Editor’s Note: Welcome to our second Game Grower Spotlight for 2014. Here at Lacrosse All Stars, our mission has been to Grow The Game since day one. Not only is it our passion to Grow The Game, but we recognize it is the goal of countless others across the world. We want to take the time to honor those that make up the backbone of the lacrosse community, and this week we honor Ben Allison of Denver, CO.
Denver City Lax is a not-for-profit youth lacrosse initiative based out of Denver, Colorado. I don’t want to spend too much time telling you what Denver City Lax is all about, because their website does a fantastic job of highlighting the goals and successes of such a wonderful organization. I do want to spend time highlighting one of the founders of the group, Ben Allison, who, with his father, Rod, began the development plans for the mission to grow the game amongst intercity youth in Colorado’s largest city, back when Ben was in high school.
Now, Ben is out of college and working with the mission full-time and the Allisons, along with Eric Law, Dillon Roy, Bill Tierney and many other gracious individuals, continue to grow the program and positively impact the lives of countless individuals in the Denver metro area.
Ben believes in the education, mentorship and encouragement of intercity youth and he understands lacrosse can be used as one of many tools to help him be successful in making a difference in the kids’ lives.
Watch the following video showcasing some of the many great things being done by Denver City Lax out in Colorado!
The following questions were answered by Ben in relation to Denver City Lax and his involvement in Colorado with lacrosse.
Please describe the state of lacrosse in your area.
Lacrosse is booming in Denver. There’s close to 500 youth boys and girls teams. Competition and talent at the HS level continues to flourish. The CU and CSU men’s club teams are consistently at the top. The University of Colorado Women’s team is in their first year as a D1 program. The Air Force Academy Men’s team is good. The University of Denver Women’s team is coming off a stellar 2013 season, and The University of Denver Men’s team, led by Bill Tierney and Matt Brown, has been to 2 of the last 3 NCAA Final Fours. Throw in the Denver Outlaws and the Mammoth, and it’s easy to see why the University of Denver has coined the city “The Lacrosse Capital of the West.”
In what way(s) are you involved with growing the game in your area?I’ve been involved in growing the sport of lacrosse in underserved urban areas of Denver. These urban communities are one of the few areas that continue to not feel the impact of our growing sport. This is true across the whole country. The reason for this is that lacrosse is not available, or even known, in many urban areas, and mainly because of the expensive cost of playing the sport. That is why we started Denver City Lax with the goal of removing the financial barrier to the sport by providing all equipment, registration fees, etc at NO COST to the participant or family. Ability to pay should not be a deterrent from playing lacrosse, and experiencing the enrichment & educational opportunities associated with the game.
We currently have over 200 full time participants taking part in our lacrosse based youth development program.
How did you get involved? Where did you learn about lacrosse?
I started playing lacrosse in the 4th grade. I was introduced to the sport by my basketball coach Rob Gormley. He handed me a stick after a basketball game, and I was hooked. Rob now runs Denver Lacrosse Club, which is the largest youth club in the state of CO.
What is your favorite thing about our sport? What drew you in?
It’s got to be the speed of the game. That’s what draws everyone to the sport. But my favorite thing about lacrosse is it’s natural connection to higher education – it’s unlike any other sport.
If you could change one thing about our sport, what would it be and why?
Off the field, I would like to remove the overindulgent alcohol culture that surrounds the sport at the college and adult levels. I think it gives lacrosse players a bad name, and I certainly hope it’s cleaned up before our young City Lax participants get to that age.
Do you have a favorite lacrosse team? Favorite player(s)? Why do you like them?
My favorite team is the University of Denver Men’s Lacrosse team. Hands down! Their teamwork on offense and the way they share the ball is a thing of beauty. The team and their coaching staff has also been very involved with Denver City Lax. Coach Tierney and his staff have been on board with City Lax since the day they got started in 2010. We feel very lucky to have a connection with their great program.
My favorite player is Dillon Roy (Denver Outlaws #91). On the field, he’s a utility man. He does whatever is necessary to make the team better. Off the field, he’s passionate about Denver City Lax. He’s devoted a lot of time and energy into the organization.
I also love watching Eric Law (Denver Outlaws #15). He’s a student of the game, hard worker, and consistently makes the right play. Eric has also played an integral role in Denver City Lax for the past year.
What do you do outside of lacrosse? (i.e. school, career, other activities…)
I’m pretty consumed by lacrosse. We’re constantly striving to get better at what we do and offer more opportunities, so it keeps me pretty busy. I do love getting away occasionally and going up to my Mom’s ranch in Steamboat Springs, CO.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment when it comes to helping grow the game in your community?
1. When we first started Denver City Lax in 2007, very few people in the neighborhoods we work in knew anything about lacrosse. Since then, we’ve not only introduced thousands of participants to the sport but also a whole community.
2. One of our proudest moments will happen later this spring when our first group of Denver City Lax participants will graduate HS and move on to college. They all started with us in 2007 when they were in fifth grade. Seven of them will be attending college, and all will be the first college attendees in their family!
What do you think the biggest obstacle for growth of lacrosse is in your area?
In the neighborhoods that we work in, ability to pay and availability of the sport are the two biggest obstacles. However, as a whole, the biggest obstacle for lacrosse growth in Denver is quality coaches. There’s a lot of coaches that are new to the sport, and therefore struggle with proper instruction. It’s a natural growing pain of a new sport. That said, at Denver City Lax we put a lot of time and focus into finding the most knowledgeable coaches we can get and training them. We’re fortunate to have Dillon Roy and Eric Law of the Denver Outlaws on board, in addition to players from the University of Denver, Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Fairfield, Cal Berkeley, Boston University, and Amherst to name just a few.
Who, or what, inspires you most to help grow the game?
So many things about Denver City Lax inspire us to continue to grow the sport in underserved urban areas. Every day the big smiles I see at practice reinforce my love for the sport and City Lax. What inspires me the most though is when our participants are able to take advantage of the enrichment and educational opportunities associated with the sport – whether that be traveling the country, going to a leadership camp, or attending college to name a few. That is what our organizational mission is, and what inspires us to continue to work hard everyday to make those opportunities available for as many participants as possible.
Also, images like this are pretty cool too!