Here we go again, lacrosse supporters. Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore will bring record crowds as the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four takes over the city. This year there is even more reason to celebrate, as new blood, the upstart fledgling program from the University of Denver, found and fought its way to the championship weekend after just a few years on the sports’ highest level. The revamped, cost controlled and better managed National Lacrosse League enjoyed a solid indoor season, and is looking for a larger media presence and better sponsor support in the coming years. Major League Lacrosse just launched it’s outdoor season, and will be looking to expand yet again as well. Hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are playing more and more on the grassroots level. Is it time, or will it ever be time, for lacrosse to find its consistent face?
Maybe its still too soon. Like soccer eight to ten years ago, it took unified senior leadership with very deep pockets and a great deal of patience and vision to grow the sport from the grassroots on up. That growth in soccer is similar to what has gone on with lacrosse. It has an active and still maturing fan base, fans who love the experiential nature of the game but may not want to support professional lacrosse consistently as a brand. And although it is growing as an experiential sport in new geographic areas, the footprint is still not truly national. Regional? Yes.
Maybe in eight to ten years those who play and follow will be the consumer who will spend and follow the sport at an elite level, and maybe they will bring brands with them who will invest at higher levels and see ROI, or maybe lacrosse is just what and where it needs to be…with a great following on the collegiate level in select regions, and with a growing high school system, but one that does not need a viable professional alternative to be deemed successful. Social media has helped unify fans, but reaching a tipping point to a casual fan takes time and dollars to break through the clutter.
No doubt that lacrosse is growing, and is providing great healthy alternatives for young people from the grassroots through college. The doubt is at the pro level. Whether or not it is needed remains to be seen, but whether or not a pro version is successful, this month will continue to provide some great exposure points for the sport.