Yes, there’s lacrosse in Iowa, and it’s better than you probably think.
The world is lacrosse is constantly growing. From Japan to Puerto Rico, we are always pleased to hear about its incredible international growth. As the game grows internationally, it also grows in America. Lacrosse has been big for years in traditional hotbeds like New York and Maryland, but it’s started to grow in new and non-traditional locations, too. Some of these states would be considered “flyover” states by those on the coasts, but in my mind, they’re some of the most beautiful and undeveloped states.
One of these states that many would never think of lacrosse in is the beautiful state of Iowa. When I first moved from Ohio to Iowa for college lacrosse, I didn’t know how much lacrosse existed in the state or how much love for the game many people in the state really had. Iowa is known for corn, farming, and the Field of Dreams – you wouldn’t normally think of the state and the sport of lacrosse.
For the past three years, I’ve worked to grow the game in the state and tried to educate myself on the landscape of the already-existing lacrosse in Iowa.
Iowa Lacrosse: The State of the Sport
Youth & High School
First, let’s talk about the youth and high school lacrosse landscapes in Iowa.
Lacrosse seems to have existed the longest in the Des Moines area and other communities closer to Nebraska. Several very solid high school programs play each year in these areas, several of which produce college lacrosse players annually.
On my side of the state closer to Illinois and Wisconsin, lacrosse is growing rapidly. This last year was my first full season coaching high school lacrosse in Iowa. As soon as my college season ended, I shifted all focus to helping with coaching the Dubuque Bulldogs, a local community club program that has fielded a team for several years now. The community club model seems to be the most popular in the area as it allows kids of all ages to get involved and also lets teams enter tournaments across the Midwest.
The love and passion these players have for the game was truly eye opening to me. I have always loved lacrosse since I was young, but while playing the college game, it is often easy to get lost in workouts and practices instead of pure passion for the sport. These kids once again renewed my love for the game, just like I had on day one in fifth grade when I picked up my stick for the first time.
That is the true beauty of being a part of this amazing sport in a state most people would never associate with lacrosse.
The other major factor for lacrosse growth in Iowa is the college programs.
When I first committed to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, I had no clue how much lacrosse was even in Iowa. I had no real clue about how many other college programs were scattered across the state.
On the men’s side, six varsity programs field teams each year. That includes four NAIA programs and two NCAA Division III outfits. On the club side, the University of Iowa and Iowa State regularly have deep rosters. There are as many women’s programs in Iowa, if not more.
All of these programs are bringing more lacrosse growth and potential to Iowa each and every season. From youth clinics to introducing the sport to new communities, it all helps. In a state of a bit more than three million people, the number of college programs in the state is a surprise to most.
Iowa also has an IBLA semi-pro box lacrosse team, the Iowa Dogfish, that I co-founded just over two years ago.
In the past two seasons, we have noticed more and more people in the stands. More people are joining the lacrosse bandwagon, and more people are wanting to be involved in the sport. Those catching on to the game are the future of the sport in the state. Even the people who have casual conversations with me about the PLL in the most unexpected of places have a big part in growing lacrosse in Iowa.
I know for a fact that Iowa, and many other Midwestern states, are lacrosse states just waiting to happen. It will take lots of hard work and plenty of passion for the game, but the people of Iowa want more lacrosse. If you haven’t coached any lacrosse in a small Midwestern state, I encourage you to do so. It will once again show you why this sport is so incredible.
Get out there and Grow The Game!