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Does US Lacrosse Really Care About Growth?

12 - Published November 7, 2011 by in Growth, US Lacrosse

US Lacrosse exist to govern and facilitate the growth of lacrosse within the United States.  The organization’s mission statement sums it up nicely:

Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse strives to provide programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the game. We envision a future which offers people everywhere the opportunity to discover, learn, participate in, enjoy, and ultimately embrace the shared passion of the lacrosse experience.

As part of this mission, US Lacrosse has an equipment grant program which awards at least a team’s worth of new gear to lucky recipients each year.  Because one of the organization’s primary purposes is to facilitate growth, this is a great thing.  Every involved in the sport of lacrosse either as a player, parent, coach, or referee realizes how expensive gear is and how helpful these grants are.

To ensure that groups are receiving the appropriate equipment, US Lacrosse breaks down the grant program into four categories.  Applicants are unique to each category to ensure fairness and equity.  The categories are:

1. The girls’ package includes: 24 field player sticks, 24 pairs of protective eyewear, 1 goalie stick and full protective equipment for 1 goalie (including helmet).

2. The boys’ package includes: 24 field player sticks and 1 goalie stick, full protective equipment for 24 field players and 1 goalie (gloves, arm guards, shoulder pads, and helmets).

3. The program package includes: 20 field girls’ player sticks, 20 pairs of protective eyewear, 1 girls’ goalie stick, full protective equipment for 1 girls’ goalie (including helmet), 20 boys’ field player sticks, 1 boys’ goalie stick, full protective equipment for 20 boys’ field players and 1 goalie (gloves, arm guards, shoulder pads, and helmets).

4. The physical education program package includes: 30 physical education soft lacrosse sticks and 30 balls.

Because costs are significantly higher for boys’ lacrosse, one would expect that US Lacrosse would issue more equipment grants to groups two and three.  It appears that this is the case, based on the last few years.  Again, this is a good thing.  They even have related programs like the Fast Break Initiative:

Fast Break, an initiative that started in 2005, is designed to infuse a fledgling lacrosse area with resources to launch the sport from the roots up through educating coaches, officials, players and administrators.

Fast Break targets an area which has a limited amount of lacrosse being played, but displays strong enthusiasm for the sport and a willingness to learn and work with US Lacrosse to grow the game responsibly. A Fast Break area should be ready to embrace US Lacrosse, membership within our organization and the resources which are associated with recognition as a US Lacrosse Chapter.

First Stick Program:

The US Lacrosse First Stick Program was established to supply lacrosse equipment, coaches and officials education, and life-skills training to teams in diverse and non-traditional communities throughout the United States.

With the assistance of generous donor contributions, the First Stick Program will provide a multi-year deployment of comprehensive US Lacrosse team development resources to expand participation beyond traditional boundaries and inspire kids to play hard, dream big, and act responsibly within the sport of lacrosse and the game of life.

Bridge Lacrosse:

BRIDGE affiliated programs, in conjunction with US Lacrosse, work collaboratively to introduce and expand the sport of lacrosse in nontraditional and under served communities to embody diversity of players, coaches, officials and supporters.

And Emerging Groups:

In 2008, the US Lacrosse Board of Directors approved the launch of the program, Emerging Groups, in order to allow US Lacrosse to better serve groups in inner-city or under served communities. This program provides those groups with financial and resource assistance to build and sustain a lacrosse program.

From what I can tell, there is some crossover between BRIDGE and Emerging Groups.  Their mission statements are nearly identical and they target the same demographics.  I respect the goals and support the mission of both.  But with two programs geared specifically towards “nontraditional” (minority) and “under served” (less affluent) communities, why is there not a single program dedicated specifically to areas that do not meet these conditions?

