Tucked deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at 8,750 feet lies a former mining town called Telluride. Known for its world-class skiing, bluegrass music and beautiful natural surroundings, the town is seen as a must stop for winter-sport aficionados and nature connoisseurs alike. U.S. News & World Report ranked the city as No. 1 on its list of “Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA.”

For a small town of just under 3,000 residents with an average of 300 inches of snowfall annually, the conditions aren’t synonymous for growing lacrosse. Furthermore, with the town located over six hours away from Denver, numerous logistical challenges exist for traveling to games and growing the sport far away from the biggest leagues in the state. But none of that has deterred Telluride Lacrosse from fostering a passionate lacrosse community.

The Telluride Youth Lacrosse Association (TYLA) is a non-profit organization providing the opportunity for boys and girls of all ability levels to experience instructional and competitive lacrosse in a safe and fun environment while promoting key values of the sport, including sportsmanship, discipline and respect.

Founded in 2004 by East Coast transplants that found themselves in a small ski town with young athletes and no lacrosse to play, this community-based US Lacrosse-member association has been leveraging US Lacrosse programs and initiatives since its inception to attract new athletes into the sport and grow the game from the youth to high school level. 

Athletes nestled in this beautiful box canyon town played a variety of sports including hockey, soccer and basketball before lacrosse was available. Because it’s such a small community, leagues typically need most, if not all, kids to participate in order to fill rosters. 

The Telluride community has welcomed lacrosse with open arms. It was the perfect spring sport for the town’s “rugged, mountain athletes” said boys’ lacrosse coordinator Marc Silbergeld. 

In its early stages, new players used hockey helmets and borrowed hand-me-down sticks from generous former players to learn the fundamentals of the game. As passion for the sport continued to grow for kids and parents alike, there was a need for more equipment and developmental resources to continue the movement.

In 2014, TYLA applied for and was awarded a US Lacrosse First Stick grant, receiving equipment to help provide access to more participants. 

“In our town there isn’t a sports equipment store that athletes can go and pick up lacrosse equipment at — the closest is a few hours away,” Silbergeld said. “The First Stick grant really helped us take our program and the sport to an entirely different level by making this equipment available. Our trajectory has been up ever since.”

TYLA has also made it a priority to instill the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM) and leverage US Lacrosse resources like the Mobile Coach app to ensure its athletes are learning the proper skills and rules at the appropriate age levels. 

For TYLA’s girls’ lacrosse coordinator Lindsey Welch, the resources have been critical in developing the programs they currently have in place. 

“Prior to joining TYLA, I had never coached a lacrosse team, so I’m a regular user of the videos on the coaching app and the rule book,” Welch said. “We are constantly introducing new kids to the game at a variety of age groups. These resources have helped us to properly structure practices and provide technical instruction, helping our athletes to properly grow at their respective age groups.”

When looking back at the growth the program has experienced leveraging US Lacrosse resources, Silbergeld can see the benefits. “These tools have helped us build a sound structure and technique to our program,” he said.

In 2019, five years after receiving the First Stick grant, TYLA now has a stock of used equipment to pass on to younger athletes who are interested in learning the sport. The movement that began in 2004 now includes high school varsity boys’ and girls’ teams, as well as a club program with 170 boys and girls representing grades K to 8.

Beside this surge in participation, TYLA programs have started to become a force to be reckoned with statewide. Just last year, the Telluride boys’ varsity team qualified for the Colorado High School Activity Association (CHSAA) state playoffs for the first time ever. 

TYLA isn’t slowing down either. Program leaders are researching opportunities for another First Stick grant for its girls’ program and are interested in hosting a US Lacrosse TryLax clinic to continue opening opportunities for new athletes to try the sport. 

These rugged, mountain athletes might just represent the future of lacrosse.

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