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The Good and Bad: NALL – Year One

5 - Published April 16, 2013 by in Pro Lacrosse

About a month has passed since the NALL’s first official season came to a close, so here’s a quick refresher on how it played out: the Boston Rockhoppers went on an absolute tear, the Baltimore Bombers closed up shop without warning late in the season, and the Stickhorses put together a game against the Rockhoppers to determine an official league champion. Boston wins, the league places year one under their belt, and here we are.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s get out the red pen and take a look at a few things the NALL did well, and not so well, this year.

The Good 

On-field Product:

If you want to run a legit pro league, you need guys who can play like legit pros, and the NALL didn’t disappoint in this regard. Just because most of these guys weren’t seasoned NLL vets didn’t mean they couldn’t play lacrosse; we’re talking NCAA All-Americans, MLL All-Stars, even guys who ran with their respective national teams. While their box resumes were widely varied (and, in some cases, non-existent), NALL athletes went all out and competed at a high level.

I can’t do anything but sing the praises of every single player who went out and gave it their all.

Fan Interaction:

Another important element of a new league is getting the fans involved, and the players did a great job handling that as well, sticking around after games to sign autographs, graciously posing for pictures and talking with their fans. Sometimes they even brought their own pens, both ballpoint and sharpie, so they were ready to sign anything and nobody was left out. Little things like that can go a long way.

Community Involvement:

It’s always great to see teams reaching out to other organizations in their areas. The Kentucky Stickhorses partnered with Special Olympics Kentucky throughout the year, and the Boston Rockhoppers raised money for the New England chapter of Families of SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). Using your team to help others and connect with the community is always the right thing to do. If it helps get your name out there? Even better. If you’re a first year pro league, barely scraping by? EVEN BETTER! Doing things right no matter what is awesome. Period.

Now that we got the good stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at three areas that need improvement:

The Not-So-Good

Stats on the website:

When you’re running a small organization, I know it’s tough to record stats, especially if doing so isn’t the stat recorder’s sole job on game day. I also know that getting them uploaded quickly isn’t a priority. Even with that in mind, you’re going to want to post some stats. Not only do fans like reading them, we’ve come to expect them.

Who led the league in points, goals and assists? Who had the best Goals Against Average? You don’t need to start off sharing every stat, but at the very least, people want to see the things you could get from a typical box score. My rec league posts personal stats on their website the day after our games. Not sure why, but they do, so I don’t think it’s asking too much of a professional league.

Social Media Presence:

The league’s official twitter account went weeks without posting anything at all this season, and the twitter bio still has the “Returning to the field in 2013” line that’s been up there since last year. Their Facebook page was infrequently updated as well, and some of their comments were of the “Lose 27 pounds with this new celebrity diet” variety, which (although I didn’t click to find out how) I’m assuming were spam.

The NALL doesn’t need to update their social media presence every five minutes, but they can’t let things lull if they want fans to keep checking in during the season. It’s like owning a house: don’t have the creepy one with the knee-high grass and the newspapers piled up out front, because nobody wants to hang out anywhere near it.  

Visibility:

I’ve never run a professional sports league, and I don’t know the financial demands of live streaming a game. Here’s what I do know: at the same time the NALL championship was taking place, I was watching Notre Dame – Denver, Knighthawks – Rush and Stealth – Swarm, all online, all free of charge. If you could flip between games like that, are you going to pay to watch the NALL championship? 

Sure, they only charged $2.99, but some people don’t want to pay at all, or find the whole pay-per-view deal more trouble than it’s worth. What if you hadn’t seen a game all season, and wanted to see what the league was all about? Would you pay just for the chance to see if you like it? A championship game should be the time the league attracts new fans, not potentially turns them away.

So where do we go from here? Since the league’s gone silent, it’s tough to know for sure. You have to wonder if Baltimore’s situation was unique, or if any of the other teams had trouble making it through the season. The Rhode Island Kingfish didn’t have a home facility all year; can they find one by 2014, or should we expect more of the same? If we’re down to 2.5 teams, it doesn’t bode well for the league’s future, though there’s still plenty of time to look for investors in some new markets. Hopefully they can capitalize on their success, eliminate their mistakes, and come back strong for their second year.

Update:

The day after this article was finished, I went back to the NALL website to double-check some facts. Guess what?

NALLWebsite copy

That’s right: as of today, the official site of the NALL has unceremoniously vanished. If it’s not a glimpse into the future, it’s at least a summary of the past.

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