Grow the Game®

Oakland Lacrosse Club
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Meet Kevin Kelley, California Game Grower

Featured image via

Today we’re excited to announce a very special Game Grower of the Month. By recognizing those doing extraordinary things to grow the game, it’s our hope that this award will help inspire others to give back too!

Game Grower of the Month

The July 2013 Game Grower of the Month is…

Kevin Kelly of the Oakland Lacrosse Club

Kevin Kelley of Oakland, California

We are inspired, but not surprised at the amount of nominations we get for Game Growers each and every month. It is a very cool feeling every time we see a new nomination fly into our inbox. When we received Kevin’s nomination form, we knew he was a shoe-in. Kevin has worked with some very passionate and dedicated individuals in Oakland to create the Oakland Lacrosse Club and in doing so, has successfully helped bring lacrosse to over 800 kids in the area, with more and more joining each day.

We followed up with Kevin to find out a little more about the Oakland Lacrosse Club and the following three sentences just concreted our positive feelings for the great work Kevin and his team are doing in Oakland.

This is not just a one man show. Thanks again for recognizing the Oakland Lacrosse Club. We love what we do and we love Oakland.

To help wrap your mind around the Oakland Lacrosse Club, we were able to get some general statistics on what they have accomplished in their first year alone.

Program Summary 2012-2013

  • Partnered with 6 Oakland Public Middle Schools and 1 CBO providing a 3-6 week lacrosse instruction which included equipment and volunteers
  • Exposed sport of lacrosse to over 900 Oakland Middle School Students (Between September 2012 and Feb 2013)
    • Purpose of OLC is to make it possible for every kid in Oakland to place lacrosse.
  • Comprehensive spring program has 63 participants. Here are some facts about our kids:
    • 61/63 attend Oakland Public Schools
    • 62/63 is the first time playing lacrosse
    • Over 70% of participants qualify for free or reduced lunch
    • Over 80% received a scholarship to participate in the program
  • Spring Program also includes:
    • Providing snack for all 55 participants at each practice and game
    • 1 Nutrition workshop
    • 2 mentors speakers series
    • Attended 2 games(1 girls and 1 boys) at UC Berkeley)
  • Summer Program all have
    • Weekly Clinics
    • Participate in one tournament
    • Find camps and travel teams for interested players

We recently sent Kevin a few questions to learn more about what he’s doing to help grow the great sport of lacrosse in Oakland, California. Below are his answers word for word.

LAS: Would you describe the state of lacrosse in your area?

Kevin: Over the last ten years I have lived in the Bay Area and the sport has grown exponentially. When I first started coaching high school in 2002 in Piedmont, California there were approximately 40-50 high school teams in the greater Bay Area. Now, ten years later, there are close to 100 high school teams. In addition, the sport has exploded on the youth level creating a higher level of play. It is an exciting time for Bay Area Lacrosse because more and more players are playing at the college level and number at top Division I programs.

In what ways are you involved in growing the sport in your area?

In July 2012, a group of dedicated volunteers and I created the Oakland Lacrosse Club. The Oakland Lacrosse Club oversees the lacrosse programs at Oakland Tech High School and Skyline High School. In addition, we created a comprehensive middle school program that not only teaches lacrosse, but also includes mentoring, a nutrition program, and exposes kids to various academic opportunities. In one year, we exposed the sport to over 800 Oakland public school students through their P.E. and after school programs. 63 (35 boys/21 girls) students participated on our spring teams.

Below is important data:

  • 99% of our middle school students had never played before
  • 75% of our middle school students qualified for reduced lunch
  • 89% of our players received a scholarship to play

Our program represents the ethnic diversity of Oakland:

  • 35% African-American
  • 26% Latino
  • 16% Asian
  • 13% Mixed
  • 10% White

The Oakland Lacrosse Club removes the economic barriers so that every kid in Oakland can play lacrosse. All equipment is provided to the players at no cost. We provide food at every practice and game. Also, we have a nutritionist work with our players so that our middle schoolers can learn what it takes to fuel an athlete’s body. We have a mentoring program, where local leaders come and speak to the kids, providing life lessons on how she or he became successful. The Oakland Lacrosse Club also has partnerships with Laney College (our host site), and with the men’s’ Club team and women’s varsity team at the University of California-Berkeley. Both Cal teams have been incredibly supportive of growing the game of lacrosse in Oakland.

