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The GCLA Way

Our Ideas on Expansion

If there is one thing I have learned in the many years I
have been involved with club lacrosse it is this: If you
are not getting bigger, you will soon get smaller fast.

Sure, every league would like to expand. Very few are in
the business of getting smaller. Yet, the steps needed 
for a league to expand are simply not a priority with
many leagues.

Some leagues simply put an emphasis on quality over 
quanitity. That's okay- there is nothing wrong with
maintaining a certain level of proficiency among the
ranks for the sake of competition. On the other hand,
some leagues wish to be a bit more inclusive and wish
to involve as many players as they can.

When the GCLA was formed we were faced with the same
question. The league that had been here already had once
embraced expansion during the 1980's. The result was 
a highly-entertaining group of club teams numbering a
dozen or more. But by the 1990's, a trend began whereby
clubs merged into others, mostly to counter other clubs
doing the same. Fear of the competition began to grip
the league, and everyone was watching their six. The
league shrank, from 13 teams, to 7, then even to 5.

As a result, many players were being shut out of 
competition, and at a time when the local high school
and college programs were churning out players in
unprecedented numbers!

This was not what we wanted with the GCLA.

Our feeling was, if we ever get to 13 teams, then in 5 
years we wanted to be at 20. Later, we expand to 30, and
so on.

Generally, the philosophy of the GCLA was to be a 'Big Tent',
open to teams and players of all qualities. We wanted to
appeal to as many different teams, in as many different ways,
as possible.

For instance, if a club team wanted to be highly-competitive
and play a structured schedule, we needed to have something
for them. Formal conferences withing the GCLA were formed.

If a club team was rather novice and featured a great number
of true rookies, we would welcome them too. That is why we
have "At-Large" status, to allow teams to develop at their
own pace while still providing them membership and a home.

If a team was somewhat isolated from other teams geographically,
we wanted to extend our welcome there as well. At the very
least, the GCLA would provide for these teams a home and an
identity, as well as smoother communications with other teams
with whom they could schedule games.

In the early days, GCLA expansion took the form of simply
reincarnating programs that the previous league had left for
dead. The previous league was making no effort to bring these
teams back, so we were certainly not stepping on anyone's
toes by trying to do so ourselves. Needless to say, we 
were verbally scathed for this, but the problem there was 
with others.

We were by and large successful in varying degrees. Among those
programs we lent a helping hand to were the San Antonio LC,
the New Orleans LC, Tulane, LSU, and Sam Houston State.
In recent times we have come under great fire in some
corners for embracing college teams as well as club teams,
but what were others doing to help restart those college
teams? Basically nothing.

Even within the city of Houston we sought rapid expansion. 
We had long known that the available player base in the area
had been expanding greatly with each passing year. The trouble
was that a perception had taken root among the general lacrosse
population- a perception that club lacrosse was ONLY for
the elite. That perception was created from the general
decline in the number of club lacrosse teams, as well as
playing opportunities, in our area. To this day we still find
ourselves fighting this.

We have always had the number of players in Houston to have
many more teams than we do. The trouble has been finding a
sufficient number of quality leaders to head up these teams.
Some efforts our league has undertaken have been disasters,
while others have succeeded. We are constantly learning more
and more about the dynamics of club lacrosse in an effort to
better maximize our effectiveness in this area. At least we
are trying and will continue to do so.

Beyond Houston, our expansion efforts have met some success
as well. The Corpus Christi Kahunas joined the league in
2001 as that city's very first competitive lacrosse team.
The San Antonio LC, while somewhat on and off in recent years,
is starting to show promise for the future.

We are also targeting many other areas for future expansion
as well. I have often said that if we receive a phone call
from a fellow in Victoria or Bay City who has 25 raw rookies
ready to play, then the GCLA is there for them.

We definitely want to establish a firm Beaumont team. Beaumont
is a city of over 100,000 people and even hosted the 1998
GCLA Championships. There is some history there. Our league
even managed to field a team at Lamar University in 1998, if
only for a brief time. There are some players there, and we will
keep trying until its done.

Further east we would love to exapnd to Lake Charles, a regional
gambling and entertainment center. Overnight trips there would
NOT be boring. Further east, we would love to restart the
defunct Lafayette LC, a team that played for years until
the early 1990's. These two locations would also be terrific
meeting points for teams from Houston and New Orleans. 

We have long maintained that not only should the San Antonio LC
be a major force in the GCLA, but that there should also be 
multiple teams from THAT city as well. Certainly any city of
a million or more people should be able to support at least
one, if not more, lacrosse teams. 

There are a number of other areas we hope to expand to also
in the years to come: Galveston, Pearland/Alvin/Friendswood,
Pasadena/Deer Park/Laporte, Victoria, Brazoria County/Lake
Jackson, Columbus, Kingsville, and others.

Notice also that none of these locations lie north of I-10.
Out of deference to the SWLA, I have offered to let them have
everything north of it. Still, there is plenty of work for
us to do as it is.

Expansion is not easy. It is sometimes painful and frustrating.
But when it works, it can be as rewarding as any experience
in lacrosse. True, this assures that the GCLA will always
have teams of varying degrees of strength, but that doesn't
matter to us- we accept that. The GCLA is about fun anyway,
and when you're having fun you want to share it with as many
as possible.

And isn't growth what its all about anyway? If we're not in it
for that, then what are we doing?