The Detroit United Lacrosse Association is a citywide youth organization dedicated to developing student athletes of character and integrity who will serve as positive members of the community.
DETROIT UNITED LACROSSE: GROWING THE GAME
Detroit, Michigan. It’s a place that elicits memories of the Bad Boys, the Russian Five, of Barry Sanders and Joe Louis.
What I can confidently say it doesn’t bring to mind is the game of lacrosse. In fact, unless you were an avid box lacrosse fan between the years of 1989-1994, you probably thought that Detroit is one of lacrosse’s forgotten frontiers. Yes there is a wonderful Jesuit University that plays Division I lacrosse within the city limits, but lacrosse at the youth level was non-existent for many years.
The absence of lacrosse within the city has not been for a lack of effort. Many have tried to get lacrosse off the ground before with varying degrees of success. In fact, more recent efforts to have the game take root have been taking place for the past twelve years. Today, lacrosse is played consistently in the form of a boys’ and girls’ high school program at Cass Tech High School. These high school programs are a direct result of the persistent efforts of the Detroit lacrosse community and everyone involved at Detroit United Lacrosse.
Detroit United Lacrosse is a “citywide youth organization dedicated to developing student athletes of character and integrity who will serve as positive members of the community.” The program was co-founded in 2019 by Summer Aldred, Ophelia Epps, Christianne Malone, Ashlee Brown, and Liam McIlroy out of need for high school training programs. The organization doesn’t just offer clinics and training; it strives to provide wellness education and educational assistance in the form of after-school programming.
Detroit United Lacrosse not only serves high school students, but all athletes between the ages of 5-18 through their recreational lacrosse programming at rec centers, a character and career development program called Crosse ROOTS, and high school travel programs.
With the inconsistent past of lacrosse in Detroit, what makes Detroit United Lacrosse different, and why are we to believe the game will permanently take hold? The answer is quite simple: passionate people. The organization is led by a group of directors (Christina Arens, Nick Pietras, Summer Aldred, and Christianne Malone) who refuse to let the game fail. They practice what they preach, not only volunteering their time at the youth level but also by coaching on the high school staff.
Lacrosse isn’t a spring sport for this group. They offer fall, winter, and summer training opportunities at little to no cost to the participants. The DU staff also noted that with the increased media attention the sport is getting, it’s becoming increasingly easier to get more students to try the game, having serviced more than 150 new athletes over the past two years.
While the progress made is admirable, one stumbling block remains, one that everyone in the lacrosse community can understand. When we want to grow the game in areas of the world where funding is tight, or non-existent, we rely on the lacrosse community to open doors and create opportunity. What the people at Detroit United have accomplished so far is nothing short of incredible, but if we want this story to continue, it will take support in the form of equipment and financial donations. The barrier to entry in this beautiful game can be high, but together we can make the game more accessible to everyone.
Grow The Game
If you’d like to make an impact on lacrosse in Detroit, you can visit DetroitUnitedLacrosse.org or click here to donate.