Industry Insights

Paul Rabil’s Premier Lacrosse League Is Primed To Grow The Game

By LeagueApps
May 7, 2019
4 min

Here at LeagueApps, we’re driven by a mission to facilitate amazing sports experiences for kids across the country. We work with the most enterprising organizers and experts across youth and local sports, and advise professional teams and leagues on how to best leverage their resources and expertise to help shape the future of youth sports. Today, we’re proud to feature a guest blog from Mike and Paul Rabil of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Paul is both an investor and a long-time advisor to LeagueApps. As a company, we’re proud to work closely with Paul and excited to support the PLL moving forward. If you’d like to interact with the PLL after reading this piece you can reach out to them over at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or their website.

You’ve heard us say it before, and you’ll likely hear us say it again – youth lacrosse (high-school and younger) is the largest and fastest growing segment in our sport. We’re a bottom-heavy sport supported by a hot streak of burgeoning interest in the game.

Following growth trends of the past 20 years, those statistics can also be a misnomer. Most of the org operators that I’ve spoken with cite slowing or stagnant growth. There are those still seeing double-digit year-over-year participatory growth, but it’s become the exception rather than the norm.

Pro League As A Magnet
Lacrosse is still a relatively small sport, and growth at the youth level has slowed down significantly. Having tapped into the major metropolises of the United States, continued proliferation has hit some snags. Much of this is related to broader trends that we’re seeing in youth sports. Participation in traditional sports like football, soccer, and tennis are all trending downward. In fact, there are very few youth sports with growth figures “in the black”. Baseball and basketball were facing a similar downward trend until both the NBA and MLB began to invest heavily in youth programming and technologyTheir approach is certainly a cause for optimism.

Continued youth engagement remains a top priority for the health of our sport’s ecosystem. At the PLL, one of our hopes is that a commercially viable pro league will bring about heightened interest and a taller aspirational experience for young athletes. As more players see lacrosse beyond college (though college is a great finish line), more players and elite athletes will pick up sticks – and hold onto them.
PLL Academy

In lockstep with our roll-out in 2018, we announced the formation of the PLL Academy. The PLL Academy represents our heartbeat in the youth landscape. Above all else, it’s a platform to connect aspiring youth athletes with the best players in the world.

Lacrosse is in a unique position where players at the height of excellence are accessible to the next generation with incredible ease. This is much less of the case with the superstars of the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and even MLS. We believe this is an incredible asset to the sport that we should lean into. In 2019, we will run 100+ events with 30+ athletes in 30+ states across the United States. We’ll work with 7K+ athletes across these markets – many of them just once. We intend to make those experiences impactful.

All of these events will be education-focused (trainings, instructional clinics & camps). We are not operating club teams or tournaments. Our hope is that greater accessibility to premium coaching and star power will (1) create meaningful experiences for all athletes in attendance (“all” emphasizes how these events will also enrich the experience of our players’ through the vehicle of coaching), (2) fill a void in coaching needs for underserved markets, (3) create optionality for programs that lack the infrastructure to host pro-driven events, and (4) be an additive instructional experience in established markets.

Though we’re proud of our training initiatives, building a genuine fan relationship between the PLL and lacrosse’s next generation of players is critical. Primary to that effort will be a re-introduction to professional lacrosse. Viewing opportunities – live and broadcast (or streamed) – are plentiful; we will need to differentiate ourselves with an offering that is premium and unique.

It’s not a state secret that boosting game attendance will be a key goal and important obstacle to tackle for the PLL. First – and most importantly – we need to appeal to our lacrosse base. Organizations and clubs are core to that effort.

PLL Experiences

As a league, we’ll be offering group experiences for your organizations and their families to enjoy the highest level of lacrosse together. This includes group seating options plus pre and post-game programming. We’re investing heavily in onsite experience – with premium venues at the top of that list. We’ll also be focusing on a newly designed festival area for fans – focusing on player-fan connections, premium food & beverages, games and competitions, giveaways, live music, and other extras still in the works.

Working with organizations to get teams and groups to our PLL Game Weekends will be critical to our growth – and reflects a larger mission of getting more players to pick up (and hold onto) lacrosse sticks. We look forward to serving these communities – creating more connective tissue between fans and the highest levels of lacrosse.

So as we approach our first season, we extend our hand to the community leaders that want to work together. The growth of our sport requires collaboration, and we’re here to collaborate. For game and player access, premium education, or perhaps areas we’ve missed. Let us know how we can help – and we promise to do the same.