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Hot Pot: National vs. Local Club Teams

Someone recently posed this question to me: Are there national lacrosse brands? This question was asked in reference to club programs, specifically high school club teams, rather than to “brands” in the sense of gear manufacturers. So, are there “national lacrosse brands,” and if so, are they better than local club teams?

The answer to the first part of the question is quite simple. Yes, there are national lacrosse brands, and a couple examples are programs such as Trilogy, 3D, and Adrenaline. With the addition of its newest club team, Kentucky-based Stickhead, Trilogy now has 11 different club team affiliates, with its other teams based in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, California, Texas, and North Carolina. Various 3d Select teams exist in New England, Canada, California, and Colorado. Just looking at their boys team offerings, Adrenaline has over 25 Starz teams throughout California, Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Washington, Utah, Nevada, and Canada.

The second part of the question however does not have an easy answer. First off, what makes a team a “local” club team? With numerous “local” teams popping up, in some places it seems like local travel teams are returning to the same “town team” structure of the past. For the sake of this argument, let’s define local teams broadly, as club teams not run by larger companies but rather independently.

So what are the benefits of playing for a national club program, and what are the benefits of playing for a local club team? With a national club program, the two main benefits are the reputation of your team’s brand name and the ability to travel to more recruiting events, the best recruiting events, or both. On the other hand, by playing with a local club team, you are more likely to have coaches that not only know the area and thus the players better, but are also more invested in the players. Along these lines, one head coach of a local club team recently tweeted that “Club teams that are independently owned and operated do what’s best for their kids, not what’s best for the company.” Another big benefit for local teams is that the dues are often much less than those of national programs.

Both types of teams have their downsides as well. With a bigger program, players are more easily lost in the shuffle, and despite playing at the “best” events, many local teams now play at these events as well. However, local teams are still less likely to play at the biggest and best recruiting events or draw the same collegiate attention, and as local teams grow they sometimes become programs that turn out to be understaffed and under coached.

Regarding coaching, one could argue that national programs have the best coaches while local teams do not. I do not think this argument is sound, though, as many times the well-known coaches affiliated with national programs are only directors, not direct coaches. In addition, good or even great coaches can be anywhere, and being well-known is much less important than knowing a lot about lacrosse, interacting with teenagers, and being a leader.

In the end, both types of teams can provide strong experiences for their players. Done right, local teams with strong coaching and investment can be very successful in both developing young adults and placing players in strong lacrosse and academic colleges. But this too can happen with players playing in national club programs. Ultimately, like most things in life, it is not that one is better than the other, but that one may be better for certain individuals. If you are a parent of player looking for a club team, do your homework, learn about your options, and place your child on a team that is best for them.