What started in 2005 as a men’s league in Boulder, CO, University Lacrosse or better known as ULAX, has grown nearly 500% in the past decade in terms of player participation. This sweeping network of lacrosse leagues now boasts roughly 6,000 players on three hundred men’s, women’s and high school teams that participate in their leagues and tournaments each year. It goes without saying, that’s a lot of players and teams spread out across 28 cities in 12 different states and one Canadian province. To put this in perspective, there are currently 189 NCAA Division I teams in the country (73 men; 116 women)
Part of the rise of the ULAX lacrosse league can be attributed to the overall growth of the sport. Specifically, given the exponential growth of participation at the youth and high school levels over the past decade, there was a void for players whose careers ended after high school/college. This is where ULAX bridged the gap, creating opportunities for laxers to continue to get their lax on year-round.
ULAX League Overview and Ranking System
ULAX prides itself on organization and efficiency. The league administrators and managers have a passion for lacrosse and understand that it’s all about enhancing the player experience. Each lacrosse league within the 28 city network operates under a seven to eight week season where teams compete in a predefined schedule. Teams in each league are then ranked based on a point system, culminating in a single elimination playoff tournament in the final weeks to crown the city champ.
This structure has enabled ULAX to rank teams around the country on a national level. ULAX also ranks the top players in each league based on points, goals, assists, and goalie saves. Teams are then invited to play in the ULAX Liberty Cup tournament in NYC, which will soon serve as the lacrosse league’s national championship. Outside of the college and professional leagues, nobody comes close to matching the level of organization and number of players represented within the ULAX lacrosse league network. What they have been able to accomplish has been truly remarkable for the sport.
From Beginner to Lacrosse Legend
The interesting thing about the ULAX network of lacrosse leagues is the identity created in each city. The organization regards New York City, Long Island, Boston, and Chicago as having the top talent among the 28 active cities. There are, however, professional and top DI players sprinkled in its leagues/tournaments all throughout the country. To name a few who have participated in a ULAX lacrosse league this past year: lacrosse legend Casey Powell (ULAX-Chicago); former UMass goalie standout Rachel Vallarelli (ULAX-NYC); and future PLL players, Chazz Woodson (ULAX-Miami) and Gunnar Waldt (ULAX-San Diego).
All players (whether they are on an established team or not) are welcome to join any ULAX lacrosse league as players can join the league with a team, group or as a solo free. This means players fresh off of their first session of wall ball are able to face-off against the game’s elite. This creates a unique venue for the sport unseen in other leagues. While the experiential difference can create blow-out losses in some instances, it also creates opportunities where players new to lacrosse are able to see just how good some of the world’s very best truly are at the game.
League Development and Non-Profit Partnerships
ULAX provides the infrastructure and support for developing local lacrosse leagues throughout the country. The team behind ULAX has developed leagues from scratch and also helps turn local pick-up ball into a more structured experience. As the organization continues to grow, so does the team behind ULAX. They’re always looking to connect with lacrosse enthusiasts seeking to join or start a league.
In addition, ULAX is making strategic partnerships with some of the top brands in the business in an effort to enhance the experience of its players and pay it forward to the lacrosse community in general. Because ULAX believes in giving back to the sport (by, for example, providing coaching resources, gear, and funding to a variety of programs), these collaborations include partnerships with non-profit organizations such as Shootout for Soldiers and the HEADStrong Foundation.
The goal is about giving back to the game, providing a viable outlet of lacrosse that is open to all players, and all skill sets. Each chapter is guided based on feedback from the local participants, while the organization brings it all together on a national level. With three hundred teams participating in 2018, ULAX is now recognized as the largest network of lacrosse leagues in the country.