Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana, and they have a great NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse team. Just think about how awesome that is for a minute… Sure, ND has been a good team for a while now, and has existed as a D1 program for decades, but the State of Indiana is still coming along when it comes to overall lacrosse development. So why does a smaller, private school, like ND, have that much importance in one developing state?
The easy answer is to simply say, “Because it’s Notre Dame, and there are people everywhere who love ND”. But I really think that’s only a small part of the equation. The fact is that Notre Dame works at Growing The Game in the State of Indiana (and other places!), and they have made it a priority for their program.
A perfect example of this work is Notre Dame’s recent Saturday trip to Carmel, IN, where the ND men’s team practiced for over 2 hours at the local Carmel public high school. They didn’t host a clinic, as NCAA recruiting rules can complicate things in that regard, but they did hold an open practice, and it was well attended by local high school players and coaches. It gave the kids, and the coaches, a great chance to see how a college team runs a practice, and to see firsthand just how hard they work. For a kid in a developing area, who wants to play college lax, this experience is invaluable. But just hosting an open practice wasn’t enough to raise my interest.
The impressive thing was that instead of inviting people to come TO Notre Dame to watch, ND went TO the people… even though it was about 140 miles away from South Bend! It would have been easy to just invite people to come to SB, but since lacrosse is most concentrated in Indiana near Carmel, Notre Dame went to them. The cynics out there will say that ND went because it was a great chance to recruit in-state both now and in the future, but honestly I don’t know that organizing an entirely open practice 140 miles away is going to be more effective than Coach Corrigan visiting with a player personally on a recruiting visit. And it certainly takes a lot more effort.
When you add in the fact that Indiana lacrosse isn’t exactly a D1 recruiting hot bed, the above cynical argument works even less. Last year Notre Dame had no Indiana players on their roster, and this year I think they’ll only have one, Head Coach Kevin Corrigan’s son. So again, I don’t think Notre Dame is doing this because it’s a great way to get a step up on recruiting. It really does seem like a pure intentioned move, with the simple goal of Growing The Game.
And it doesn’t stop there. Like many college teams, Notre Dame also hosts clinics for local coaches, where the HS guys can watch a ND practice, get a film walk through, and see how the team preps. And sometimes, the next day, Notre Dame will play a scrimmage so that the coaches can see how they handle game day preparations. Does this show off the program a little bit? Of course it does. But the REAL benefit is that local coaches get to see what the standard is like in college, and this will only help them become better coaches, and prepare their players better for college lacrosse.
I reached out to Coach Corrigan late last week and we were able to spend about 30 minutes on the phone discussing lacrosse in Indiana, Notre Dame’s continued plans for GTGing, and the overall growth of the game. We also touched on athletics and academics, and how maintaining this balance is so important to Notre Dame. Needless to say, it was an extremely interesting conversation. And during the course of our conversation, we also touched on something else that goes on in a major way at Notre Dame… intramural recsports.
Notre Dame hosts a SERIOUS interhall intramural sports offering. And LACROSSE is one the sports! So as a school of only around 7500 students, with a great D1 lax team, Notre Dame STILL has over 10 intramural lacrosse teams that compete each spring. Does that not shock everyone else out there like it shocks me? Talk about Growing The Game!
So now, ND is producing top level D1 lacrosse graduates, MLL players, AND a ton of people who have a personal connection to the game? This is how growth is accomplished the right way! And if even some of those ND grads stay in-state, the potential for further lacrosse growth in Indiana only increases. When those people have kids, their kids will play lacrosse. And ND will definitely see a boost from that.
A state school has an instant connection with the populace of its State. People in Indiana love IU, and as their MCLA program picks up under the direction of Peter Tumbas, I can see the Hoosiers starting to step up in home-state development as well. But for a private school like Notre Dame, which has a truly national (and even international) draw, this instant allegiance can be a little harder to come by. But Notre Dame is doing things the right way, getting out INTO the local lacrosse community and Growing The Game for all the right reasons, and in all the right places.
Tip of the hat goes to the Irish.
Photo courtesy NDLax facebook (unofficial) page.