ROCKVILLE – Lacrosse officials for Montgomery County Public Schools got a much-needed upgrade this year, according to both coaches and players: another official on the field and a new partnership with the Washington Area Lacrosse Officials Association (WALOA).
WALOA, which formerly directed lacrosse officiating for MCPS games, stopped working with the county almost five years ago because of a dispute in pay. The county then formed its own official’s organization, Montgomery County Boys Lacrosse Officials Association (MBLOA), to fill the void. But problems arose when the newly formed organization lacked experienced officials, leading to poor officiating and player injuries, according to Bobby Mancuso, a WALOA assigner and NCAA-certified official with more than 20 years of experience.
The MBLOA officiated so poorly that the county held a “boy’s lacrosse safety work group” to address the issues they met from December 2013-January 2014. Among other recommendations, the group recommended adding a third official to improve the game and increase safety, according to memorandum from the group’s final meeting.
This year, in addition to MBLOA taking the recommendation to add a third official, Mancuso said WALOA agreed to take the lead in training the existing and new MBLOA officials to get them up to speed. WALOA also changed its stance to allow its officials to be part of MBLOA so they could also officiate MCPS games.
“We took our experienced guys and we handled the majority of training and classroom time for Montgomery County officials,” Mancuso said. “For the first time since our group was created, we have a completely open-door policy where we are encouraging people to work for Montgomery County.”
They did all of this, Mancuso said, with the goal to improve the level of lacrosse officiating within the county and make it a safer game for the players.
The move to add a third official and bring WALOA back in the picture is “the first positive step in Montgomery County since our group broke off the contract five years ago,” Mancuso said.
As a result, both players and coaches have seen a noticeable difference in both the level of officiating and the overall product of lacrosse in the county so far.
“The two-man crew was difficult and especially with the new organization. (MBLOA) definitely had some new officials, it was a growing process,” said Churchill lacrosse coach Jeff Fritz, who recently landed win No. 200 as coach at the Potomac high school. “Luckily we’re back with three men this year with WALOA so it’s nice to have them back on board.”
Fritz said although it took the officials “a few games to get the three-man mechanics down,” so far this year they have been a “huge improvement to the game.”
Churchill senior Louis Dubick, a University of Maryland signee and all-time points leader for lacrosse in Maryland, said the three-man crew and WALOA’s return has been “fantastic” and has also increased player safety because the officials have less of the field to be responsible for.
“This is some of the best lacrosse you’re going to find around the country, so I think three-man crews are awesome and were very much needed,” Dubick said. “I think it’s really been better for the safety of the players and it’s just been much better for the game.”