Mike Tobin, president of one of the nation’s most established programs, Smithtown (N.Y.) Youth Lacrosse, adheres to a pretty basic philosophy in running a successful operation.

“It’s got to be well organized and structured,” Tobin said. “That’s the only way you’re going to get people, be it volunteers or participants, to be willing to be a part of it.”

That core principle was, in fact, one of the pillars that helped launch Smithtown’s program in the 1990s, long before Tobin joined its board or took over as president. The lack of organization for youth lacrosse in Suffolk County at the time was a catalyst for its creation. 

A strong structure fueled by the commitment of passionate volunteers has helped establish Smithtown as a premier lacrosse organization over the past quarter century. The names and faces may have changed through the years, but the consistency in the organization has not wavered.

“Having standards is great for continuity,” said Tobin, who assumed the president’s role in 2016. 

One of the highest priorities for US Lacrosse is to assist local lacrosse organizations in creating and providing the best and safest playing environment for youth participants. Providing resources to help guide league development has always been central to the US Lacrosse mission. 

For many years, standardized best practices have been available for program leaders as a free online resource at www.uslacrosse.org/program-leaders

Now, after collaboration with leading experts in the sports industry and with many of the country's most impactful lacrosse leagues, an updated and more robust guide for lacrosse organizations is being unveiled.

US Lacrosse is pleased to introduce its new Member Organization Standards

“Everywhere we go -- league meetings, chapter meetings, discussions with program leaders -- we get asked 'can't US Lacrosse just tell us what to do',” said Lou Corsetti, regional director for US Lacrosse’s Southeast and Southwest regions. “Lacrosse is still growing in a lot of the various regions and program leaders are hungry for more information.”

Implementing and activating the standards in local lacrosse organizations helps to create a blueprint for continued success. Just ask Smithtown’s Tobin.

“We want to stand for something,” he said. “Having standards in place gives us credibility. It makes people more confident about what we are doing.”

Erin Massena, executive director of the Washington Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association, well understands the benefit of having documented procedures in place.

“People just don’t realize all the crazy stuff that pops up and all the things that we have to think about,” Massena said. “Having all the guidelines laid out is a great asset. I love having that structure.”

The US Lacrosse standards address seven main categories that are common to all leagues, regardless of size or location: Membership, Rules, Administration, Safety & Risk Management, Sportsmanship Conduct, Certified Coaches, and Certified Officials.

Within each category, the new guidelines provide a listing of recommended actions that an organization should take to reach the defined standard. 

As an example, US Lacrosse recommends age segmented youth play wherever possible, with a recommended age variance for each level of 12 months. This guideline was established based on studies that define the physical, emotional, and cognitive development stages of youth. Nevertheless, this policy is often ignored.

“There are so many programs doing so many different things,” Massena said. “There’s so much variety out there. We need uniformity.” 

Tobin is quick to echo that sentiment.

“It’s important that US Lacrosse is putting all of this out there,” he said. “It all makes sense.”

Fortunately, there seems to be a growing market for the structural guidance being provided by the sport’s national governing body.

“People have told us they are looking for something that goes point-by-point across all the major areas,” said Lyn Porterfield, regional director for US Lacrosse’s Pacific Northwest region. “They want something that is really digestible.”

Compliance with all the standards qualifies a program as a US Lacrosse member organization and unlocks potential access to additional financial and developmental resources from the national office. But while membership may have its privileges, the core purpose behind the rollout of the guidelines is much more pragmatic.

“The guidelines help answer a lot of the questions we get from program leaders,” Porterfield said. “As an added bonus, this information also helps parents understand what a highly functioning league looks like.”

Tobin couldn’t agree more.

“We want to make sure that people know we’re not just a bunch of yo-yo’s,” he said. “We care about what we are doing and we’re focused on the best interests of the kids.”