Grow the Game®

PLL Assists
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PLL Assists: Growing a Inclusive and Accessible Game

In lacrosse, access to the sport can come at a higher cost compared to other sports. A good stick, gloves, helmet, and pads can cost $250 plus dollars not including balls and goals. This access has been a barrier or entry to some picking up the game. PLL Assists is committed to breaking down these barriers to make the sport more accessible and inclusive. They have met this challenge through their Goals for Greatness initiative and by helping to sponsor lacrosse programs throughout the United States.

Goals for Greatness

Drive by any park or school, you will find a baseball field and/or a basketball court. What’s often missing is a lacrosse net. As Paul Rabil said above, you can have a catch with a friend but sometimes it’s hard to find a net. PLL Assists and Goals for Greatness initiative is looking to solve that problem.

Rabil chatted with Mr. Feel Good about how the Goals for Greatness program fits in with the PLL’s mission to revolutionize the game.

I often think about growth for lacrosse, and vision around lacrosse, and not really having much exposure to lacrosse growing up. A lot of it was because there weren’t nearby nets or fields to play on, so we had to figure it out on our own. I would either shoot against tennis court fencing or the backstop of a baseball diamond.

So, now that I have stepped away from playing the game, I want to increase the opportunities for others. Goals for Greatness initiative is starting out this year to contribute lacrosse goals to all 50 states. That will not only increase accessibility to playing the game, but also raise awareness. I believe that people learn about sport through some level of osmosis.

You may never play baseball in your life, but you’ve probably driven by a baseball field so you kind of know what that diamond is. But if you’ve never seen a lacrosse goal or stick before, you may never think about the game. I want more people thinking about lacrosse.
– Paul Rabil. President of the Premier Lacrosse League

In addition to providing nets, PLL Assists will also put on clinics in the cities where their weekend games are being held. It is not uncommon to find players there to help and assist, but most impressive parts is the fact that Rabil is giving his time and instruction to help grow the game.

How many kids are getting that kind of instruction at their basketball camps from Michael Jordan or Lebron James? Rabil’s commitment to sharing his passion goes beyond the PLL. You see that passion not only coming out for pictures but in his instruction and personalized attention. That is the PLL difference.

Detroit United Lacrosse

PLL Assists also looks to grow the game by partnering with local community programs. I caught up with Summer Aldred, one of the co-founders and the Executive Director of Detroit United Lacrosse. Detroit United’s vision is to grow and expand lacrosse in the Motor City.

We envision Detroit becoming the model city for the growth of lacrosse through its community of support, and its development of student leaders who uphold the virtues of the game, on the field and in life.

In our conversation, I learned more about Detroit United, their collaboration with PLL Assists, and the state of lacrosse in the city of Detroit today and what it will look like in the future.

Can you share your lacrosse background and how you got into coaching?

I had the very unique opportunity to learn lacrosse once I got to college. I was assisting with some of the marketing and logistics for a small non-profit on the eastside of Detroit, and this is where I got my first exposure to the sport. I fell in love with the kids and the sport, and I decided to learn as much as I could to be the best coach I could be for the girls in that program. This resulted in me working extremely hard, and I ended up walking on to Denison’s women’s lacrosse team.

When I experienced a season ending injury of a meniscus, my coach took me under her wing and hired me as a student coach, where she spent hours mentoring me and teaching me as much as she could. I am so grateful for her mentorship! Since college, I have had the fortune of co-founding Detroit United Lacrosse Association and become the Head Coach at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, the first public school program to have girls lacrosse in the city.

Expand upon your partnership with PLL Assists and the PLL and its impact on your Detroit United? 

Detroit United Lacrosse is fortunate to be one of 13 PLL Assist partners across the country. Our partnership with PLL Assists has opened up so many doors for us, including a relationship with ReLax Collections, who has helped us provide hundreds of Detroit youth with equipment. We were also a recipient of Paul Rabil’s Goals for Greatness initiative, which supplied our home base field with permanent nets.

Additionally, our programs are PLL Verified, which means that our competitive programs have amazing access to the PLL league and athletes via discounts to games, training, and camps. We welcomed the PLL to Detroit last fall for a Players Tour and Clinic and will welcome them back again September 24 for a high school and youth clinic!

How can Detroit United impact the city of Detroit?

I want to emphasize our program that will end up making the largest impact for our youth which is Crosse ROOTS. Crosse ROOTS promotes character education, professional development and pathways to prosperity for Detroit’s youth. Grounded in R.O.O.T.S.–Respect for others, Officials, Teammates and Self—our goal is to build a culture of young people that reflects the values of lacrosse: respect, honor and integrity while growing the sport.

