Grow the Game-Hogwash

Grow the Game-Hogwash

By Doug Luey

            The first time we heard the term “Grow the Game” was from Connor Wilson of Lacrosse Allstars over 20 years ago. It wasn’t just a slogan but words to live by, they even had some inexpensive swag such as shooters to use as giveaways. A small thing yes but without question has done a lot to promote the game in the US. There is a misconception that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the United States. In fact, it is youth hockey! Now played in all 50 states. Let’s look at how this happened.

            The governing body of hockey recognized some key elements that were stagnating the growth of the game and took real measures to change the mindset of its participants. The first thing they did was realize that as a governing body they were trying to appease the adults and not the young players. Using science and research, US Hockey in 2009 developed an Athlete Development Model (ADM).

Not unlike Canada’s own Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program. The difference being US Hockey stayed the course and didn’t deviate from the program continuously to appease its members. Strangely, you don’t hear much about LTAD anymore. They focused on 3 key elements, are you ready for this?

#1 Enjoyment

#2 Development

#3 Increased participation

It didn’t take long to realize that players who were technically proficient would allow the cream to rise to the top. In lacrosse we have it backwards, thinking that developing elite programs will draw the entry level players. There are far too many of the same players, families, coaches and administrators participating on an annual basis at so called National Championships that does little to promote participation numbers at the minor level of our sport.

The proof is in the pudding, in 2017 there were 4 World Championships held. The United States won all four. Women’s, U20 Men, U18 Women & U18 Men. Unlike baseball, basketball and soccer, hockey numbers continue to grow in the US.

When will we realize that our focus should be on engagement rather than specialization? In our youth we had the experience of playing the game, not parents, officials or adults. When it stops being fun you quit and never return. Time and time again we witness coaches giving a 20-year-olds training regimen to a 10-year-old. The development pathway comes from competing against bigger, stronger, faster players. This is where you build grit, resilience and character. But most importantly, to have a lifelong love of the sport of lacrosse.

How do we get there?

While most governing bodies are comprised of volunteers and paid staff members we firmly believe in the use of the following tools. Each meeting should make use of a priority list for both successful and poor practice items.


1.Entry level lacrosse is and always will be the main priority of this organization and must always be referred to in our decision-making process.

2.We will act and perform our duties as a democracy and never empower an individual or small group to undermine or deviate from our organization’s written policies.

3.We will be fiscally responsible to our members. All income and expenses will fall under certain cost centers. Examples being Entry Level (House league) Elite (Travel teams) and Administration.

4.We will set and maintain a standard for all coaches and bench staff in our program and expect them to follow the standards given to them in writing prior to accepting applications.

5.We will set and maintain a standard for all officials including minor game officials and expect them to follow the standards given to them in writing prior to accepting applications.

6.Communication is the key to any endeavor and our organization will have a means to communicate up to the minute news with our membership through a database, website and other social media platforms.

7.While many board members will hold key portfolio positions it is expected ALL board members will offer guidance and assistance in the execution of those responsibilities. i.e.: Sponsorship

8.Respect for the game is NOT an expectation but a given. Beginning with players, parents, bench staff, officials, sponsors, volunteers, opponents and fellow administrators.

9.The concerns of our members will not only be addressed but shared with the board of volunteers to ensure the organization’s policies and procedures are followed and adjusted when required.