Build the base and the top shall thrive!

Written by Bill Hutton

Lacrosse Lifer


Lacrosse is a community-based sport focused on the player

It all started with a stick and ball.


In preparation for this writing, I decided to describe a process that was idealistic and I did not get bogged down with the obstacles and realities of what currently exists. 


Philosophy is the basis for providing the guiding principles that governs everything we do.


Everything is focused on the player. The stick and ball are their tools and the basis for their participation.


Lacrosse is a community-based sport. It can consist of a single street, a school, or school district, a geographic area in a municipality or the municipality as a whole.


It can be expanded to include other municipalities, provinces, and countries. 


Providing for the Player

At each level the focus is providing athletes with a positive experience, developing their skills, providing them with the competition necessary for them reaching their full potential as a player.


Providing them with the best coaches (teachers) to enhance their skills and appreciation for the social values of the community. Teaching respect for the game, other players and officials. Providing an understanding of their responsibilities and commitments to their team and association. 


Providing the officials necessary to ensure that the rules of the game are adhered to and each player has a positive experience playing the game for their enjoyment. 


It all starts with a single player with a ball and a stick. The player entices a friend to join in passing the ball. The place they choose to play is a field, park or school yard.


As more friends join them, they pick sides and compete. Again, the play area is not defined and the goal can be a pole or target. 


From this player base they are ready to be part of a community organization.


The Community Organization and Association

A community is not defined by Municipal Boundaries it can defined by proximity to a school, a neighbourhood or an area defined by the residences. As the municipality grows welcome new communities.


The Association organizes teams from the various communities to compete with each other in a community league. Games are played and practices held on whatever playing surfaces are available either inside a facility or outside. 


The rules and format of the games are adapted to facilities available to accommodate and provide competition to all athletes. The objective is for as many athletes as possible to use a stick and ball. At the introductory level consider having coaches on the floor as referees and teachers. Also use a plywood cutout, or at target as a goalie. Instead of penalties award a penalty shot to the player violated. Keeping score is optional but participation by all players for their enjoyment is not.


The Association starts with a player who has a stick and ball and assists in the evolvement of a game that they may aspire to play in the future. 


The Association works with the local schools to encourage play as part of their Physical Education program. The game consists of a stick and ball. Format and rules are developed to best serve the athlete in a manner acceptable to the schools. Local association works with teachers and garnish support from school boards and local politicians.


The Association in conjunction with the schools hold a tournament to compete against each other. They should also consider a skills event for the athletes to show their skills.


The tournament is not only a competition but also a social event and the association volunteers contribute their time in making it an enjoyable event. Enjoying a barbecue is only one possibility. With the permission of the school, it is also a time to reach out to players and have them be part of your associations program.


There are some municipalities that offer Lacrosse at the secondary school level and there are Universities that offer Lacrosse as part of their athletic program. Develop a relationship with these parties. Although they are not part of your association, they do provide exposure and training to athletes. If your secondary school does not have a program, lobby to see how you can help them develop one.


The association should focus initially on affording every athlete an opportunity to experience the enjoyment attached to using the stick and ball. Participation is the focal point and playing surface is dependent on what is available in an indoor facility, or outside in a park, or field.


Equipment requirements should be kept to a minimum at the introductory level and the rules of play are designed to avoid any opportunity for injury. Coaches should be encouraged to have in their possession additional sticks to entice observers to give it a try. The stick and ball skills are again the focus point and providing the athlete a positive experience is the goal.


Establishing a Progressive Program

The association should have in place a progressive program that allows the athletes to progress to the next level. 


Municipal teams at each level will provide the base for competition with other municipalities.


It is imperative that each association always keep focus on building their municipal participation with their community teams.


With an expanded player base the local Association will have more success with potential sponsors and service organizations. In return the Association should make a concentrated effort to support their sponsors and give them the positive exposure of being involved with a progressive organization.


It is important that the Association be and be seen as an essential part of the community.


It is also important that players and their parents or guardians feel pride at being part of your association. Volunteer recruitment starts with responding to a request to the question could you help us? Recruit positive people and you shall receive positive results. 


Your focus is the player and their development, while providing them with a positive experience. Parents are proxies and partners in achieving this.


From the first stick and ball player we have now established a broad player pool and are now in a position to compete against teams in other municipalities. 


Would it not be great to have several teams in each category from your association competing against other municipalities? 


Do not destroy the municipal league to participate at this level. Do not get trapped with stacking a team or teams to win a trophy. This is especially true at the younger player level.


At the higher age groups there will be a core of players who wish to compete at a higher level. They will need the support of their parents to cover increased costs and for travel assistance.


There will also be natural attrition as players develop other interests.


Other Key Factors

A great deal of planning and thought needs to be put into accommodating those players who want to compete at a higher level while providing the other players a place to play.  Be aware of detractors who want to put down players not wishing to compete at a higher level. They will destroy your organization.


Players should also be encouraged to assist in officiating. That experience will make them more respectful of officials and provide an essential service to the association and the greater Lacrosse Community. Explain to them their skill will allow them an opportunity to officiate at the Provincial, National and International level.


The goal is to go from one athlete with a stick and ball to developing team players or officials who are capable of competing at the Provincial, National and International Level.


Their success will be the result of your success. Do not hesitate to herald your success to your community, sponsors and players. 


The critical element for success is - Build the base and the top shall thrive!