Kevin Kelly of the Oakland Lacrosse Club

What is the biggest obstacle for lacrosse growth in your area?

In general the game has exploded in the suburban neighborhoods where families have the financial resources to support the rapid growth of the game. However, if we want to be committed to providing access to lacrosse for all youth then more resources need to be dedicated to serving communities similar to Oakland. The Oakland Lacrosse Club plans on expanding our middle school program from 63 to 100 kids. We have the field space, the equipment, and coaches. However, in order for the Oakland Lacrosse Club to continue to provide high quality and to serve more youth from Oakland we need more financial resources. There are over 45, 0000 Oakland Public School students and the Oakland Lacrosse Club wants to make it possible for each one to have the opportunity to play.

How did you get involved with the sport? Who taught you the game?

My older brother started playing in high school and I followed in his footsteps playing the same position-goalie. My town (Needham, Massachusetts) did not have a youth program so I did not start playing organized lacrosse until 9th grade. I was fortunate to get some really good coaching in my freshmen and sophomore years of high school, which allowed me to excel and continue on playing in college (Providence ’00).

Kevin Kelly of the Oakland Lacrosse Club

What has been your biggest accomplishment when it comes to growing the game?

The last year without question has been my biggest and favorite accomplishment in my lacrosse career. I am an Oakland resident and the best way that I can probably serve the city is by working as a coach and developing a year round program that meets the needs of the Oakland community. A year ago, there was not a lacrosse program specifically designed to serve Oakland Public schools; now 800 kids have been exposed to the sport. 63 kids were able to participate in our comprehensive program and next year we plan on having 100 kids. In 5-7 years, I would like to see 500 youth playing lacrosse in Oakland and having at least four public high schools with a team.

Who or what inspires you most to help grow the game?

For me, it is a social justice issue. All kids, no matter where they grow up, should have access to the same opportunities. I want all kids in Oakland to have the option to play lacrosse. There are so many applicable life lessons that get taught through sports that are hard to teach in the classroom. Therefore, the Oakland Lacrosse Club is using the sport as a way to build positive connections in the Oakland community and help kids reach their potential.

Kevin Kelly of the Oakland Lacrosse Club

What is your favorite thing about our sport? What has drawn you to lacrosse the most?

Previously to this year, I had coached more experienced players at the high school and college level. But over the last year teaching kids new to the sport has rejuvenated my passion for the game. Lacrosse is unique in that there are so many ways a player can contribute, and it is interesting to see how beginners pick up the sport and naturally gravitate to a certain aspect to the game. You see the fearless kid that jumps in front of the ball as a future goalie, or the quick footed side-to-side guy instantly goes behind the cage to feed. Also, new players pick the sport so fast it is fun to see how much they improve.

Do you have a favorite lacrosse team? Favorite player(s)?

Honestly, I do not have a favorite player or team. I am a general fan of the sport and love when teams play aggressive defense and score in transition. Also, being a former goalie I always appreciate when a goalie puts together a spectacular performance.

Kevin Kelly of the Oakland Lacrosse Club

What do you do outside of the sport?

Before starting the Oakland Lacrosse Club, I worked for eight years at a college pipeline program in Richmond California. I also earned my masters in Organization and Leadership, with a specific focus on Urban Education.

If you could change one thing about our sport, what would it be and why?

In terms of the game, I am all for a shot clock. I think the rule changes helped speed up the college game but I think it would be even better with a shot clock. It will sped up the game and force players to play both offense and defense. More importantly, I would like to see lacrosse expand to cities like Oakland. It is a great sport and all kids should have the opportunity to try it out.

Congratulations, Kevin! A well-deserved honor. Keep growing the game!

To learn more about the Oakland Lacrosse Club, check out their website at, their successful IndieGoGo fundraising campaign, and a video about their program below.

As a small token of our appreciation, we will be sending Kevin a LaxAllStars Prize Pack to use as he sees fit. Know someone who should receive next month’s award? Fill out the Nomination Form form today!