Sarah Honan (left), with her CPOA classmates.
CPOA Program Sees Success in Year Two
The College Players Officials Academy (CPOA), a joint initiative between the IWLCA and US Lacrosse, trained and rated 26 new umpires at two sites this spring; these new umpires are now available to work lacrosse events this summer. CPOA sessions allow for those current or recently graduated collegiate players to undergo an expedited training schedule to complete their training and stand for an umpire rating in a single weekend.
“Women's lacrosse is growing exponentially around the country, and our challenge was, and still is, to recruit more officials to keep pace with those demands,” said Alice Lee, a member of the IWLCA Board of Directors, and chair of the Officials Recruitment and Development Committee. “We are hopeful the College Players Officials Academies will be a step in the right direction. US Lacrosse has been an incredible partner in this project and we are excited to train current and former players of the game to become the next generation of women's lacrosse officials.”
According to Liz Brush, Manager of the Women’s Officials Education Program for US Lacrosse, “The curriculum for the CPOA clinic is designed specifically for the athlete that has played women’s lacrosse and therefore is coming to the clinic with a solid knowledge base of the game. These participants already know how a game is administered such as starting and stopping play, boundaries, and scoring and timing; as well as what constitutes most of the fouls and penalties.”
The typical schedule for a CPOA clinic consists of a classroom training session on Friday evening, followed by on-field training on Saturday. Sarah Honan, a 2017 graduate of William Smith College, participated in the CPOA clinic held in Conjunction with the IWLCA New England Cup presented by New Balance last weekend. “We completed classroom training on Friday and then were able to get on the field on Saturday. We started by ‘shadowing’ a more experienced official in the morning, then built up into making some of the calls in a game with help from the experienced official,” Honan said. “We worked up to doing a game by ourselves with consistent feedback from the trainers throughout the game, until the last game, when we officiated solo to attain a rating.”
The idea for creating a program to fast-track the training for collegiate players was born from the idea that those with high level playing experience are likely to make good lacrosse officials, and getting them out on the field quickly provides them with hands-on experience to jump-start their officiating career. Brush explained, “College players understand the fitness level needed to keep up with play. The focus of the training becomes how to blow a whistle and communicate with signals, how to administer penalties correctly and efficiently, and the official’s positioning on the field. We can capitalize on their experience with the game to expedite their classroom training. Most of the time we spend with the participants is on field training on tournament games; this experience is the best learning tool out there.”
The benefit to the participants is immediate, since they can begin working tournaments once they have been rated, and their rating travels with them wherever they want to officiate. For many participants, including Honan, making the transition into officiating couldn’t have come at a better time: “I thought learning to officiate would be a great way to stay in the game. I wasn’t ready to accept that my lacrosse career was over. This is a great way to stay involved in the game that has given so much to me.”
Trainer Connie Chapin shows Sarah Honan how to properly set up the draw.
US Lacrosse and the IWLCA make the training more accessible for current players and recent graduates by underwriting a large portion of the cost for training and certification. Participants pay a small fee to participate in the program, and after their two-day session, they leave with an official’s jersey, flag, cards, and a whistle, a rating they’ve earned, and the confidence to control a game. But Honan admitted that the process requires an adjustment: “The hardest part is seeing the game from an official’s perspective rather than the player’s perspective. Its challenging to have the courage to blow the whistle with confidence while learning the mechanics of officiating. As a player, you don’t always focus off ball, but you have to learn to do that as an official.”
Connie Chapin, an official from Connecticut, served as one of the trainers for the CPOA session held in conjunction with the New England Cup. She believes the College Player Officials Academy clinics have the potential to bolster the women’s lacrosse officials pool with strong candidates. “What better resource could we possibly have to fulfill the need for quality officials than to work with current and former college women’s lacrosse players? This year’s CPOA participants were experienced, knowledgeable, fit, and fast – all qualities needed to establish a solid umpire base. The transition from lacrosse player to lacrosse umpire over the course of the Academy was truly remarkable! I believe that the IWLCA and US Lacrosse have found a viable solution for building and enhancing our umpire ranks. It is truly a win-win situation!”