Canadian Lacrosse Foundation: IT’S TIME TO STEP UP AGAIN…!

By Pierre Filion

As everyone knows there are three national associations in Canada in lacrosse; The Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Lacrosse Canada and the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation.

They have different mandates, missions and Board members; different budgets, assets, resources and problems.

Today we’ll have a look at the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation (CLF) because it should be asked to ‘’step up again’’ and bring forward a contribution that could change narratives and behaviors within the national lacrosse community.

The CLF was created to manage and invest financial resources collected years ago; it is pursuing four missions:

  • Advance the public understanding of the role of lacrosse in the history and cultural development of Canada
  • Educate and instruct coaches and officials
  • Provide lacrosse programs to support Canadian youth
  • Receive and invest funds towards qualified applicants

The CLF was very active during the pandemic as it clearly avoided the implosion of Lacrosse Canada and of provincial associations by investing ‘’support money’’ during what was clearly a rough period. Without the CLF we might not be here today.

But it seems that the Foundation has, over time, been taken for granted and expected (!) to erase deficits and answer positively to requests emerging from Lacrosse Canada! The CLF risks becoming a funding agency dedicated to cleaning up messes…created by a National Association who wanders around without corporate goals and clearly identified objectives. No wonder there are messes.

Yes, he Lacrosse Foundation is taken for granted but has somehow accepted its role to be that of a funding agency shelling out around 350,000-$ every year.

The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation could somehow change its image and the perception some have of its mandates by stepping up and offering a significant and particular contribution to lacrosse’s democratic life.

How would the CLF do that?

By creating a committee made of enlightened and credible members who would be asked to address lacrosse’s number one problem (the small number of registered participants) and to put forward a systematic action plan to ‘’increase the number of registered participants in lacrosse across Canada’’. Nothing less.

Lacrosse Canada cannot do that; it has proven year in and year out that there is no national concern for the increase in the number of registered participants. Sure, many ‘’talk a good game’’ but nothing systematic is done. We live, year to year, with the number of participants that the provinces have managed to recruit. Some years it goes up, some years it goes down. The provinces do all the registration work and Lacrosse Canada collects their membership fees. It is mind boggling to see that Lacrosse Canada who stands to gain, this year, 10$ per new member is not heavily involved in the systematic increase of registered participants. 5000 new members would bring in 50,000$ in membership fees!

The Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame cannot put forward a developmental plan to increase the number of registered participants; it’s not their mandate and have no resources to do so. And no interest either. The Hall of Fame is into the preservation of the game and of its history and is highly involved in the selecting of new inductees to the Hall.

Clearly the only credible and active corporation who has the resources, the time and the brains to put forward a national plan is the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation. Nothing outlandish here, just a responsible corporation stepping up and playing a role that no one else can and wishes to play.

The CLF has the privilege of having on its Board of Directors three Canadians who were, for decades, the presidents of Lacrosse Canada: Bill Hutton (Ontario), Jim Burke (Alberta) and Joe Harris (Manitoba). They took the CLA (Lacrosse Canada) from a shady and fragile corporation to one with a budget of over a million dollars.

The three of them (Hutton, Burke and Harris) could easily create a committee of credible analysts inclined towards creativity who would endeavor to put out a plan to ‘’increase the number of registered participants in lacrosse throughout Canada’’.

Everyone would want to have their favorite people on this life saving committee. Mine would be Ron MacSpadyen (Ontario), Bruce Logan (NB), Joe Cambria (Québec), Tim Barrie (Ontario), Duane Bratt (Alberta), Dave Evans (BC) and Carol Patterson (New York). There are others, I know, but this would be my favorite as they have amazed me in my 43 years with the CLA with integrity, foresight, analytical and creative minds. Add Hutton, Burke and Harris and you have a winning combination. A life changing opportunity. This would be nothing less than a life-saving committee because if nothing is done lacrosse will become, in Canada, a folkloric activity which was a lot of fun but seems significantly inexistent anymore.

That would be my choice of committee members; the Foundation has all the liberty in the world to make its own selection and not be tied to political criteria or traditional selection processes.

The committee would act in three steps:

  • Collect data, statistics and information on the registration numbers throughout the last 20 to 25years; that is easy as the date is available; totally available;
  • Solicit position papers and drafts on what has worked here and there (in lacrosse and in other sports) and request analyses from psychologists (what will tomorrow’s youth demand from a sport); from sponsors, manufacturers and corporate promotional actors; from the NLL and from the provincial associations; from the media; that would give input and bring forward opinions and suggestions from credible partners; not from any Tom Dick or Harry; from credible partners;
  • Draft out a plan to increase the number of registered participants including an introductory component to the game, a recreational component to the game, a process to register school sport participant and to increase their numbers; the plan would need to seriously address the increase in the number of females within the game and have a look at Lacrosse Canada’s SEVEN national teams and FOURTEEN national championships for 46,959 participants.

Nothing threatening here, just an organized action by a national body (the CLF) to endeavor to solve the game’s number one problem. The draft of the action plan (with strategies, budgets and investments) could be presented to the provincial associations and to Lacrosse Canada well before the AGM and thus allow for sufficient time to have it democratically discussed and approved in order to change the course of Lacrosse Canada’s life.

This would be a unique contribution to the game, a step forward in creative involvement and an opportunity to ‘’open doors’’ and look to a credible future.

The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation has significantly stepped up when COVID appeared; it has the opportunity, by itself, once again to step up and change the future. The Lacrosse Foundation could do it; the Lacrosse Foundation can do it; the Lacrosse Foundation, come to think of it, must do it.

Who would oppose that?