Editor’s Note: Each week we talk to Trevor Tierney about a different issue in the world of lacrosse, and each week Trevor gives us some unbelievable answers and insights into the game. This week we talked to Trevor about urban lacrosse, and how the game can grow in cities across America. He roped in Ben Allison, the director of Denver City Lax to help answer the questions with even more firsthand perspective. Ben answers the questions first, and then Trevor chimes in with more. And don’t forget to check our Part 1!
Here is a little history on Denver City Lax before we get into the questions:
Denver City Lax is a non-profit organization in Colorado with a sports-based youth development program that involves elementary and middle school students playing lacrosse in under-served neighborhoods in the Denver metro area. The organization was founded in 2007, and has since introduced thousands of participants and families to a sport not previously available in their communities. Denver City Lax’s mission is to create educational and life opportunities for young people in under-served Denver communities through the sport of lacrosse.
Last week we talked a little history, recent growth and potential. But we’re not done yet. Let’s talk about potential advantages, box lacrosse, and the future!
Do urban lacrosse players have any advantages when getting recruited? Seems like there is never a lack of wall ball space in cities, so can TOP level players come out of urban areas?
Ben Allison – Wow! Someone could probably write a thesis on this question in order to fully address it. Do urban lacrosse players have any advantages when getting recruited? No. Just speaking lacrosse, I wouldn’t say there is an overwhelming disadvantage though. And similarly, I don’t believe there is an advantage for suburban players when getting recruited. However, for players growing up in a low-income home – no matter where they are from – I will say I believe they are at a disadvantage when getting recruited.
The current recruiting process is based on what club teams you play for and what camps you go to. It’s really everything. Those club teams and camps can easily get up into the tens-of-thousands of dollars by the time that player graduates high school. So, unless a family is able to pay for those expenses that player is going to have a more difficult time getting recruited. Denver City Lax, and numerous other organizations throughout the country, is working to assist players in participating on travel teams and going to camps.
There’s plenty of wall space to go around for everyone. I grew up in central Denver learning to catch and throw in an alley on our home’s brick wall, and, today, constantly tell young players that it is the best way to improve their stick skills. There is no doubt about it though that great players can come out of urban areas – no matter their economic status. I have friends from central Denver that I grew up playing lacrosse with that played, and some still playing, at the highest level. In addition, we’ve had several Denver City Lax players (both boys and girls) that are currently in high school that will play at the top collegiate level if they continue to develop their game.
Trevor Tierney – The problem for lacrosse at the Division I level is that there are only 12.6 scholarships per team for every four years. That means the scholarship money has to get split up among many of the players on a 40 to 50 person team. There are very few athletes in lacrosse who are receiving full-rides, which practically every single Division I football player receives. So, depending on the school and their financial aid packages and any other scholarship funds they have, it may still be challenging for someone from an underprivileged family to be able to pay for college. So, in this case, I would say that there is a disadvantage for someone from a lower income family to play lacrosse in college, but there are obviously exceptions.
Can box lacrosse play a role in urban lacrosse development?
Ben Allison – Absolutely. Box lacrosse can play a role in the development of any lacrosse player. The skills that an individual is able to learn from the indoor game are amazing. You can’t teach athleticism, but you can teach stick skills, how to play in tight quarters, and team work – all aspects driven home to players through the box lacrosse experience.
Here in Denver, we are fortunate to not only have a professional indoor team – Colorado Mammoth – but also some of the top box prospects in the country on the University of Denver Men’s Lacrosse team. Guys like Matt Brown, Geoff Snider, Mark Matthews, and Cameron Flint – to name a few local college players – are all perfect examples of how the box game can help add a whole new dimension to the outdoor game. The box game here has exploded. There are leagues in the fall, winter and summer. We’ve had a few Denver City Lax players over at the DU indoor training sessions, and have even had one participant travel to a box lacrosse tournament in Canada on a DU youth team. What a great experience for a young player from the metro Denver area!
Trevor Tierney – Box lacrosse should be playing a role in youth lacrosse development for everyone in the game, especially any players who are younger than high school age. Check out my reasons for this in a blog I wrote for LaxAllstars last year. However, there is limited space at indoor facilities due to their overwhelming support of soccer and the fact that they are fairly expensive to rent out. As the game grows more, I think there will be more spaces dedicated to the sport and then more opportunities for everyone to use them.
Where is the future of the sport? Urban, rural or suburban areas? Or will it be a mix of all three?
Ben Allison – Lacrosse is most likely going to continue to be a sport primarily played in suburban areas. However, the growth that we’ve been seeing here in Colorado has been spread throughout urban, suburban and rural communities. It is going to be very interesting to watch the growth of the game as it travels west across the country. Right now one of the issues in non-traditional lacrosse hotbeds is that there is simply a lack of knowledgeable instruction. That will change as more people grow up playing the game, and then later give back their experience.
As I mentioned above, ultimately there are many barriers to growing lacrosse in urban and rural areas. Lacrosse may not be offered, there may be no quality instruction, there is a hesitancy to start participating because it is new and it is not cheap, etc….The work that individuals and organizations are putting into growing lacrosse today will serve as a catalyst for the game in the future. In areas new to lacrosse, it is going to take a full generation to really take hold, but when it does, and people become immersed into the great lacrosse community, those areas will be hooked.
Trevor Tierney – The sport of lacrosse itself, is an amazing game and everyone who is exposed to it, falls in love with it. So, the growth of the game is really up to all of us who are currently a part of the game. Are we willing to provide opportunities to new areas and new demographics who have not been exposed to the game? There are a lot of great people out there dedicating large chunks of their lives towards making this happen. Are the rest of us willing to pitch in someway?
If YOU have a question for Trevor, drop it in the comments and we’ll make sure Trevor sees it!