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.
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.
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.