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By Jamie Hunt
With $8 million raised toward its $15 million goal, US Lacrosse launched the public phase of The National Campaign for Lacrosse on July 10 at the FIL World Championship in Denver.
The campaign seeks to build a new headquarters for US Lacrosse by 2016 while providing more opportunities for young people to play the sport and more resources in support of research to make the sport safer.
Since its inception in 1998 with 20,000 members, US Lacrosse has invested more than $125 million into the growth and development of the sport. Today, the organization serves more than 430,000 members in 68 chapters across 45 states. Nearly 750,000 people in the U.S. played lacrosse in 2013, according to the US Lacrosse Participation Report.
“The time is now,” said Denver’s Rich Morgan, the incoming chair of the board of US Lacrosse. “US Lacrosse has been an incredible catalyst for the responsible growth of the sport. We have to act now to build the capacity of the organization to continue to grow the sport.”
Morgan will succeed Laura Hebert of Richmond, Va., as chair of the board of US Lacrosse in September.
“There’s no question the sport has benefited from strong leadership,“ Hebert said. “US Lacrosse employees coordinate the efforts of more than 350 volunteers nationwide. Every day, they’re working to make sure that rules are clear, consistent, and age-appropriate; that coaches and officials are properly trained; that competition is safe and fun; and that more children have the opportunity to play the sport.”
The National Campaign for Lacrosse is organized around three key objectives, each with its own monetary goal: Leadership ($13 million), Opportunity ($1 million) and Safety ($1 million).
At the heart of the Leadership objective is the need for a facility that supports US Lacrosse’s many responsibilities as the sport’s national governing body. Presently, offices are divided among four separate workspaces in two buildings a block apart.
“It’s an incredibly inefficient arrangement that has resulted from rapid organizational growth and increasing demand for US Lacrosse leadership and resources,” said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO.
When eight lacrosse associations merged to create US Lacrosse in 1998, the new national governing body had 12 employees (one for every 1,670 members) housed in the former headquarters of The Lacrosse Foundation on Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus in Baltimore. An expansion of the building in 1997 raised its capacity to 35. Today, US Lacrosse has a staff of more than 80 (one for every 5,400 members) and more than 350 volunteers across the country.
“The staff and volunteers have adapted as best they can, but their ability to serve our national membership is comprised by the inefficiency of our current facility. The new National Lacrosse Center will be a highly efficient, collaborative work space,” Stenersen said.
As a center for training those who cover the nation teaching coaches and officials, the new headquarters will provide a place where innovative curricula can be developed, tested and implemented.
“US Lacrosse employees are incredibly mission-focused,” Morgan said. “Whatever they do — whether managing programs such as First Stick, Gold Stick, physical education grants and the four U.S. national teams; educating coaches and officials; organizing the national convention and championship tournaments; producing Lacrosse Magazine and maintaining US Lacrosse websites; supporting the efforts of the chapter network; answering phone and email queries; welcoming visitors to the Hall of Fame; raising funds for special initiatives; providing technical support—every person knows that the overarching purpose of their job is to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.”
Unable to expand or rebuild on its current site, US Lacrosse purchased a 12-acre property in Sparks, Md. Plans call for construction of a three-level, 45,000 square-foot National Lacrosse Center, an exhibition and training field and a 500-seat spectator area. The field, a permanent training facility for the U.S. national teams, also will be open to visiting teams from around the country. It will have access through the seating area to locker rooms and training spaces on the first level of the center.
A broad promenade will run between the center and the stadium, creating an informal space for visitors to gather and watch a game on the field or step inside to visit an expanded Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame.
The Creator’s Game statue in front of the current headquarters will be relocated to the promenade and surrounded by the names of those who made the original building possible. Nearby, a memorial with the names of members of the lacrosse community who perished in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is planned.
“One particular aspect of the new headquarters I’m really looking forward to is the opportunity to honor more of the outstanding people and teams who are a vital part of our sport’s history,” said Kelly, co-chair of the campaign and a member of the US Lacrosse Foundation board said. “The whole campus will be a showcase of the sport, from its origins among Native Americans, through its development in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, to the explosive growth all corners of our country and the globe today.”
Lacrosse used to spread to new areas as stick-toting players and coaches from traditional hotbeds relocated and introduced it to kids in their new neighborhoods.
But as social media carries images of lacrosse to millions of mobile devices, many kids today don’t need an introduction. They want to play.
Matt Hanna, a former history teacher at the Cristo Rey School in inner city Baltimore, realized that five years ago when a group of his students, mostly black and Hispanic, approached him about starting a team.
“If we didn’t have the level of interest,” Hanna said, “we might not have moved forward.”
Hanna faced challenges getting equipment and training. He turned to US Lacrosse for assistance, becoming one of more than 600 programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia since 2000 to receive equipment grants, valued at more than $3 million. Since 2012, the First Stick Program has awarded 225 grants providing comprehensive start-up assistance, impacting thousands of players.
The $1 million “Opportunity” objective of The National Campaign for Lacrosse will enable expansion of core initiatives such as the First Stick Program and the coaches and officials education programs.
“For every kid playing the sport today, many more would like to, particularly in non-traditional communities,” Hebert said. “We want to inspire them to play hard and dream big, and give them the resources to do so.”
How much is too much? When it comes to concussions, that’s the million-dollar question in lacrosse and other sports. US Lacrosse has aggressively pursued health and safety advocacy, research and education.
Focus areas have also included commotio cordis research and the promotion of AEDs on every field, as well as studies leading to a greater understanding of the nature, frequency and mechanism of lacrosse-specific injuries at any level of play.
This spring, Dr. Margot Putukian, director of athletic medicine at Princeton and chair of US Lacrosse’s Sports Science and Safety Committee, examined the school’s men’s and women’s teams to learn more about concussions in a pilot study funded by US Lacrosse.
“We decided to do the study because we think there’s lots of missing information, in terms of what are the impacts that occur in the sport,” Putukian said. “How many blows to the head are there in a typical college practice? What about in games? There’s very limited research that’s been done in lacrosse.”
The $1 million Safety objective of campaign will include additional support for injury research, equipment review and certification, rule development, educational conferences and publications targeted to the national lacrosse community. The National Lacrosse Center will be a focal point for information and education.
US Lacrosse has grown exponentially since its 1998 inception, when eight lacrosse organizations merged to form a unified national governing body.
As the national governing body of lacrosse, US Lacrosse is challenged to rise to meet the needs of our sport's explosive growth. Our sport requires an investment in leadership, safety and opportunity and we must answer this call.
National Campaign for Lacrosse
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