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[mks_col][mks_two_thirds] Jake Steinfeld, Co-founder of Major League Lacrosse and Body By Jake, recently announced the formation of the Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse along with the help of ESPN and Coca Cola. This was big news and something I wanted to hear more about, but it was also an opportunity to talk to a successful businessman who has an uncanny fascination with our sport.
Jake was thrilled to hop on a call with me to talk about the industry and what he’s working on next, but before we got to the talk about launch of his new event, I kicked things off with what we all want to know… After these years, Jake, why do you keep coming back to lacrosse?
Over the next 45 minutes, Jake and I will dive into topics like early recruiting, role models, family, our hopes and dreams for the future of professional sports, as well as the most important thing: the kids.
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1-on-1 with Jake Steinfeld: Just The Facts
Not into podcasts? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know from my interview with Jake Steinfeld:
Why keep coming back to lacrosse? Lacrosse is a game Jake was admittedly never great at playing, but it is a game he truly loved. This love has only grown since linking up with Dave Morrow (the founder of Warrior) in 1998.
Jake has been interested in the growth of the league and the sport over the past 17 years when he stepped into the industry headfirst. Lacrosse became a more substantial business over the past 15 years in general, and now we see that an estimated 95% of pro lacrosse athletes have found a way to pursue the sport as a full-time job.
Compared to the history of the other major professional sporting leagues, Major League Lacrosse is not too far behind. Although MLL is still small in year 15, it has grown with the sport, and will go a long way with their young audience in the future. MLB players were painting houses, NBA playoff games were on tape-delay. Each major league of today had growing pains and they all started out small.
Shot clocks and 2 point lines were never implemented to be publicity stunts or gimmicks but to push the game to new heights and add variables of excitement that fans had never been exposed to before. 2 point lines spread the offense out, forcing defenses to pressure out wider. This lets attackmen get creative inside, creating more highlight plays across the field.
Jake believes that college lacrosse is essentially begging for the shot clock to speed up the NCAA to meet the tempo of the MLL. Playing lacrosse without a shot clock is like having a thoroughbred racehorse pull a plow, it’s just slowing them down. I disagree with Jake here, but he does make a compelling argument for a permanent shot clock.
The MLL is here to stay because of their strong code of ethics and understanding of the game and the market. Jake Steinfeld gave thanks to David Gross, and said MLL has been able to grow each year because of his selfless, and often thankless, work.
12-17 year old boys are the key demographic and the focus of the MLL because when they were born the league actually existed. They are raised in the sport, and have grown up exposed to MLL. Jake Steinfeld believes fandom is not learned, but inherited from family and culture. Lacrosse is creeping into the bloodstream of American sports fans and they are now able to pass down that fandom to their offspring.
As Jake was watching Mo’ne Davis pitching in the LLWS for baseball, he was truly intrigued by the pureness of the age of the athletes, and the fun stories surrounding the kids. This spawned the idea for him to launch the LLWS for lacrosse.
As the father of a 13 year old lacrosse player, Steinfeld saw that he was playing tournaments to win bids to other tournaments, but it never led to any sort of championship. In baseball, kids grow up practicing with the ambition of playing on the largest stage for their age. The lacrosse LLWS was founder to give young players the destination for setting their goals while still competing in youth sports.
One time, one team, one dream… you’re only 13 once. This should be the greatest, most fun event that a kid can enjoy! Jake Steinfeld was pretty effusive about this point!
Next year, the focus will expand to girls and the international game which will be opened up to regional play, much like the baseball model. Players will have a chance to win competitions around the country for a bid to the big event each July.
Over 4th of July weekend, the Denver Outlaws average over 30k fans and partnering the event with the MLL’s biggest event of the season seemed to be a no-brainier. The championship game will be played before the Outlaws game in Mile High Stadium and the players will have full access to the pro locker rooms on top of the live broadcast on ESPN 2.
Coca-Cola, ESPN, and Warrior all quickly jumped on board to give, according to Jake, the coolest uniforms on one of the country’s biggest days, thus creating one of the most special youth lacrosse events in history. In the future, all 16 teams will march into the stadium with team flags and American flags, placing them around the faceoff circle and the two competing teams will have their flags planted in the middle creating a very special moment for these kids that mimics a true international or Olympic event.
If college coaches want to attend the game, that’s great, but this event is built around providing the kids the best experience and recruiting is not a part of that. They are all about the pureness of the game, and this is not being done as a recruiting play or event at all.
