On November 7 I published “Does US Lacrosse Really Care About Growth?” which questioned the distribution of equipment grants by the national organization. This piece called into question the distribution of equipment to programs to various boroughs in New York, as well as Philadelphia, Albany, and Connecticut (I originally included Chicago but I nixed that after additional consideration). But even more than those areas, I strongly questioned the distribution of equipment to programs in one of the top two hotbeds in the nation – Baltimore.
Certain aspects of this piece were criticized in the comments – primarily the fact that I ignored economic factors as part of the grant consideration process. I admit that I excluded specific economic data from my analysis because my focus was – and still is – on the use of the equipment grant program as a tool for growth. Before going any further, let’s look at what US Lacrosse says about the qualifications for the equipment grant program (emphasis is mine):
Applicant programs must demonstrate a financial need and priority is given to those residing in a state or region where lacrosse opportunities are currently limited or absent.
While US Lacrosse states that economic need is important, they clearly stress that new areas are the priority. This means that for every equipment grant supplied to a program in a hotbed area, an application from a “state or region where lacrosse opportunities are currently limited or absent” either was not received or found to have less “financial need.” Since I know of several programs that have applied for and subsequently been denied an equipment grant, it seems that the latter must be the reason.
But how is “financial need” demonstrated? I completed an equipment grant application this year to expand our youth program (so the 2009 and 2010 data does not apply to CILA) and am not convinced that the current application presents a clear manner in which to demonstrate “financial need.” Let’s take a look at the relevant text from the 2011 application:
Applicant group must have demonstrated financial need (a program for which current participant and outside financial contributions cannot fully cover associated start-up costs) and an established plan for providing other needed items for start program (beyond equipment).
Obviously most groups are going to feel that they have some sort of financial need, otherwise they would not be applying for the equipment grant to begin with. In our case, the other items needed to start the program have been collected through donations from parents and translated adult players, as well as through fund raising and some genuine Midwest ingenuity. Oddly there is no mention of the fact that all recipient players will have to pay their individual annual US Lacrosse fees before receiving equipment.
Describe the community your organization is located; urban, suburban or rural? Describe the socio-economic status of the community; Average household income, Number/percentage of children on reduced lunch, etc (if applicable).
This is the sole item that really addresses “financial need.” It is the question that gives the advantage to the isolated neighborhood program in New York or Baltimore. Unlike the hotbed areas, most new areas are developing as community-wide programs when applying for the equipment grant. The new areas have to use the statistical data for the entire area they plan to serve, which skews the data in favor of the smaller areas mentioned above.
Aside from the issues that arise when comparing the economics of a neighborhood to an entire metro, there are cost-of-living issues at play. Does this factor in at all? If so, then comparable metro income statistics will lead to the “financial need” objective nearly always favoring East Coast hotbed areas over many Midwest locations.
According to this cost of living calculator, my salary would need to double in order for me to maintain a comparable lifestyle if I moved from Des Moines to Brooklyn. Cutting my salary in half would put me on the cusp of true poverty, which translates to greater “financial need.” A move from New Orleans to Baltimore would not necessitate such a massive salary change, but a significant bump would be needed. Considering that most of the differences fall in the housing and food categories (as most consumer goods are static), it could be assumed that more disposable income is available for items like lacrosse equipment. The accuracy of that assumption is questionable to say the least. There are definitely some economic advantages to living in locations where food is actually produced and where there is enough room for adequate and affordable housing, but for the purposes of determining “financial need” this may work against some areas.
There is no way to know exactly what tools and considerations are being utilized by US Lacrosse. Regardless, there is no way to satisfy each group. Excluding an application from Hot Springs, AR while approving an application from an inner-city group in Baltimore will leave the Arkansans bitter. The opposite may result in protests as well. This is definitely a slippery slope. At least it is a somewhat valid and measurable comparison, unlike when a single neighborhood in a large hotbed metro is compared against an entire and diverse new area metro…
If the primary goal of the equipment grant is to promote the growth of lacrosse on a national level, then it should do that. Areas with a strongly established history of lacrosse should be exempt from the application process. The focus should be on areas with little to no lacrosse being played, not areas with a combination of multiple NCAA D1 teams, professional teams, multi-tiered state sanctioned leagues, etc. The organization should do everything it can to acknowledge and assist with the development of the game in new geographic frontiers.
Programs already exist for groups in established areas with a strong “financial need.” These programs are necessary to bring lacrosse to areas that have long been exposed to the game but have been stuck on the outside looking in. I support that concept 100 percent; in fact, I would favor this exclusively over the new area equipment grants as long as systems are in place to ensure fair metrics are being used. As stated above, these programs tend to be limited to a small area whereas most equipment grants issued to new areas are spread over a sizable chunk of land and population, which skews the statistical information used to determine “financial need” between the two groups.
US Lacrosse needs to acknowledge that there are two types of growth going on here. Whereas the general equipment grant would be geographically based, the BRIDGE grant would be economically based. This would keep the programs in line with their primary purposes. Since most new areas feature the cultural diversity of an entire metro area (and because the grants are awarded with no foreknowledge of the recipients’ ethnicity), there should be no general complaints of discrimination. Basically it would be the best of both worlds and should limit criticisms of the equipment grant program.
* Aside from Des Moines, the cities I chose for my examples were random. I used a base household income of $60,000 for each example. Interestingly, the differences between Des Moines, Hot Springs, and New Orleans was only about $2,000-4,000 per year. Des Moines was the cheapest of the three.
** This post reflects my opinion based on the information provided by US Lacrosse in regards to its equipment grant program. It does not reflect the opinions of the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association or its affiliates. Nor does it reflect the opinions of Lacrosse All Stars and its affiliates.