Why are there no programs earmarked specifically for new states or regions?  If growth is the ultimate objective of these programs, then it makes sense that US Lacrosse would do all it could to ensure that new states and regions are receiving necessary equipment grants.  Unlike the established areas (hotbeds), lacrosse equipment is in short supply in these areas.  There are no established programs capable of donating old equipment to local start-up programs.  Local sporting goods stores – especially second hand stores like Pay It Again Sports – typically do not carry lacrosse equipment in these new areas.  Established areas have the luxury of both options.

Ideally, this is where the equipment grant should come in.  The primary purpose of the grant is to ensure that lacrosse equipment is available to groups that need it.  These groups pretty much have no other options to obtain equipment; their players cannot head down to the local Play It Again Sports and there are no established programs capable of donating equipment.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the recipients over the last two years.

2009:

A.L. Brown High School – Kannapolis, N.C.
Audenried High School – Philadelphia, Pa.
Capital High School Boys Lacrosse Club – Charleston, W.Va.
Cardinal Mooney Boys Lacrosse – Poland, Ohio
Charm City Youth Lacrosse League, Inc. – Baltimore, Md.
David Starr Jordan High School – Los Angeles, Calif.
Druid Hills Lacrosse Club – Decatur, Ga.
Flathead Lacrosse Club – Whitefish, Mont.
Forest Hills Northern Husky Lacrosse Club – Ada, Mich.
Friends of High School Lacrosse for Martin County – Stuart, Fla.
Green Tech High Charter School – Albany, N.Y.
JF Webb HS Boys Lacrosse Team – Rougemont, N.C.
Jr. Spartans Lacrosse – Sandy Springs, Ga.
Rustburg Lacrosse Club – Rustburg, Va.*
Spartan Lacrosse – Memphis, Tenn.
St. Raymond High School for Boys – Bronx, N.Y.
Torrance Lacrosse Club – Redondo Beach, Calif.

and 2010:

Flour Bluff Lacrosse Club- Corpus Christi, TX
CISI Larry Hawkins- Chicago, IL
Fairmont Middle Lacrosse- Faimont, WV
KIPP McDonogh 15 School- New Orleans, LA
Boothbay Region YMCA- Boothbay Harbor, ME
Ionia High School Lacrosse- Ionia, MI
Vance Charter School- Henderson, NC
Bellevue Lacrosse- Bellevue, NE
Neptune City Board of Rec. – Neptune, NJ
Highland Hornets- Albuquerque, NM
George Washington High School- Philadelphia, PA
Spartanburg High School- Spartanburg, SC
Spring Valley High School Athletics- Columbia, SC
Soddy Daisy High School Club Lacrosse- Hixon, TN
North Olympic Peninsula Lacrosse Club- Port Angeles, WA
Ozaukee Youth Lacrosse- Cedarburg, WI
Skyline High School Lacrosse Club- Oakland, CA
St. Petersburg HS Green Devils Lacrosse- Gulfport, FL
Woodvalley Lacrosse- Conklin, NY
Lake Lacrosse Club- Hartville, OH
LBJ/LASA Boys LAX Booster Club- Austin, TX
Wausau Wolfpack Pups Youth Lacrosse- Wausau, WI
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School- Brooklyn, NY+
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School-Baltimore, MD+
Bloomfield Raiders Lacrosse- Bloomfield, CT+

* Fast Break Grants – program was awarded an equipment grant in conjunction with the Fast Break program.
+ First Stick Grants- program was awarded an equipment grant in conjunction with the inaugural US Lacrosse First Stick Program.

Note the cities in bold.  For the most part, these cities are considered hotbeds or at least very established areas.  Upstate New York, New York City,  Philadelphia, and Connecticut have long standing, well-established lacrosse histories.  Chicago is the hub of the 81 team Illinois High School Lacrosse Association: nearly every team in in the metro or the immediate suburbs. * Baltimore is one of the top two hotbeds in the nation!

