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Grassroots Movement: US Lacrosse Chapters Making a Difference

August 14, 2014    9447 Views

By Paul Ohanian

US Lacrosse Chapter Clinics

Zach Hefner

Compete with class. Honor the game.

That’s a mantra that US Lacrosse has been promoting for a long time in hopes of elevating sportsmanship. In recent months, several of US Lacrosse’s 68 chapters nationwide have found ways to help spread the message through grassroots initiatives.

The Greater Rochester Chapter partnered with leaders from New York’s Section V to organize a Leadership Symposium for high school boys and girls earlier this year. Each high school in the section was invited to bring two varsity captains or team leaders and the head coach to a preseason luncheon. Thirty-seven boys’ teams and 33 girls’ teams attended. They heard a number of speakers, including US Lacrosse’s men’s game director, Stephen Berger, talk about leadership skills and about being a role model on their teams.

“It was very important to bring the focus back to sportsmanship,” said Nate Snyder, president of the Greater Rochester Chapter and master of ceremonies for the event. “There’s a natural tie-in between being a good leader and competing with class.”

The event featured an interactive approach by having the participants work in small groups to identify their priorities as team leaders. The speakers challenged the players to consider all aspects of leadership and sportsmanship, from confronting negativity among their own teammates to the type of music played during warm-ups.

“There’s a number of ways to get the message across,” Snyder said. “We think this was a worthwhile event and really helped raise the level of sportsmanship in Section V during this past season. The chapter hopes to support this as an annual event.”

The Kentucky Chapter also is taking a leadership role on the sportsmanship front, having hosted Positive Coaching Alliance workshops for local coaches, parents and athletes in support of the “Compete with Class – Honor the Game” initiative. The chapter website prominently features sportsmanship links for various game constituents.

In Washington, the chapter has found a different way to help honor the game. Building on a suggestion from one of the state’s high school players, Gavin Cipoletti, the Washington State Chapter has created an All-Community Team that recognizes high school players for their achievements off the field. To qualify, players must complete at least 100 hours of community service and maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average.

Sixty-six players were named to the inaugural team. In addition, the chapter is awarding two $500 scholarships to college-bound seniors that have the most original community service projects.

“There’s an appetite here to help these student-athletes grow in ways that are not measured simply by goals, assists and wins,” said Mike McQuaid, information director for the Washington Chapter.

“It’s a way to honor the game of lacrosse,” said Cipoletti, who recently completed his senior season for Washington state champion and Nike/US Lacrosse West Region No. 3-ranked Bellevue High.

Among other US Lacrosse chapters making a difference:

  • The St. Louis Chapter, which has a 50-percent growth rate over the past three years and now has approximately 4,000 members, has been very active in the development of junior officials. This past year, the chapter worked closely with the St. Louis Youth Lacrosse Association (SLYLA) and local officials’ organizations to host junior official training clinics, which yielded more than 70 junior officials for the recent spring season.
  • The Colorado Chapter’s annual Rocky Mountain Regional Lacrosse Convention has become one of the nation’s premier educational events for coaches and parents. Modeled along the lines of the US Lacrosse National Convention, the Colorado event offers educational sessions, vendor opportunities and a Fan Fest gathering aimed at players.
  • The Northern California (NorCal) Chapter, with nearly 13,000 members, runs a successful equipment loaner program to help facilitate the growth of new programs. The loaner equipment—sticks, helmets, goals—supports local programs and players participating in clinics and other sport development initiatives.
  • The Oregon Chapter used money from a US Lacrosse grant to hire an interpreter for Ashley Schweiger, an aspiring women’s lacrosse official who has been deaf since she was 1. Schweiger, who lost her hearing due to spinal meningitis, played lacrosse in high school and for the Oregon club team. Officiating seemed like the natural next step. “I have never allowed my deafness to stop me from doing something I want to do,” she said in an email. The interpreter remained with Schweiger through her education and training. She officiated several high school games in the spring.

Nearly all of the 68 chapters are involved in delivering US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program (CEP) clinics and training to coaches, and providing support for the Officials Education Program. Combined, the chapters are hosting 87 CEP clinics and 17 national team player clinics in 2014. Additionally, nearly $200,000 has been provided to support regional officials’ education and training.

Many chapters also host hall of fame events to recognize worthy local contributors, sponsor high school all-star games and award banquets, and organize additional fundraising events that provide resources to support the mission and work of the chapter.

“The leaders of these chapters are all dedicated volunteers who love the game,” said Steve Kirr, director of regional development at US Lacrosse. “We count on them to help deliver programs and services to support local constituents. That’s no small task.”

Missionary Work

In 1998, a network of 43 chapters formed the foundation for a fledgling national governing body, US Lacrosse. And while that regional structure has evolved over the last 16 years — most significantly in the last four — the committed volunteers representing US Lacrosse in your backyard continue to carry forth its mission to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.

When the network grew to 64 in 2010, most US Lacrosse chapters operated independently, with some support from the national office. That started to change with a new regional staff structure in 2012 and a new funding model in 2013. Today, the now 68-chapter lineup benefits from national staff monitoring and measuring each chapter’s performance, a streamlined chapter certification process and more hands-on help allocating resources.

“The work done by our chapters is critically important in supporting the growth of lacrosse throughout the country,” said Steve Kirr, director of regional development at US Lacrosse.

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