Next Time, It's Real: Shay, Men's Sixes Team Set for The World Games


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Next time, it’s for real.

Andy Shay’s words at the end of Thursday afternoon’s U.S. men’s Sixes practice were brief. At this point, there isn’t much left to say. After three training camps, a handful of events and a great deal of anticipation, there were just 24 hours separating Shay’s team and the opening game of The World Games against Germany on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Central.

Showcased on the international stage for the first time, Sixes is lacrosse’s newest discipline, a blend of box and field lacrosse with innovative rules meant to enhance both the pace and fan engagement.

“We’re trying to view it as a different sport,” coach Bobby Benson said. “There are definitely some box elements that exist, there are some field elements, definitely some basketball elements, probably some hockey elements. We’re looking at a little bit of everything. It’s its own unique sport.”

Outside of the USA Lacrosse Super Sixes event last October and several other region-specific events across the globe, Sixes has yet to get its time to shine on a large scale. That changes Friday.

That also means that there isn’t any amount of preparation that can get the athletes ready for what’s to come. Sure, the team has run through schemes, situations and general game plans, but it’s impossible to prepare for the unknown.

“At this point, we feel like we know what we’re going to do,” Justin Guterding said. “It’s just more so preparing and the unknowns about what Germany’s going to play like, what Great Britain’s going to play like. It’s going to be cool watching different styles, watching these guys play and adjusting on the fly.”

Benson, an offensive mastermind who said the Maryland men’s lacrosse team used Sixes as a means of fortifying its offense during its NCAA championship run, agreed that it’s unchartered territory. His players will focus less on sets and plays and more on recognizing situations and opportunities.

“We’ve talked a lot over the past year about more concepts, spacing and philosophy — maybe more holistic than just drawing up plays,” Benson said. “Being able to recognize situations and maximize those situations that occur.”

In an ironic juxtaposition to the fast-paced, helter-skelter nature of Sixes, the men’s team walked slowly and proudly onto the field at Protective Stadium for opening ceremonies Thursday night in the Magic City. They wore gray shorts and blue t-shirts and waved to the sellout crowd as they represented their country.


The pageantry of opening ceremonies — featuring performances by Nelly, Tony! Toni! Toné! and a few offbeat acts, like a man riding atop a drone like a sky surfboard — will be the only thing superfluous about the U.S. team over the next six days.

It’s all business in search of a gold medal.

“All of us coming into this weren’t really sure what to expect, but I think that every one of us would say we love the Sixes discipline,” Benson said. “I think at the youth level, this is what youth lacrosse should be playing in the United States and across the globe. I think the players will be more talented. They’ll be better skilled.”

Starting Friday, it’ll be on display for the whole world to see. Next time, it’s for real.


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