If you build it, will they come?

When Chip Carlson set out to build a new program two years ago, he decided to go all-in with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM).

Carlson had already seen the benefits he reaped from going through the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program (CDP). The former high school player found the CDP offerings gave him tangible information he could instantly apply to coaching the women’s version of the sport.

With LADM, he saw everything a busy coach would need — fully fleshed-out practice plans and progressions to build the foundation of his new program.

He told people, “Let’s use the tool the [national governing body] has provided and focus on making it fun for the kids,” Carlson said. “If it’s fun for them, they’re going to keep coming back.”

Banshees Lacrosse is a club program serving girls players K-12 primarily in Rochester, Rochester Hills, Lake Orion, Oxford, Clarkston, Pontiac Troy and Bloomfield Hills and is not specifically tied to any one school. Carlson launched it in the summer of 2017 and by that fall had clinics for 16 players. By this past summer, participation had doubled to 35 and 70 girls from K-12 took part in activities last fall. 

Carlson also took the principles of the LADM to the high school program, Notre Dame Prep, where he serves as an assistant coach.

“We started with a parent meeting and explained the science,” Carlson said. “How a typical two-hour practice had them active only 25 percent of the time. This way, for every hour of practice, they’re going to be active for 51 minutes. That’s a tremendous amount of extra touches.”

Notre Dame structured its practices in stations, combining the junior varsity and varsity teams for many activities. Players were grouped into stations with players of similar abilities to help them get the most out of each exercise. The top players were encouraged to use their off-hands to help add another level of difficulty.

There was some resistance from both players and parents, but the doubts began to dissipate as the team achieved success. The season ended with Notre Dame making it to the regional finals for the first time ever.

One of the biggest reasons for the success was more players contributing.

“The bottom portion of your roster is going to move up the next level,” Carlson said. “Your mid-level players are going to take a step up. What ends up happening is creating depth on your bench. We can go all the way down our bench with confidence.”

The success with both the club and the high school program has Carlson even more sold on LADM. There are six core values to the model, each carrying significant weight.

  • Designed for development

  • Fun and did-centered

  • Small-sided and free play

  • Multi-sport participation

  • Physical literacy

  • Coach training

Carlson says that for a LADM to truly work, everyone has to buy into all six core values. He approaches the club with a business-like mindset that serves two customers — No. 1 the players and No. 2 the parents. The parents are key.

“Our parent base is bought in and we spend a lot of time reinforcing that,” Carlson said.

Carlson gets further support from a LADM cohort group established by US Lacrosse. A total of 25 such programs utilizing LADM are included in the group.

“With the cohort group, I can send out a text looking for some ideas and within five minutes I’ll have people texting me back,” Carlson said. “It’s created a network, and it’s fun to collaborate.”

The cohort group is also seeing success. At a time when many youth programs are struggling to keep participants, the original 2017 cohort group saw a 4.5 percent increase in participation from the year before they started using LADM as compared to the year after.

But it’s more than just that.

“Since the advent of LADM, our cohort group has seen not only a rise in participation numbers, but in satisfaction of members,” said TJ Buchanan, manager of athlete development for US Lacrosse.

That’s a recipe to make sure the kids keep coming back.

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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