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The Remarkable Growth of Lacrosse In America

“The more we dug into it, the more we believed that this is just a sport of the future. Lacrosse’s trend lines in every way we could measure were impressive and made us believe that this is a place where we could grow and be a part of something that would over time be very big.”
Dave Brandon, University of Michigan Athletic Director
(2011 US Lacrosse Participation Survey)

2011 Lacrosse Growth Participation Survey

This week, US Lacrosse released its annual Participation Survey. The survey is produced annually to monitor participation at all levels of the sport across the country. According to US Lacrosse, the survey only counts participation on organized teams. It does not include leisure time play.

The Participation Survey data comes from US Lacrosse’s membership records and its sixty-four regional chapters spread throughout the United States. Each chapter is responsible for reporting its own data for youth, high school and post-collegiate levels. College lacrosse data is obtained from the NCAA (there is no mention of the MCLA in the College section of the Participation Survey, so we are unsure if it was included but have asked US Lacrosse for clarification).

By The Numbers

US Lacrosse reports that more than 60,000 new players participated on organized teams in 2011. There are now 684,730 active lacrosse players in the United States, a 9.6% increase from 2010. OVER HALF of these players are under the age of 15.

2011 Lacrosse Growth Participation Survey
The big news: an 11.3% increase in youth lacrosse participation.

The year over year growth rate is slightly less than experienced in 2010 (as shown below). Still, 60,000 new players is the most ever reported.

Total Number of Lacrosse Players
How long until lacrosse hits 1,000,000?

If lacrosse can hold a ~10% growth rate for one more year, the sport will hit 750K players next year. Hold it for four to five years, and we’re talking seven figures.

Growth Projections

The above charts got me wondering what would happen if we – the lacrosse collective – can keep the growth rate at or above the 9.6% mark for another few years. What amount of growth could we expect?

Future Growth of Lacrosse

As you can see, our sport could reach over 1 million players as early as 2015 if things keep up. Let’s take this a little further and see what happens to our sport when we reach Warrior’s 2025 apocalypse.

Future of Growth Lacrosse

Wow, now we’re talking. Could lacrosse really grow to 2.6 million players in only 13 more years? No question about it! In fact, it could happen even sooner than 2025…

Media Influence

Beyond the sheer participation numbers, lacrosse continues to grow in terms of exposure. Led by the ESPN family of networks, nearly 100 collegiate and professional lacrosse games will be broadcast nationally this year, with scores more streamed on the web. CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports also air games in 2012 to add even more televised lacrosse.

The sport also is highlighted through print and Internet vehicles, led by Lacrosse Magazine, which is read each month by the more than 400,000 members of US Lacrosse.
(2011 US Lacrosse Participation Survey)

According to US Lacrosse, the exposure of our sport is also at an all-time high. While no statistics were shared, the above quote gives some insight into how much the media can be credited for the continued growth of the sport.

In addition to national broadcasting companies, there are now many MLL and NLL games being broadcast on local networks. There are also an increasing number of pro and college games being broadcast live on the web. Meanwhile, websites such as, and this site,, are setting the tempo for the future of online content surrounding the sport.

As we move forward, media outlets (national, local and online) have the opportunity to play a huge part in helping lacrosse participation successfully reach new heights. For it is the media who directly connects with potential lacrosse players the most.

The Truth about Growing The Game

Here’s the dirty truth about growing the game: it takes TIME, ENERGY and MONEY. To keep up with this kind of growth, it’s important that we all band together to Grow The Game. We must not let false pretenses get in our way. People, teams, leagues and companies must work together to accomplish things that are in the best interest of our sport.

If you find yourself in a role to make an impact on your community, enable those who share your vision to help in their own unique way. And more importantly, leave no man or woman behind. Growth can come from all angles if we open ourselves up to it.

No matter who you are or what you do, execute in growing the game with pure intentions and a true sense of pride in our sport. Do that, and the future will be here before we know it.

The full participation survey is available in PDF format by clicking here.