This program starts in the 7th grade with participants staying in the program until they graduate high school. We had our inaugural 7th grade cohort this past spring and it was a resounding success, with participants learning how to make a budget, keep a planner, how to build healthy relationships and much more. I’m attaching the program guide below – but this is the program that we have the most room for folks to get involved and support Detroit United financially.

What have your summer and fall programs looked like the last couple of years?

In the past two years, we have had the opportunity to offer lacrosse year-round. In the summer, we offer two major programs. Our first program, the Detroit Panthers, is our travel program for late middle and high school students to enhance their lacrosse skills, compete across the state, and receive recruiting assistance. This past summer, we had 82 youth participate in competitive programming.

Our second program is Detroit City Recreational Lacrosse (DCRL). DCRL is a recreational lacrosse league that is focused on teaching the sport of lacrosse to youth of all ages 3-15, from Little Laxers to early high school exposure. Combined with character development, Detroit City Recreational Lacrosse is a fun, introductory environment where all are welcome to learn lacrosse and fall in love with the gamel Up from 2 sites last in 2021, we were proud to have 5 recreation centers offering this program.

We were fortunate to have over 130 kids learn lacrosse through this program this summer. Over the summer, we also offer summer camps and partner with organizations across the city to bring lacrosse to their youth. Because of this, we were able to hire 17 current or former Detroit United Lacrosse players to coach and give back to their community.

You are looking to partner with the  Detroit Public Community School District (DPCSD) to add lacrosse to the physical education programs. What will that look like?

We are extremely excited to see the growth of lacrosse within DPCSD. One of the most exciting things that is upcoming this year is the inclusion of lacrosse into the physical education curriculum. Detroit United Lacrosse will be hosting a training of all gym teachers interested in bringing lacrosse to their school at the end of September, and we have applied for a grant to donate equipment to every school interested. This is by far one of the largest and most exciting opportunities that has happened for lacrosse in the city of Detroit to date.

How many high school teams have lacrosse in the City of Detroit?

Currently within Detroit Public School Community District, Cass Technical High School is the only high school that offers girls and boys lacrosse as varsity sports. However, that will hopefully soon change. As of the 2021-2022 school year, lacrosse is now a District sport – meaning it receives financial support from the DPSCD Athletic Department.

We hope that this, along with the work of our Detroit United Lacrosse High School Growth Committee, that we will see quite a few schools add lacrosse in the coming years. We currently have quite a few schools that are interested and we are beginning to work through the logistics. Outside of DPSCD, Detroit Edison Public School Academy also has a boys and girls lacrosse program, looking to have their first full Varsity season this year (2022-2023).

Detroit United Player Spotlight

Phoenix Hollier, a Cass Tech 2022 graduate and Detroit United Panthers player, is our first student to commit to a NCAA D1 program, University of Detroit Mercy. He received much of his instruction through our travel program, which his head coach of Cass Tech headed up at the time. He is truly passionate about the sport of lacrosse.

Phoenix coached for our Detroit City Recreational Lacrosse program all summer as a site manager, teaching the next generation how to rip shots and shoot his favorite behind the back shots. Phoenix is an extremely kind, bright, and passionate young man with unlimited potential, and we are so excited to see what he accomplishes in the future.

Zahria Liggans, Class of 2021, is another graduate of whom we are extremely proud. Zahria was a leader for us on our Detroit United Panthers team as a goalie, and graduated from Cass Technical High School where she was a captain. When she is home from Howard University where she attends, she has been a dedicated lacrosse coach. She returned to not only help at Cass, but at Detroit United where she has been able to develop deep bonds with the kids from the 5 year olds all the way up to our seniors. She was one of our DCRL Site Managers and made every practice fun and exciting!

Looking towards the future, what does lacrosse look like in the city of Detroit in 2030?

We believe that Detroit will be a model city for lacrosse development by 2030. Our goal is to expand our Detroit City Recreational Lacrosse program to all 16 recreation centers and have a vibrant year-round presence by 2030. This will include year-round lacrosse activities, academic support, and other wrap around services for youth ages 3-18.

Additionally, we aim to have an established, competitive league for Detroit high schools (included in the PSL or something similar). Our goal is to have 5 high school girls and boys programs up and running at a high level in the city of Detroit. Beyond that, we hope to continue to see the amazing investment back into our programs from our alumni that we have already seen.

The goal is to have our programs and local teams run by former players or community members from the city of Detroit to ensure long-term success. By 2030, we will have graduated our first 3 cohorts of our Crosse ROOTS program, where we envision that those participants will be ready to take dreams they have and be able to accomplish them. We have a goal of a 100% graduation rate and 100% placement into a next-step program. We are also working to build our own indoor facility where we could host year-round competitive training. We have big plans!