Starting a Lacrosse Program
Once parents/other adults determine there is enough interest to establish a lacrosse program, in an area that has none, you will want to follow these steps to get things started.
Find a Coach …. Without a coach you will not have a team.
SEARCHING FOR A COACH…Try to find someone that shares a similar philosophy, with regard to coaching style/youth development, for your kids start-up program. Keep in mind that you cannot please everyone and some will not like or agree with the coach selection. Some parents are very competitive and care only about winning. Other parents want a coach that does not scream and some care about youth development and equal play time. There will be parents that think you practice too much, while others think you don’t practice enough…In the end, you try and get the best coach available. This may require a club to pay money to have a part-time experienced head coach that can provide lessons to parents willing to volunteer as coaches. Regardless of who the coach is, all coaches need help to run an effective lacrosse program. One person cannot and should not run a team by themselves.
Form a board/structure of parents – You should strive to get at least 3 dedicated parents to support the coach and program to ensure it can continue if anyone leaves. The board should be responsible for helping to hire coaches, registering kids, purchasing uniforms, hosting events, fundraising and communicating with the parents throughout the year. They will also provide a voting delegate to SNLA, and events rep, and coaching representative. Relying on a head coach to run the entire club is not sustainable in the long term. Most coaches are in it for the duration their kids are in the program… often these programs disappear when the coach moves on. Boards must work hard to include new and young members’ parents to keep the program going. Click Here to read about setting up your finances and bank accounts if you are not partnered with a school.
Work on developing other parents into more coaches – Your organization relies on your coaches. You will need to maintain a stream of incoming coaches. Often times, they can start out as assistant coaches.
Growing a team - Identify your school that you would like to be affiliated with. SNLA will help find a practice field location if your school will not provide space. Once you have identified your school you will serve, it is time to grow your player base.
Getting Players - Not all schools support clubs equally. Typically if you have a parent that is part of the school (teacher or PTA) you can use them to access a school. The following are things that some schools have allowed programs to do. Not all schools will give you the same access.
Open House Tables - Probably the best “recruiting” tool is an open house table. Here you have access to most of school’s students. It also gives the appearance of being a school sponsored organization (even when you are not). The goal of these events is to get the email addresses of prospective players. Once you have contact information, you can target these players with clinics, designed to introduce new players to the sport. If you decide to do an open house table… first you have to get permission from the principle to put up a table. You will want to use banners or signs to help draw attention to your club (SNLA has banners you can borrow). It is a good idea to display lacrosse equipment (sticks/helmet) and/or have current lacrosse players available. Your school may have multiple open house/orientations … so having volunteers to attend all of these events can be tricky. Once you get an email list…You need to contact people immediately…Strike while the fire is hot! Schedule a new kid (sticks only clinic) as soon as you can to get kids interested, (doesn’t matter that the season doesn’t start for 4 months- these kids will likely be the base of your future team). Encourage kids to get equipment or lend them equipment immediately so they can have greater participation in practices.
NOTE: Some schools allow you to put on clinics as part of PE or distribute flyers that advertise after school introductory clinics. (Givens allowed us to pass them out to every 4th-5th grade student. Bonner only allowed flyers at the front desk. Every school is different).
Communicate with your families - Once you have a growing email list…. keep your families informed. Direct your new perspective players to other local lacrosse camps/clinics, even if they are not run by your program. The more opportunities they have to play lacrosse, the stronger your program will be. Keep in mind, middle school lacrosse is for player development and growth…multi-sport athletes are typically our best players. Football and basketball players are great recruits because they are athletic and those sports will not conflict with lacrosse’s spring season. Encourage players to play more than one sport. The reality is, most parents aren’t familiar with Lacrosse and if pressured, will push their kids toward the sports they are most familiar.
Bottom line: It takes time to build a successful program. Programs need to develop a strong MS team and then build teams from there. Programs should focus on long term sustainability, not short term victory. A program’s number one measure of success is growth. If we provide a good product … parents will want to continue to spend their money and family time as members of our program. More importantly, kids will be excited and passionate about the game of lacrosse and will in-turn, bring more friends into the fold. If your program has more participants than the previous year, you are running a successful program. Set realistic goals for your new program and recognize that it may take some time to get a win on the scoreboard.
The following are elements for a large successful program:
1. Organization and a large Parent Support
2. Knowledgeable / positive coaches
4. Multiple levers of play (10u, 12u and 14u)
5. Refer on Host Camps, Clinics, Lacrosse Events for their players to attend.
6. Inform players of year-round opportunities to play/practice if wanted.
After you have your program started, consider the benefits of becoming a charitable organization!
Click Here for more information.