US Lacrosse hosted more than 30 lacrosse and sports industry leaders Oct. 26 at its national headquarters in Sparks, Md., to address growing concerns over the sport’s flattening participation rate.

The group, which included representatives of leading lacrosse manufacturers and retailers, rallied around the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, a player-centric initiative that aims to “square the pyramid” of lacrosse participation by rethinking how it is packaged at the introductory levels. Small-sided play (i.e., 3-on-3 or 7-on-7) is but one component of the model, which also emphasizes physical literacy and age-appropriate training tactics as part of a more holistic approach to developing young athletes.

“We need you,” Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse, said in his presentation to the group. “The sport needs us.”

LADM is “the most visionary program” in US Lacrosse history, said Ann Carpenetti, vice president of lacrosse operations at US Lacrosse, “a game changer that if you all get behind it, it’s an opportunity to grow the game and keep players safe.”

By the end of the four-hour summit, the industry leaders were all-in on LADM. Here’s what else we heard.

It's About Communities

"You can’t have a conversation about growth without talking about diversity and inclusion. We’re not talking about giving a kid a stick, and expecting it to stick from there. We have to do better. We have to build and resource communities, so those communities can grow the sport with us." — Susie Chase, VP of Philanthropy and Partnerships, US Lacrosse

"[The decline of] rec lax is the problem. There’s not a home for a kid to play and just have fun." — Jerry Scott, Director of Lacrosse, True Temper Sports

"Instead of playing for the love of the game and developing organic play, the athlete is chasing the elusive scholarships at a multitude of tournaments and facing possible burnout." — Joe Taylor, Lacrosse Sales Director, Nike

The Hockey Parallel

"Minnesota has a huge hockey community. What we see in hockey is guys will play and skate until 60 or 70 years old. How do we keep people in the game?" — James Miceli, Co-Owner and Founder, Epoch Lacrosse

"Wherever you fall off the pyramid, you’re done. Even if you go through college, they are focused on their careers, and they drop off the face of the game. We lose them for 10 years, and maybe they pop up again." — Steve Stenersen, President and CEO, US Lacrosse

"There was a period in the early 2000s when ice hockey had a day of reckoning, similar to what you see in lacrosse now. The industry huddled around the One Goal Program with the NHL, manufacturers and governing bodies. The goal was to get 1 million people to at least try the sport." — Ed Saunders, Director of Marketing, STX

"With the hockey parallel, they have two things we don’t: the NHL and the Olympics, two high-profile marketing platforms." — Steve Stenersen, President and CEO, US Lacrosse

"Over the last 10 years, only two team sports have grown consistently: hockey and lacrosse. Lacrosse is still in a very good growth position. In the last three weeks, I’ve probably been to five of these meetings. There was the hockey summit in Canada. USA Football discussed modified rules with smaller sides using half the field and everybody playing every position. Does this sound familiar? MLB is putting millions of dollars into Play Ball. In tennis, they focused on young players, and there was a big change, creating age-appropriate products to help kids enjoy the game." — Tom Cove, President and CEO, Sports & Fitness Industry Association

Fix the Leaky Bucket

"One, we would prefer to hitch our ride to something that’s already started. Two, we have a bias toward immediate action. Three, let’s fix the hole in the bucket before we try to put more in the bucket. What you’re doing with athlete development is spot on. This has been successful in other sports. I think we should hitch a ride on what US Lacrosse already started." — Jason Goger, President, STX

"Why are we here? The obvious answer is we all have money in the sport and money to be gained by growing the sport. But as I look around the room, we’re all lacrosse players. [LADM], we’re into it. We think it’s a great model." — Mike Kenneally, VP and Co-Founder, East Coast Dyes

"We need to go back to the NCAA and get those coaches involved too. They all have camps and clinics. Why can’t [LADM] be a part of it? We can go back to our programs and sponsored athletes to implement it." — Jenny Levy, Director of Marketing and Retail Sales, Team 22 (Under Armour)

"At Nike, a big thing every sport has to do is identify, what are you famous for? Small-sided games are something all the companies can get behind and we as a sport can be famous for this as a growth driver." — Joe Taylor, Lacrosse Sales Director, Nike

"Think about why we’re here. If it’s because of money, it’s not going to work. Why are we here? It’s to grow the game, because we’re passionate about lacrosse. What we really want is kids playing it in their backyard in some way." — Mike Kenneally, VP and Co-Founder, East Coast Dyes

"It has to be on concrete and in backyards. It has to be organic." — James Miceli, Co-Owner and Founder, Epoch Lacrosse

Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

The Lacrosse Athlete Development Model - Providing every athlete the opportunity to enter, enjoy and excel by learning and playing lacrosse in a way that’s best for each stage of growth and development.

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