LaxCon 2020: What Organizers, Coaches, and Parents Need to Know
By Jamie Hancock
January 13, 2020
At LaxCon 2020, we gathered in Philadelphia with a passionate lacrosse community that is committed to professional development and sharing knowledge and ideas to grow the game. Across the U.S., a lot of clubs are facing the same challenges—yet, there are unique nuances in each region based on the popularity of the sport. As we know, participation numbers have grown consistently in youth lacrosse, and we’ve seen more and more NCAA teams surface over the last decade. So why do some club organizations struggle to grow and develop their players?
Members from the LeagueApps team attended educational sessions, networked with clubs and organizations, watched a live podcast recording that featured Paul Rabil and Kyle Harrison, and even delivered Pat’s renowned cheesesteaks to our partners. Our Happy Hour at Finn McCool’s brought together some of the most enterprising youth clubs in the country for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and conversation.
If you’re in need of the latest insights to develop lacrosse in your community or to help guide the young athlete in your life, look no further. We’ll tell you what you need to know and who you should pay attention to as you plan for the year ahead.
How to Run a Sustainable Lacrosse Club in Today’s Landscape
The title you see above was the exact title of one of the sessions we attended at the convention. The speakers were Jake Deane and Mike Gabel, Co-founders of True Lacrosse, a powerhouse organization that has boys and girls programs in 15 states across the U.S., as well as a national program.
They broke their success down into four categories: Product, Sales, Service, and Scaling the Business. It was interesting to learn that Deane and Gabel define their “product” in terms of player development. Conversely, many youth lacrosse organizers focus on other more lucrative opportunities.
“Everyone wants that one hit wonder event that makes them a lot of money. The challenge, however, is that lacrosse isn’t a mainstream sport. Therefore, you have to put in the sweat equity to get the return. Offer free clinics and training to build rapport with parents and players.”
— Jake Deane
Here are some other recommendations from Deane and Gabel:
- Make sure that your website is accurate and coincides with what you’re sending out
- Have your staff make regular “service calls” as a way to check in with parents
- Send out surveys to players and families requesting feedback
- As you work to improve your organization, keep parents in the loop by communicating these effort via email
- On social media, post a photo of a girl each time you post one of a boy
- Town and club programs must work together in order to grow lacrosse in their community
Another notable session we attended was Understanding and Using the “What,” “Why,” and “How” of the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model with Tony Moreno, the President of East Lansing Youth Lacrosse. He encouraged organizers and coaches to emphasize talent development as opposed to talent identification. Talent development refers to keeping more players engaged with lacrosse longer, allowing the best players to emerge as they reach physical maturity. More than 25 sports follow their own Athlete Development Model, but lacrosse has one of the strongest models. Visit the US Lacrosse ADM webpage for more information and resources.
Encourage Kids to Follow Professional Players Who Serve As Positive Role Models
Paul Rabil’s new PLL podcast, Unbuckled Chinstrap, debuted live at LaxCon 2020 on Saturday, January 11th with an episode featuring Kyle Harrison. Rabil—an investor and a long-time advisor to LeagueApps—sat down with his good friend and college teammate to expose Harrison’s unique lifestyle and the untold stories of his career. Harrison told the audience that lacrosse wasn’t always his main sport; he was a basketball and soccer player up until his senior year of high school. Immediately after, we noticed a supportive mother pat her son on the back as if to validate his desire to continue playing multiple sports.
Our trailer is now live!
📥 Subscribe on Apple Podcasts…or search “Unbuckled Chinstrap” on your favorite podcast platform.
— Unbuckled Chinstrap (@UnbuckledPod) January 9, 2020
Here’s a teaser of the premiere episode:
Organizations that are Making an Impact in the Lacrosse Community
None of us get involved in youth sports to make the big bucks. That being said, the following organizations are seeing positive results, while working to make the lacrosse world—and quite frankly the world as a whole—a better place. We met with representatives from each of these organizations, and left inspired. Not only are they giving back to the community, but they are also impacting kids directly by promoting greater accessibility and working to improve life skills and character development. Contact us to learn more or see how you can get involved.
Lumber Lax creates custom wooden shafts. The company was founded a few years ago by an entrepreneurial, philanthropic teenage lacrosse player named Kai. We had a chance to speak with him and his mom, Cynthia, who run Lumber Lax out of their home in Oregon along with the rest of the family. For every stick purchased, they donate one to others that don’t have access to lacrosse. Lumber Lax has a partnership with MLL, and they most recently worked with Viva Lacrosse to send sticks to Panama.
ReLax is a nonprofit organization that collects and redistributes new and used lacrosse equipment to promote education and support the universal mission to grow the game. The organization has a partnership with Lumber Lax, which makes sense since both value accessibility—just like us. ReLax has collected over $1,000,000 worth of equipment, supporting 31 teams across the USA and in 11 countries.
Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national non-profit organization with the mission of creating a positive, character-building youth sports environment that results in BETTER ATHLETES, BETTER PEOPLE. PCA has established 18 chapters nationwide, partnered with roughly 3,500 schools and youth sports organizations—including US Lacrosse—to deliver more than 20,000 live group workshops, reaching 19.2 million youth.
HEADstrong Foundation is a non-profit organization that offers financial, residential, and emotional support to families affected by cancer. The organization was founded by Nick Colleluori, a former lacrosse player at Hofstra University, who passed away from cancer at age 21. He created HEADstrong from his hospital bed after witnessing the lack of resources available to others in his position, many of whom travel to Philadelphia seeking care.
And there you have it: key observations from LaxCon 2020 to get you geared up for a successful Spring. We know that the best lacrosse organizations are out there networking and learning from other leaders in the industry. If you missed out, we’d love to share more of our insights and speak to you about LeagueApps’ role in facilitating growth for your organization. Thank you to everyone who helped make LaxCon 2020 an incredible experience, and a special thank-you to our friends at US Lacrosse for putting on another fun and valuable convention. Let’s attack the challenges head-on and keep pushing youth lacrosse forward this year!