Obviously the individual situations of each program merited enough consideration to warrant an equipment grant (though only three were under the special programs).  But what about the other options available in these areas?  Surely US Lacrosse could actively encourage the more established programs to provide some assistance.  They could easily persuade the local NCAA Division 1 lacrosse programs present in every one of these places (except Chicago) to actively contribute.  With so much established lacrosse, it stands to reason that these areas should be self-sustaining and capable of growth without the US Lacrosse equipment grant.

As noted above, only one of the Baltimore programs that received an equipment grant qualified under the First Sticks program.  Unfortunately the website did not include notation for equipment distributed under the BRIDGE and Emerging Groups subcategories.  Regardless, other avenues exist to get equipment into the hands of laxers in these areas on a local level without direct assistance from US Lacrosse.

Removing these nine eight programs from the equipment grant opens the doors for programs outside of the established areas.  Could these grants have been awarded to somebody in Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, or Mississippi?  Surely there were applicants from nearly every state over the last two years.  This is clearly evidenced by the grants issued to places like Memphis, Bellevue and Lincoln, NE, Albuquerque, NM, New Orleans, etc.  As long as applications are coming in from these places, shouldn’t they be favored over applications from firmly established areas?

Because the program is supposed to be about growth, what criteria could realistically be applied that would favor a program in lax affluent Baltimore over Jackson, MS?  How can awarding free equipment to a program in a hotbed be more conducive towards growth than giving that same equipment to a new area?  Is this process based solely on income statistics derived from the US Census?

If the ultimate goal of the equipment grant program is to foster continued growth, then it certainly seems counterproductive to consider cities like Baltimore at this point.  By choosing to award equipment to established areas instead of new areas, US Lacrosse may be taking an active role alienating potential players.  At the very least, they are removing opportunities from players and groups that have no other reasonable assistance while further enriching those in established areas.  Instead of bringing gear to 20 kids in South Dakota, who have no access to discounted or donated gear, US Lacrosse is favoring kids in cities where excess gear is easily picked up at bargain basement prices.  That approach will never help the game grow on a national level.

Luckily there are dedicated people around the country to foster growth independent of US Lacrosse.  These  people move to new areas and donate their personal gear to fledgling lacrosse organizations.  They contact their friends and families to  have them ship old gear to their new home.  They make relationships with suppliers to get discounted and discontinued gear.  They make do with what they have, even if it means not always staying in compliance with US Lacrosse’s guidelines (ie using hockey helmets and pads).  They create their own equipment companies to bring high quality, affordable gear to new areas.

Started specifically to foster growth

It is through these individuals that lacrosse achieves real growth in the US.  These individuals put themselves on the line for the sport.  They get in the trenches and run free camps, start programs, voluntarily coach teams, etc.  They do what they can to make lacrosse thrive.  And they typically do it without the assistance of the national body to whom they pay annual dues…

So I ask again, Does US Lacrosse really care about growth?

*Chicago was removed due to the absence of established NCAA varsity lacrosse programs and the newer history of the sport in the state of Illinois.

 

Update April 19, 2012: The 2011 list of recipients is much more in line with the stated objective of the grant program.  The diversity and geographic spread is amazing.  Well done, US Lacrosse.  Well done.

12 Responses to Does US Lacrosse Really Care About Growth?

  1. JarredHatfield17 November 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    The KIPP Mcdonogh 15 is actually a very good team, it’s a bunch of underprivileged inner-city New Orleans kid, and I was able to watch them play in a tournament last january, and I’m pretty sure they won it. Those little kids just dominated every aspect of the game.

    • Adam Edg November 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

      New Orleans is definitely an area worthy of an equipment grant. Aside from the obvious issues stemming from Katrina and even before, lax is still fairly new in the Big Easy, and the rest of the state for that matter. I support when the grants are awarded to teams like this in places like New Orleans.
      The fact that they are a good team is just icing on the cake. And it is a testament to the real value of the equipment grant program when used to help those in new areas.

  2. Brandon November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Louisiana in general has a ton of potential growth. A lot of the football players enjoy playing lax in the spring in order to keep in shape. The south is begging for a full contact spring sport, why not help them out???

