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CLUB LACROSSE- A How-To Manual

The world of post-collegiate club lacrosse poses many
challenges, yet many rewards. As a level of the sport,
it is one of the oldest in existence. It is one
of the most successful examples of semi-pro athletics
that our country offers.

To begin with, let's begin with the nuts and bolts.
We'll fill in the other stuff later. For now, I'll discuss
what essential tasks must be performed competantly to
assist in getting your club team going.

1) A POSITIVE DECISION- Even before you begin recruiting,
you must make a positive decision to go though with this.
Many times start-ups have never gotten off the ground
because over and over I've heard "if we can get enough
guys, then we'll have a team". Again, there's no "if"
in success. Nobody will follow an "if". They will follow
certainty. Tell potential recruits that the team is certain
and they'll come out. Its really a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That's how one person can build a club of 30. Come to think
of it, that's how Metro got started.

2) INITIAL MEETING- Have an organizational meeting of between
3 and 6 interested parties. From here you will discuss your
team's name, venue, officers, and goals.

3) DECIDE ON A NAME AND GET A DBA- This should help recruiting.
Nobody wants to go home and tell people that he'll be playing 
for "team whatever". Find a good name and lock it in. Then your
recruits will know EXACTLY who they'll be playing for.

4) RECRUIT LIKE MAD- I'll get into recruiting ideas and techniques
a bit later, but pumping people into your program is the next
and most continual step. Recruiting should be a twelve-month
activity, but in the start-up phase it needs to be really ramped-up.
Develop your website and email list while you do this.

5) THROW A RECRUITING PARTY- Have a light party, and invite all
your new recruits and their friends. Make their first impression
of their new team a good and happy one. 

6) SCHEDULE- Depending on what time of year it is, have a 
concrete schedule of events for your players- maybe announce it
at your party.

7) START THE BANK ACCOUNT- Once you've gotten your DBA at
the courthouse you can throw some money into an account and
start collecting dues. You might start looking for some sponsorship
help as well.

8) OBTAIN TEAM EQUIPMENT- Find goals, balls, nets, etc. Have
all of this in place for your first practice.

See, none of this is rocket science. In fact, most of this could
be done by sixth-graders with little or no trouble. Just
get it in your mind that your team is gonna be run first-class.

When Darren Kilgore & I started the Houston Metro club in
1989, we knew we were walking into one, competitively. But
we challenged ourselves to be the best organized team in the
SWLA. We made sure we showed up to the league meeting to
petition for membership with an actual Metro jersey as part
of our presentation. We made certain that we had our finances
set, our field prepared, and our team communicated with. We
figured we'd take our lumps on the field for awhile, but
that we'd earn respect off of it by being a sound organization.
I think we were looked upon in that way.

Even to this day, when I'm sizing up a club team, trying to
determine just how strong it is, I almost NEVER look at how
they play on the field. That's usually a lagging indicator, or
even an irrelevant one in some cases.

When I determine in my mind how GOOD a club is I look at how
they're organized, how they're led, how they're run, and how
many people they suit up. If they're hitting all of those, I'll
have more regard for an 0-12 team like that than a more
talented one that struggles for numbers, sometimes forfeits games,
comes in different color uniforms, cannot pay the refs, etc.
You get the picture.

In other words, a GOOD club team has all the elements in place.

With that definition in mind, as the head of Metro I will try
to schedule a GOOD club team over one of the other every time.
GOOD club teams are in high demand and everyone wants to
schedule them. The other kind, well, they're scheduled at
the other team's risk.

The Nature and Goals of your Team

This is one of the first questions that needs to be
answered at your initial organizational meeting.
I'll be using the Gulf Coast region and its cities as
examples in this discussion.

The biggest factor that must taken into account is
your team's location. Are you living in a large city,
mid-size, or small one? This will matter more than
any other determinant.

LARGE CITY:
Forming a club team in a large city like Houston or
San Antonio has many built-in advantages. There should
be no shortage of experienced players around town, and
an even bigger supply of athletes willing to learn.
The need to draft from the latter is lessened in proportion
to the size of your city.

If other teams are already established, the probability
exists that you will start at the bottom competitively.
You don't have to stay there, or for very long. You just
should expect to take some lumps at the front end.

Still, with ever-growing talent pools the need to add new
teams in large cities every year or two does exist.

MID-SIZE CITY:
These can be cities that range in population from 100,000
to 500,000. Many of these cities may already be familiar
with lacrosse, while others have never see it in their town
before.

Compare Shreveport with Corpus Christi, for example. Corpus
Christi has seen the emergence of Texas A&M-CC in the sport
since 2001, and they have had a team, for at NAS
Corpus Christi. Still, high school lacrosse hasn't taken root
there quite yet, and they never have fielded a true Corpus
Christi club team.

