They may have offered an olive branch and partial retraction in their letter to the editor to US Lacrosse Magazine and also parted ways with Kevin Dugan, but Sweetlax did not go remotely far enough in making atonement and helping to reverse the damage they wreaked on our previously growing lacrosse community. What happened here, however, is really just a microcosm of what is occurring across the state of Florida youth lacrosse with Sweetlax and others like them vying to carve out their little lacrosse for profit fiefdoms in a still this emerging lacrosse market; and in the process, destroying years of progress made in the sport of lacrosse built mostly on volunteers that love the sport.
Before I go on here, I want to be clear that by “for profit,” I am not lumping in every organization in the state of Florida that runs lacrosse program in a for profit organization. There are many local organizations within the state like Lacrosse Club Orlando that not only honor the game with top notch training programs via paid coaches, but have done their part as much as anyone in growing lacrosse at the youth level in the state of Florida; hence the designation “National” in the title of this post. While seemingly a new national for profit expands into Florida every day, there are three in particular engaged in an epic pissing match for lacrosse supremacy in the state of Florida: The Crabs, True Lacrosse, and the aforementioned Sweetlax.
These organizations have pervaded Florida to recruit our home grown youth lacrosse players with promises of lacrosse glory at the national ranks and dangling the ultimate prize of a college lacrosse scholarships. In many cases they have infiltrated locally built grassroots level lacrosse clubs as “partners” promising to provide coaching pipelines and support the growth of lacrosse. In most cases, these promises have been empty, resulting in few new coaches, no growth support, but significantly increased fees for participation.
Pundits and coaches within these national for profit organizations relentlessly try to convince families of the inferiority of their local club and keep some that drink their Kool-Aid changing lacrosse clubs as often as they change their underwear. As much disregard as they have for grassroots lacrosse clubs, they dislike each other even more. They head hunt one another’s coaches and players and engage in so much vitriol about the opposition that they have parents abysmally behaving on the sidelines during contentious games.
The net result of all this is families being led to believe that their community team is not good enough for their kid, left clamoring to figure out which for profit is the one that will bring their child that coveted lacrosse scholarship, and turning off families new to the sport they once thought was so promising but now dismiss it as a hateful, money grabbing, shit show. Nowhere have these consequences played out to the detriment of lacrosse than in the once thriving Florida lacrosse communities Brevard, Indian River, and Martin Counties, all now experiencing an overall decrease in participation at all levels.
But alas, all is not lost! Our strategy to combat this trend here in Brevard is a renewed focus on youth development and bringing new kids into the sport at a time when they are to young to be on the radar of national for profits. As they age up and are seeking more top level training and competition, we have partnered with Lacrosse Club Orlando to run our travel programs. As previously stated, they are a local for profit in the nearest major city to Brevard County that has grown an impressive and reputable organization that I have always enjoyed mutual respect with when I was the president of the local club here for over 12 years. Being under their umbrella that has enjoyed steady growth while using their scope and depth of organization to keep the circling sharks at bay, we hope to rebuild and insulate ourselves from the chaos wrought by national for profit lacrosse companies.
I would love to read comments about the experience of youth lacrosse in the age of the national for profits in other areas of Florida and around the country. Please feel free to share your experiences and solutions if you can offer any.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton, aka, Dr. Lax, was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is the author of The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian’s Tail of Love, president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.