    • Adam Edg November 11, 2011 at 6:39 am #

      Again, I view Louisiana as a new area – the type of area that should be getting an equipment grant.

  3. Brian628 November 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Lets check some socio-economic facts here. That Chicago school listed is significantly behind (in almost all aspects of life let alone lacrosse) compared to the rest of the “established” area of the state. Parts of the Bronx(and for that matter Brooklyn as well) are significantly impovrished. It would probably been better for you to get some revenue figures for the schools listed before you judged the valiadity of the grants

    • Adam Edg November 11, 2011 at 6:52 am #

      Again, I understand that there are economic forces in play in some of these areas. As stated above, if US Lacrosse noted the BRIDGE and Emerging Groups recipients, I would be less critical of their inclusion. Any sort of notation would be great. I guarantee that I am not the only person looking over the list and questioning some of these choices as they are laid out.
      That said, there are still other things that can be done in those areas. Opportunities exist there in the form of local colleges and long established programs that simply do not exist off the east coast. How many NCAA programs get free gear? How many of those kids leave school each year with home and away helmets, multiple sets of barely used gloves, etc. How many of them are from neighborhoods not far away from the less fortunate areas of the Bronx and Brooklyn? NYC is not as big (in size) as New Yorkers make it out to be…
      The same potential opportunities for assistance from established may not exist in Chicago as NYC, so I will remove them from the discussion.
      Above all, this is an opinion piece based on the facts published by lacrosse. It is meant to spark conversation, not to be a definitive piece on the failures and successes of US Lacrosse. And the fact of the matter is that I address the special programs and the fact that other options ARE there and could be pursued. I even acknowledge that every program listed has some validity in receiving some sort of grant. Unfortunately as the lists stand today, it is a haphazard collection of new and established areas with no rationale for the inclusion of hotbed areas.
      I’m in favor of making the grants solely about economic need. That truly makes more sense. But how do they do that? What do they base it on? And how do you compare economics between cities and states? $60k goes much farther in Iowa than New York or California, for example. But as of right now, the grants are supposed to be for new programs in new areas. The other programs are economically based.

      • Brian628 November 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

        Let not compare high school lacrosse to collegiate lacrosse gear wise with a few lone exceptions. HS players buy lots, if not all, of their gear whereas collegiate athletes receive it form the institution. And just becuase New York isn’t as geographically big as people make it out to be(I agree) however it has a population density of 27,012 per sq/mi compared to Chicago’s 11,864 per sq/mi. Why should we punish a New York City child because he lives close to a New York child that doesn’t dwell in the city and possibly has the financial ability to help the child from NYC out? Your argument is flawed because it does not account for the shear number of people new york has. And just becuase a state is recognized as a hotbed, it does not make every region of the state a hotbed. When was the last time Manhatten College or Wagner was good? By your rationale Rutgers should be a top 5 program becuase NJ has that level of talent coming out of the state high schools.

        On your last paragraph. Economic grants, in my opinion, is the only way to go. However when these grants are specifically for equipment(which is how I read them), If gear prices were significantly higher in New York compared to Iowa, every one (including people that buy equipment online) would call the Iowa store and order equipment because it is cheaper (assuming shipping costs are negligable, which they are I order online for everything lax) no one in New York or anywhere else would buy from anywhere where prices are higher than the Iowa store. So either those businesses would lower their prices or go out of business.

