Mo Asif knows that Florida isn’t yet a lacrosse hotbed, but he’s doing his best to help the sport to take off.

When Asif speaks about his St. Petersburg Dragons program and the Tampa Bay Thunder elite program, it’s not hard to sense his passion for the game and its growth in the Sunshine State.

“I was told that Florida is an up-and-coming state in the sport of lacrosse,” he said. “We see that. There are bigger spots in the state, like Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, but Tampa isn’t doing bad.”

Asif, who joined the Dragons in 2013 and now serves as the organization’s vice president, has a vision for the program. The nonprofit had approximately 80 youth participants in the Pinellas County area when Asif got involved and has now almost tripled in participation.

To support that growth, US Lacrosse’s Coach Development Program has provided training and certification for the Dragons’ growing roster of coaches. Asif appreciates the help from US Lacrosse, and he’s always looking for new ways to learn.

“Any time myself or another coach has any issues as far as getting information — whether it be rulebooks, or whatever it may be — every time we’ve reached out, we’ve got a good response from US Lacrosse,” Asif said.

Ultimately, the goal for Asif is simple; he wants to give his children and others a chance to play the game that changed his life.

“The game has given so much to me, and I feel like I want to give back,” he said. “It’s opened up so many doors for me. I have such a passion for the game, and I want my kids to have that same passion.”

For Asif, that passion started to develop in Middletown, N.J., where he first discovered lacrosse. He moved from Pakistan to the U.S. when he was 3 years old. He was originally attached to baseball, but it didn’t take long for him to convert his love to lacrosse.

After playing in high school, Asif found a school where he could balance both of his interests. At Embry-Riddle in Daytona, he participated in lacrosse and studied aerospace engineering. 

Asif competed for one year in the NAIA and three seasons in Division II with Embry-Riddle. After Embry-Riddle, Asif landed a job with NASA and worked there through the early 2000s. Then, he taught computer engineering at Keiser University.

It wasn’t until Asif moved to St. Petersburg that he started to play lacrosse again — this time for a men’s team called the Tampa Bay Thunder. Friends encouraged him to get into coaching lacrosse, but he wasn’t ready.

But when his son, Tyson, signed up for the Dragons, he wanted to get involved.

“I couldn’t take a backseat,” he said. “I was involved with the coaches. I played at the college level and in high school. As soon as I said that to the coach, he said ‘Here you go, this team is yours. Thank you for the help.’”

Asif and Dragons president Fred Espro have been building the program for the past six years, and the club currently offers teams at the K-12 level. Asif said he’s proud that there are multiple 12U and 10U teams.

Now that Asif also coaches at the high school team at Northside Christian School, he’s broadening his view for the Dragons. The club has become a feeder for high schools in the area.

With an assist from US Lacrosse and budding interest in the game in Florida, the sky is the limit for the St. Petersburg Dragons.

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