As a program grows and evolves, so do the ways by which it judges its own success. While many first year lacrosse teams are satisfied with moral victories or pulling out a single win over the course of a season, more established programs will settle for nothing short of a state title. Travel programs are not immune from this progression, as can be seen by tracing the history of these clubs in the State of Idaho.
Greg Keyes didn’t know what he was getting himself in to when he attempted to start the state’s first travel organization. At the time, Idaho had only six boys high school lacrosse teams consisting of approximately 200 players. “I was totally clueless. I had no idea what we were going to run in to, and I honestly didn’t really know how bad we would be,” Keyes reflected. However, despite his insecurities about the kind of success they might experience on the field, Keyes led the inaugural Team Idaho U-17 lacrosse squad to the Vail Lacrosse Shootout in the summer of 2001.
His players were only able to secure one victory that summer, but managed to go toe-to-toe with a number of tough opponents from across the country, and everyone in the program praised the venture as a huge success.
According to Keyes much of this had to do with the area’s tight-knit lacrosse community. Because of the small number of participants and the “everybody knows everybody” culture that permeated the league, coming together as a team in a short period of time was easy for Idaho’s high school players in the early part of the decade. “It was more about circling the wagons and punching anybody who was on the outside,” he laughs. Even though victories did not come easily, the players took pride in being ambassadors for the State, and putting up good fights against stiff competition
But the game is changing and with it the priorities of those who play. Idaho now boasts 23 boy’s high school teams, along with 3 MCLA squads, 10 high school girl’s teams, and a growing number of youth organizations. While players still take pride in wearing the name “Idaho” across their chest, many are looking for travel teams that might also provide them with the chance to get noticed by coaches at the next level.
Idaho may be losing its roots as a tight-knit lacrosse community, but the transition has lead to more success on the scoreboard for the State’s travel organizations. Team Idaho was able to crack the A bracket at the U-19 Vail Lacrosse Shootout for the first time in 2007, and in 2008 the All-Idaho lacrosse organization’s U-18 squad took third place at the Sonoma Shootout. Furthermore, while Idaho’s elite players were previously only given the option of going to Colorado in June, they now have a myriad of teams to choose from that travel at all times of the year.
Many in Idaho’s lacrosse community believe that the increased amount of exposure to the game outside of the state will eventually help raise the level of play in their own back yard. While Keyes recognizes that these experiences will help individual players progress, he does not believe that it’s the key to raising the state’s profile. “The players who are going on to play in college and coming back to Idaho need to start coaching at the youth level,” he says. “When kids are getting quality coaching at the 7th and 8th grade levels, and high school coaches don’t have to teach any of their freshmen how to pass and catch, that’s when Idaho will really start making its mark.