Shreveport, on the other hand, has had a well-developed high
school presence for years. Add to that the fact that college
teams like LSUS, Centenary, and Louisiana Tech have been
floating around the last few years and you have a city that
SHOULD have a club team.

Now, Corpus is larger than Shreveport, but a Corpus club team
would likely have to rely, initially, on rookies to some degree
while Shreveport would not.

Still, ANY city of this size can field a team. The GCLA will
keep trying to establish teams in Beaumont, Lafayette, Jackson,
and other places simply because once good, outgoing, competitive
athletes are introduced to the sport of lacrosse as an option
for their time, a good percentage are gonna sign on, regardless
of whether or not they've played before.

SMALL CITY:
These are generally below 100,000 in population. Some such cities
may be proximate to larger cities or they may be geographically
isolated.

If they're geographically isolated, then its almost inevitable
that any such team will be composed in large part of rookies.
Now, that's not all bad. Rookies can bring enthusiasm to your team,
and they have no "better" experiences with which to contrast
the current one. They'll also be able to bring out more
people like them.

One shining example of such a team was the Brazoria County
Lacrosse Club, which operated successfully out of Angelton, Texas
from 1992 to 1997. Angleton is a town of 24,000 souls located
about 45 minutes south of Houston.

Brazoria was run by an enthusiastic leader named Whit MacLendon.
Whit was extremely well-organized, possessed good leadership
skills, and had all his ducks in a row. They fielded a number
of people new to the game, but they had a lot of fun, and that's
what Whit saw to. Whenever we scheduled them, I could always
rely on them to have decent numbers, be in uniform, have the field
prepped properly, and have refs. It was a pleasure scheduling 
them, and for a few years we always opened our season down there.
It was sad that they moved to Pearland before morphing into
another Houston team.

So, basically, if it could happen in Angleton, it could
certainly happen in places like Galveston, Victoria,
and Lake Charles.

In sum, be realistic about the type of club you'll have.
That doesn't mean placing a cap or limit on your potential.
Rather, simply be aware of the environment, lacrosse-wise,
where you're operating.




Keeping Things in Perspective

This is a big one. It is vitally important to look
at things with the RIGHT perspective. Not an imagined
one, not an unrealistic one. Just the right one.

First, have a LONG-RANGE perspective. When I started
Metro I was talking openly about what kind of team we'd have
5 years from then, and even later. I used the great 
Mt.Washington club team as inspiration. They'd been
around since the 1880's and I wanted to start something that
was enduring.

In addition, it is important for a start-up team to look
at the entire GCLA as a whole. It brings a much healthier
perspective.

Here's an example:

In the summer of 1997, I had managed to recruit enough
extra players to not only spin off the South Texas Storm
from Metro, but to create the Lone Star LC as well.

Lone Star did all the right things. They organized immediately.
Textbook. Exactly as designed. They ordered jerseys. They
took the list of 35-40 potential players and threw a party.
They found still more players. They scheduled fall practices
and games, and found a field. The speed with which they did this
was almost breathtaking.

When they played Metro early in 1998, they had suited up over
25 players, and while they lost they lost respectably. They
would lose to Storm as well, which was expected since Metro
and Storm were more experienced as a whole.

As the season went on, they became disillusioned. They managed
to win a couple games, but they spent more time crying about
the fact that Storm and Metro were ahead of them in the Western
Conference standings. By year's end, that well-oiled machine
that sent 25 players into battle against Metro was struggling
just to field ten. What had happened?

Clearly, the methodology used to START Lone Star was not really
at fault. It had to do with perspective in two ways:

1) They failed to have a long-range perspective. If they had,
Lone Star would have suited up 20-25 players all year long,
and they would have added some better players for 1999. By
2000-2001, Lone Star probably would have been a serious
GCLA contender and would still be around today.

2) They failed to look at themselves from the perspective
of the GCLA as a whole. This was a mistake in communications.
Their leaders failed to tell them how good they were doing
when compared with many teams outside the Western Conference.
One ranking had them at #5 in the entire GCLA out of 13 teams!
Most expansion teams would have killed for that! They also
failed to obtain games against non-WC teams to show them
that.

So, within a couple years a team with all the promise in 
the world was defunct.

At Metro, back in 1989-1990, we were fortunate to focus
long-term. In our first year, 1990, were went 2-12. We 
pretty much got our lungs handed to us week-in, week-out.
Still, by year's end we were still suiting up at least
18-20 players every game, and I made sure everyone got 
playing time. The 24-2 losses really didn't matter. Trying
our best, having fun, and keeping a long-range perspective
were the keys.

So, always keep that in mind. Build something that will
last. Be aware of the ENTIRE lacrosse community that you
exist in. Communicate all positives to your team.