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June 6, 2022 — When a pool of stars is split

Yesterday, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association held its annual tripleheader of all-star games at the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.

As usual, the game featured graduating seniors from NCAA Division I, II, and III competition in what would likely be the final games of their lives.

That was especially the case for the 2022 tripleheader, as a number of players opted to forego the event to play in another event. That game occurs Wednesday at Lavalle Stadium in Stony Brook, N.Y.

Wednesday’s all-star game features a group of Athletes Unlimited players taking on the U.S. women’s national team in a key tuneup for the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship, scheduled to start June 29 in Towson, Md.

Now, all-star games as a construct have had a fraught history the last few years, with changes made to the showcase events in NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL in an attempt to try to make the event more fan-friendly or more exciting.

But all-star contests also have a use when it comes to rules changes. Last year’s NASCAR all-star race, for example, experimented with the way the cars looked, moving the side numbers forward, making them look a little like touring cars, so that the sponsor area on the side of the car could be maximized. That look has continued this year.

Women’s lacrosse also experimented with its rules in the collegiate all-star game. I remember a game at Johns Hopkins when new rules on the draw were trialed. Whereas an unlimited number of players could crash the center circle and the midfield area to try to win the draw, the all-star-rules limited the number of players per team in between the restraining lines to three — the center and two wing players. That’s a rule which remains in play today.

Now, it’s been a long time since I sat and watched an all-star game from beginning to end in any professional sport. A lot of the time, the players don’t maximize their efforts, if they show up at all. Some take bonuses for having been voted a league all-star, but beg out of the contest because of a minor injury.

But when it comes to amateur sports and all-star games, sometimes you find what is good in sports. Little League Baseball is a championship of all-star teams, not just the dominant team in a certain league in a certain town. Each of the teams you see in the World Series is a group of the best players, and each league is limited to a certain percentage of participants and/or population.

I also really enjoy watching scholastic field hockey’s all-star games. These can be fall showcases, but also the National Futures/NexUS tournaments. Watching the players develop in those first days of these tournaments is as interesting as how the teams do in the championship rounds.

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