Last week’s Varsity Letter e-newsletter discussed the growth of lacrosse in the Erie area. Sports editor Jeff Kirik talked about the potential challenges faced by lacrosse officials as they try to spread their sport.
Among those issues were competition with other spring sports and the limited resources and enrollments of smaller schools.
In response to the Varsity Letter, Cathedral Prep coach Jeff Lord — an area lacrosse advocate — wrote an e-mail to address those issues and others.
Here’s the full text of Lord’s letter:
I would like to comment on the spread of lacrosse to smaller schools in D-10.
I have started 10 programs in 4 states, including the HS programs at Prep and McDowell (both boys and girls). I also started the Erie Spears and helped get middle school lacrosse going in Erie. I have started programs at both large and small schools. In February, I held a meeting at the Meadville recreation complex and had over 100 people attend, and it looks like Meadville will start a program next year. In starting programs when approaching the school the answer is always the same — “no” – for two primary reasons; 1) the budget cannot support another sport, and 2) we are concerned it will deplete our other spring sports.
The budget explanation is defeated by the sport being self funded. Typical cost for equipment is $300 and — to run the sport — $300-$500 depending a number of factors such as if the coaches are paid or volunteer. Key aspects are that the self-funded approach must follow school rules on academics, use the school colors and mascot and award letters to be viewed by national bodies as a legitimate sport for All American and academic All American considerations. This same reasoning and the cost of hockey is why hockey is not a PIAA sport and the teams are self funded.
The fear of losing athletes is rarely true. Kids who love baseball, tennis, track or volleyball do not come to lacrosse because the pace of the game is much different. The athletes that come, come because they were playing those sports because there was nothing else to do or they are intrigued by the game. I come from a small school in NY that graduates 150 kids per year and they support competitive teams in both boys and girls lacrosse, baseball, softball, boys and girls tennis and boys and girls track. By adding the sport, what a school does is provide more opportunity for the kids to find something to excel at. This in turn provides greater opportunity for scholarship to reduce the cost of college.
Lacrosse is somewhat unique currently as the news regularly reports another college adding lacrosse. The reason they add the sport is that it makes them money even if they are supplying scholarships. A typical college team will have a roster of 30-45 players. Division 1 and II schools offer athletic scholarships. DIII is need based. However few of the scholarships are full – most are partial. Without knowing the details of a school, we can’t know what the break-even point is on tuition, but 50% is probably a good guess. Nearly every athlete will pay that much. So by adding lacrosse, a college attracts the team players to the school plus some will come not recruited to try and may or may not come out for the team. As a note I have several former players at Mercyhurst College that all thought they would walk on. Some schools, like RIT have hundreds of kids involved in their intramural lacrosse program and probably most of them thought they would walk on there. The success on the field adds to the schools’ notoriety and helps to attract additional students. The long and the short of is that lacrosse opportunities abound and high school players are actively sought to fill spots at all competitive levels in college.
What then is the chief impediment to growth of the sport? Every program that has been successfully started needs a champion. Someone willing to collect the people needed to start the teams and persevere through several rounds of being told no. Most people get discouraged after being told no and give up. The schools will not voluntarily add another sport because it means more budget, more scheduling and more coordination. Unfortunately this is true whether the sport is lacrosse or volleyball. Without champion news sports don’t flourish. The good news for communities considering lacrosse is that the current growth at the college level means more opportunities to play in college ( and therefore more scholarship opportunities) and that is a great drawing card for the sport to get people excited to push through the bureaucracy to start a program at the high school level.
Head coach, Cathedral Prep
Co-founder, Erie Youth Lacrosse