        (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_one_price)

        • Adam Edg November 15, 2011 at 6:56 am #

          1. Who said anything about comparing high school and college lacrosse? I suggested that athletes at NCAA D1 schools should actively contribute some of their free gear to inner city programs. It is about fostering a cooperative and sustainable donation program between NCAA D1 programs & athletes and less fortunate groups in their proximity.
          2. I never implied that an NCAA program should be good simply due to its location. I’m not sure where you are getting that. My only purpose in mentioning the number of D1 teams in a given location was to encourage equipment donations and active involvement in the community, as described immediately above. Whether a program is successful or not is not part of the equation here.
          3. Not sure where you got the impression that I do not support any sort of grant to kids in poorer areas of hotbed locations. I do. I just do not think that the equipment grant designed for NEW areas should be used. My point is that it is hard to sell the concept of “growth” by awarding these grants to ANY location in a hotbed area. BRIDGE is geared specifically towards less affluent inner city areas in hotbed states, for example. Recognize the importance of both and indicate how each is contributing to growth. The equipment grant helps growth in new areas while BRIDGE helps growth in less fortunate communities within established areas. Both are valid, but are completely different concepts.
          4. I have never suggested that gear prices are different across the country. In fact, gear prices are nearly identical nationwide. Pretty much all of the gear used by athletes here comes from the internet. Warrior does not change its prices from state to state. A $100 stick is a $100 stick nationwide. My last paragraph supports the idea that the equipment grants should SOLELY be based on the economic need of the group, regardless of area. The price of equipment does not factor in here.

          Maybe you should re-read the article and my responses. Perhaps then you will have fewer objections to the content of this blog. It seems that you are not getting the context here.

  4. Greg McManus November 12, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    We are not on the list, but Lincoln did receive grant equipment for the fall 2008 time period. It was amazing to get box after box with equipment and be able to tell parents who could not afford anything, “Hey, I have equipment you can borrow.” We have grown A LOT since then and a lot less kids utilize the equipment. But, it sure did help.

    I did notice a lot of Baltimore and Pennsylvania clubs on the list for the year we received a grant. And, as was mentioned in previous comments, I do not know the circumstances of each of those club. But, neither state is a stranger to the game.

  5. Walt November 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    First off, you seem to imply that schools in what you consider “hotbeds” are getting grants instead of “emerging” areas, but do you have any proof of that? US Lacrosse is required to make sure that grant recipients are responsible parties and that this equipment will be used wisely, so they can’t automatically approve every grant.

    And lacrosse even in “hotbeds” is still primarily a suburban endeavor, which is why US Lacrosse needs grants in the urban areas like NYC that are shockingly lacking right now.

    Lastly, most of the money collected by US Lacrosse is in what you call “hotbed” areas — so then does it really make sense to ignore that and take ALL of that money and ship it elsewhere? My impression is that they are trying very hard to be even-handed and most of the eastern grants are in urban areas where lax is actually NOT common in urban schools. If you look at that list you gave above, I think a fair-minded interpretation is that it’s amazingly spread around the entire country, even though most of the money is probably raised in Maryland, Long Island and Upstate New York.

    We all want the game to grow. I think US Lacrosse does an amazing job helping with that and I realize from Iowa that list may look odd to you to some degree, but I am very satisfied that these grants are going where they will do the most good, which sometimes will be in “hotbed” areas.

    • Adam Edg November 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      You make good points – especially this:
      “most of the money collected by US Lacrosse is in what you call “hotbed” areas”
      and this:
      “I am very satisfied that these grants are going where they will do the most good, which sometimes will be in “hotbed” areas.”

      At the end of the day, US Lacrosse should be focused on doing the most good. Whether that is on Long Island or in rural Mississippi or Northern Iowa does not matter. I have said time and time again that equipment grants targeting areas in financial need is a GREAT thing. I have gone as far as to say that finances should be the only criteria for the grants, but that is not how the program is currently set up.
      Right now we have a program that states it is geared toward new areas yet is awarding equipment to established areas. THAT has been my point all along. A far as proof of that, refer to the lists above. The Baltimore area is largely considered a hotbed. The entire area is lumped together. Refer to the follow up post for a more detailed explanation of why I see this as an issue: http://iowa.laxallstars.com/defensive-position-us-lacrosse-growth/

      I have vented my frustration and have rested my case between this post and the follow up.

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