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The GCLA Way

Our Views on Roster Protection

From its inception, the GCLA has brought forth some innovative
rules in the area of roster protection. But what exactly is
roster protection, and why is it so important?

First, you must look at the layout of our league. We have
several teams based in one city, Houston. With our league's
expansionist philosophy, that situation could become more
common in the years to come.

Also, one must accept the theorem that a majority of players
on any one club team could, if solicited effectively enough,
be lured away from their team to join another. In my experience,
very few players have been totally "dyed-in-the-wool" for
their favorite club team. Just as every man has his breaking
point, and every man has his price, every player has his
susceptibilities.

What happens in this situation? That is an easy question to
answer from my own past experiences.

My first year in club lacrosse in the Houston area was 1986.
The team I first played for was not noted for being very strong,
but they had a lot of pluck. One of the things that kept coming
back to me was that the top-tier clubs in the league would
recruit their top players away from them every offseason.
This would not only feed the top teams and thus perpetuate
their "reign", but it would also keep the lower team from ever
improving. This had a devastating impact on the morale of
that club, and by 1989 the club was gone.

When I first started Houston-Metro in 1989 I discovered just
what they meant. I took recruiting seriously and worked very
hard at it. Within 2-3 years I had the pleasure of suiting up
some very talented people. The only problem was, the more established
teams thought so also.

Now, I can't follow my guys around 12 months out of the year,
24 hours a day. However, when a top-level club decides he
wants your studs, there are many things they can do.

The one thing the top clubs would tell these players is "Why
wait 3 years to win when you can come over and join us, and win
right now?" That was tough, especially when it was usually 
four months later that I would finally discover that I had
lost these players. By that time they were snug as a bug with
their new club!

There was never any point in complaining. My response was to 
just recruit harder. There wasn't any law against it anyway.
Still, as the top level teams stayed on top, my club seemed
to fall just a step short of them, usually at the hands of my
former players!

Some would say that there is nothing wrong with this sort of
"Athletic Darwinism". If blood-thirsty competition is what
your league is all about, I guess this would make perfect sense.

Still, there is little doubt that this type of predatory recruiting
can have a frustrating, demoralizing effect on a club over
the course of several years. It can also cause significant
erosion of league morale as well, as I saw the number of club
teams in that league drop dramatically over a period of years.

So, when the GCLA was formed in 1995 we decided to try something
different.

Being one of the more established clubs in this new league,
Metro now found itself at the top of the totem pole. Still, I
did not want any of our new teams to suffer the same fate that 
we had for several years. In other words, if one of our new teams
did a good enough job recruiting to merit a championship-
level effort, than they would be rewarded for it. In no way
was Metro to be allowed to do to them what other teams had done
to Metro.

Basically, what the league decided was this: That a player can
leave from one club to another during the offseason. However, 
that move must be unsolicited and of the player's own initiative.
To further reduce suspiscion, the team gaining the player had
to notify the team losing the player within 48 hours, just to
give the losing team one last chance to talk him out of it.

One may ask, "How can you possibly enforce this?" Well, its
easier than one might think. If a club were to attempt to
sway another player over to them, but failed, than that player
would have knowledge of that attempt. It has so far been
a tremendous deterrent, as problems have been few.

Many times players have switched teams within our league,
but complaints about predatory recruiting have been almost nil.
As a result, a club can use its own initiative and ingenuity
to bring new recruits onto their team without the fear that
Metro or any other team will come in and steal them.

Another thing that this does is that it FORCES the clubs to
roll up their sleeves and find new players. Like most big
cities, Houston has far more experienced lacrosse players
than are currently playing. This increases the number of
players in the league and allows the league to grow.

One other thing that this sort of roster protection does is
that it forces us to respect each others' teams, their players,
and their recruiting efforts. This has no doubt fostered a
great deal of goodwill among our membership.

In a league that is designed to expand and grow, we have found
that roster protection is an absolutely essential element.