This is distinctively not a tournament, it’s an event. There’s a million tournaments in the country, there’s only one World Series. Regional tournaments all add up to build the bigger event. It’s all about the pureness of sport and family and that’s what Jake and his endeavors are all about.
The exit polls will be the kids, so it’s all about offering them the most unbelievable experience possible.
It looks like the club system is what’s going to be the most fair setup for the kids, as opposed to town teams. The first year’s event is built off of relationships and is invitation-only but the competition will figure itself out as next year’s regional events and age guidelines are released. It’s okay that a little controversy is building among the teams that are being invited because talk is good and the future will let the teams speak for themselves.
Jake wants to create the forum for dialogue between pro athletes and young kids, letting the MLL pros share their stories of adversity to inspire the non-traditional players to set goals and reach them.
Recruiting: a kid shouldn’t be recruited until his 11th grade year in Jake’s opinion. These cases of 7th and 8th grades are absurd and unfair to the kid and the sport.
Multi-sport athletes: Jake fears for an athlete burning out on a sport. From his experience working with sports and medical professionals, 3 sport athletes have a better chance for success on each field and once again, the junior year in high school is a better time to make that decision, when the child is more mature.
Parents can live vicariously through their kids and this can lead kids to get stuck playing the same sport 365, burning them out even quicker. We should honor the natural talent and passion that these young athletes may have, but don’t let it become your passion or obsession. Root on your kids but don’t try to control their futures.
How can a player feel that they “suck” at something when they are young? Kids need to be encouraged to go out and take a shot. Death is death, failure isn’t death. Go out and take a shot and learn from the experiences. What is learned after the healing of time is what is most important to growth.
Don’t get ready, don’t get set, sometimes you just need to go!
A HUGE thanks to Jake for taking the time to talk with me, for being such a great guest, and for talking so openly and honestly about his role in our sport, and what he thinks the future looks like!
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Denver – On Monday, Jake Steinfeld, Founder of Major League Lacrosse, along with founding partners Steve Bornstein, Dave Morrow and Ray Schulmeyer, launched the Inaugural Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse presented by The Coca-Cola Company.
The Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse will be played July 2-4, 2015, in Denver. A blue ribbon panel of youth lacrosse coaches and administrators will help select a total of 16 U-13 boys’ teams from around the United States to compete, with a total of four teams each representing the north, south, east and west regions. Teams can also be nominated for consideration at www.worldseriesofyouthlacrosse.com.
All teams will play five games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. The top two teams will advance to the Championship Game, which will be played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on July 4. A World Champion will be crowned live at 3 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. Throughout the three-day competition, highlight films and interviews with players will be created and aired during the live broadcast of the Championship Game.
“In the 17 years since Dave Morrow, Tim Robertson and I founded Major League Lacrosse, this great game of lacrosse has exploded all over the world,” said Jake Steinfeld. “Creating the pinnacle of youth lacrosse as we did for the professional game is another dream come true. Bringing great partners and friends like The Coca-Cola Company, Warrior, MET-Rx, Wheels Up, the Denver Outlaws organization and ESPN will make this the greatest youth lacrosse experience on the planet.”
All players competing in the World Series of Youth Lacrosse will receive never-before-seen Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse apparel, including game shorts, a tech T-shirt and a hoodie, as well as a branded gear bag. In addition, all players will receive an official commemorative Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse stick. The two teams in the Championship Game will dress in NFL/MLL locker rooms and be outfitted in special Championship uniforms provided by Warrior.
In addition to competing in the event, players will participate in clinics hosted by members of the Denver Outlaws, attend autograph sessions with Outlaws players and other Major League Lacrosse stars and attend a banquet at Sports Authority Field at Mile High the night before the Championship Game. The event will conclude with all players being acknowledged at halftime of the Denver Outlaws MLL game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“We’re very excited to be able to provide youth lacrosse players with this incredible opportunity,” said Warrior World Series of Youth Lacrosse President Ray Schulmeyer. “It’s an event that I anticipate will grow substantially in the coming years. In fact, plans are already in expansion mode. In 2016, we will add a girls division and an international division, and by 2017 we will continue to move toward the ultimate goal of having eight boys and girls qualifying events in the United States and eight international qualifying events with combined participation of over 50,000 players.”
Major sponsors of the World Series of Youth Lacrosse include The Coca-Cola Company and Warrior Lacrosse. Partners include Wheels Up, MET-Rx, Body by Jake, EDGE Sports and Entertainment and the Denver Outlaws organization.