring offense in 2011.
Prior to enrolling at DU, Brown developed his skills across the northern border by playing box lacrosse or "box", a form of lacrosse played indoors.
Box lacrosse is played on a smaller playing surface, with smaller goals and typically larger goalies, compared to field lacrosse. Its benefits arise from the elevated challenges and increased number of boundaries, a few things Brown believes has helped to develop Canadian youths into dominant field lacrosse players in the United States.
"It's the same reason why Brazilians are great at soccer," Brown said. "They play in tight, confined areas on dirt fields and everybody wonders why they have such great feet and such great touch, it's because they're playing on smaller fields.
So when they get to the World Cup, the field is so big and the pace of the game is so much slower for them that they are able to dominate in that sense, and that's the same thing with the Canadians."
Now, the Denver lacrosse associate head coach is fostering the emergence of box in the U.S. with the hopes of developing kids into the dominant types of lacrosse players, similar to himself, that emerge from Canada.
Field lacrosse is the most popular practice of the sport in the U.S., as both NCAA and professional teams have adopted the form. Brown is looking to educate American youths, many who have no prior knowledge of the Canadian-based form of the sport, on the benefits of box.
"They know the field game, they understand the concepts, but we're using the box to develop the skills that Canadians have here in the U.S.," Brown said. "So that's the whole approach to it and that's why we're doing it. I believe it will be a big movement in the U.S."
Brown has his sights set on implementing box in the U.S. to create homegrown talent that is typically fostered in areas such as British Columbia. Brown was recently named to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Box Lacrosse Association, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to promote box lacrosse in the U.S.
Brown, along with National Lacrosse League player Shaydon Santos (San Jose Stealth), has united to take on the mission of converting American youth players from field lacrosse to the box game. They have created a box lacrosse league and put together youth travel teams that compete against other programs across the U.S.
Santos started box lacrosse in California and is now collaborating with Brown, among others, to promote box as a tool that will help kids become better overall lacrosse athletes.
"His vision and my vision lined up, and we were just kind of doing it in two different areas of the country," Brown said. "Now with him, myself and some other people that have been coming on board, we feel like we can make this big movement happen and we can push it.
It's a work in progress. You're going to have your traditionalists with field lacrosse and they're always going to want to play field lacrosse so it's going to take a while to convert some people."
The process is moving along quite well so far. The league is currently comprised of 320 kids and is a mixture of fourth through eighth graders. Over 30 kids were placed on a waiting list during the first session and Brown believes the league's popularity will only increase with time.
"I'm happy with where we are, but it'll continue to grow," Brown said. "This is also sort of a side project. Some of us are full-time college coaches, so unlike some places that can focus 100 percent of the time to youth lacrosse, we try to do the best we can and I think we've done a pretty good job."
Brown's time spent promoting box lacrosse has not taken away from his primary responsibilities as associate head coach of last year's Final Four qualifying Denver Pioneers lacrosse program. As offensive coordinator, Brown orchestrated one of the top offensive strategies in the country. He also played an instrumental role in the Pioneers' second-consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference championship in 2011, including tallying the most wins in school history (15) and their first-ever Final Four appearance.
Brown's hard work and dedication to the game of lacrosse has not gone unnoticed as the Burnaby, B.C.-native was named the offensive coordinator for the 2012 Canadian FIL U-19 Lacrosse Team in early December. The team will compete this July in Turku, Finland, against Australia, England and Finland, among others. Brown is no stranger to the Canadian FIL U-19 Team, trying out and being cut from the squad twice during his playing days. Despite receiving the cold shoulder on both previous occasions, Brown is ecstatic to be a part of the entire experience now as a coach.
"I always wanted to be a part of the Canadian program, and I wanted to be a part of it as a player but didn't get that opportunity," Brown said. "And it's tough to fit in there as a lefty attack men. Some of the games' greats are Canadian lefty attack men and to have the opportunity to go back and be a part of it and being able to coach the offense is great."
The addition of DU freshman Wes Berg to the 24-man roster will add a little incentive to Brown's role as offensive coordinator of the Canadian Team. After a year of competition at Denver, Berg will compete as one of the oldest members of the U-19 team and Brown will aid in the development of the 18-year-old from his freshman to sophomore year, having coached him the entire summer during the FIL games.
Berg is in a unique position that Brown was unable to experience, and with the addition of a player like him, Brown is sure the team is prepared for the challenges they may encounter in Finland.
"Wes had a great camp and has done an awesome job early on," Brown said. "I feel like we have a strong team overall. We put together a team, not necessarily the most skilled players but we put together a set of guys based upon roles and to match up against the teams that we'll compete against. It's going to be interesting but we're very confident with what we have."
A feeling of confidence that will hopefully be carried over from another successful lacrosse season for the Denver Pioneers in 2012.