If you build it, they will come.

While that phrase was popularized in association with another sport, it certainly rang true following US Lacrosse’s West Regional Conference hosted earlier this month in Las Vegas. The three-day educational and networking event for coaches, officials and program leaders at the Renaissance Las Vegas attracted nearly 350 registered attendees and over 400 total participants. 

The early returns from virtually all corners have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Those of us on the West Coast don’t get many opportunities to attend lacrosse conferences near us,” said Californian Kyle Allen, who serves as a program leader and coach with Mira Mesa Youth Lacrosse and Mira Mesa High School. “It was nice to have US Lacrosse work this out and give us a chance to attend something closer to home.”

With multiple learning tracks offered, the event featured over 50 educational sessions and had 35 different speakers. Session topics included team and athlete development, rules interpretation, game management, and organizational leadership.

Rachel Neal, from Southern California, was one of approximately 75 women’s game officials who attended. She appreciated having a forum that facilitated helpful conversations between umpires and coaches.

“This was a great opportunity to touch base with umpires from other areas, but also to have a chance to chat with coaches regarding the new season,” Neal said. “Coaches were able to see the training that we go through, and after one session, they just looked at me and said, ‘wow.’”

In addition to the officials training opportunities, about 140 attendees completed Level 1 and Level 2 Coach Development Program training events. 

Jess Rest, program leader for the Central Texas Youth Lacrosse Association, found the event very helpful in meeting others who have faced some of the same issues she encounters in Austin. The opportunity to share common experiences and learn lessons from other program leaders was a personal highlight.

“We are a bit siloed here in Texas because our state is so large,” Rest said. “I really liked meeting and talking with people from other areas, and learning about some of the things they have done. It was really good to make connections.” 

Motivated by her Las Vegas conference experience, Rest has now registered to also attend January’s US Lacrosse Convention in Philadelphia. It will be her first time at the larger event.

“I really loved the event and can’t wait for the next one,” Rest said.

Lyn Porterfield, US Lacrosse’s regional director for membership in the Pacific and Mountain regions, has had significant feedback from constituents since returning from Las Vegas.

“There’s no doubt, the proximity was huge for most folks,” she said, “but they also appreciated the variety of speakers and the ability to network. I heard that time and time again.” 

Porterfield estimates that 80-percent of those who gathered in Las Vegas were first-timers who have never previously attended the annual, East Coast-based US Lacrosse Convention (LaxCon).

“There was also a lot of excitement about just being able to attend a US Lacrosse sponsored educational event,” she said.

Marc Luckett, a US Lacrosse board member based in Colorado who has attended LaxCon in Baltimore and Philadelphia many times, noted that the West Regional Conference has plenty of room to grow in the future. Adding elements that have long been part of the East Coast event might be the logical next steps.

“In the future, I think we can consider adding a live field space or some type of larger demonstration space, as well as a greater vendor presence,” Luckett said.

Moving forward, US Lacrosse will continue to collect feedback from participants and attendees in its ongoing development efforts for the event. What’s clear, thus far, is that there’s plenty of potential for the event in the future. 

“Providing valuable educational opportunities for coaches, officials, and program leaders has been a long-standing priority for US Lacrosse, and we’re pleased that this year’s West Regional Conference was so well received,” said Brett Hurwitz, vice present of marketing and communications at US Lacrosse. “The feedback we have heard clearly indicates that our members appreciated having an event of this level in the Western United States. Our challenge is to now continue to evolve this event so that it best meets the needs of our members and the lacrosse community.”

SISU, Guardian and DonJoy served as US Lacrosse’s partners for the West Regional Conference.

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