What is the Under Armour Underclass Lacrosse Tournament? How long has the tournament been in existence?
The Under Armour Underclass tournament has been in existence for 12 Years. Originally, the underclass event started out as a Baltimore vs. DC rivalry that’s blossomed in to 12 regions across the United States. These tryouts serve as the TOP college recruiting opportunity for players and coaches alike. College Coaches from across the D1, D2, and D3 spectrum flock to these tryouts in hopes of finding their next top recruit!
Which regions are represented?
Traditional Lacrosse Markets: Baltimore, Washington D.C, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Long Island, Upstate, NY, New England and Conny
Emerging Lacrosse Markets: West (tryouts in CA), South (Florida, GA, and the Carolinas) Midwest and Southwest
The scope of the event is to crown the ULTIMATE regional champion of Lacrosse! Rep Your Region.
Why is this event unique across the high school lacrosse landscape?
Unlike many other events, EVERY participant has the opportunity to make the team. Evaluators are provided a sheet that only lists the players number (“A Blind Tryout”)—our evaluators are compiled of club coaches, public high school coaches and private high school coaches. This is critical for the integrity of the event as we strive for equal representation from all regional lacrosse folks. Also, we do NOT financially incentivize one club/high school team as we feel this opens the door for that group to solely jam their players on to the team. We want the very best players in each region.
Describe the tryout process and how players are evaluated. –
Players are put on to random teams where they play games and are evaluated by 8-15 “evaluators”. These are HS Coaches and Club coaches from that region. At the end of the tryout, we have the coveted “Call Back Game” which features the best 40-50 players. Those elite participants play 1 more extended game which is heavily attended by college coaches. From there, the 8-15 evaluators re-convene with a CSE team member and select the top 23 players, to round out their final roster! CSE is a 100% unbiased 3rd party in the selection process—our role is to mediate the selections and control the room. It’s our quest to put together a diverse team to best represent that region, while also identifying the very best talent!
What type of attendance do the tryouts get from college coaches?
100-150 for any given tryout for boys—The all-time record is 167 for the Baltimore tryout in 2018
40-100 for any given tryout for girls
How do Underclass games relate to the Under Armour All-America games?
The Underclass games feature the top talent from around the USA—the Underclass event begins on Thursday and finishes Sunday with our (4) total Championship games. On Saturday night, we have the Under Armour All-America Senior games at Johns Hopkins University. These games are shown live on ESPNU! The Senior games offer an incredible atmosphere at Homewood Field, which is known as the meca of College Lacrosse.
The Underclass event serves as great way for Inside Lacrosse and others to see the maturation of players throughout their High school campaign—hundreds of Senior Under Armour All-American alumni have been a part of the Underclass event. (Matt Rambo, Shack Stanwick, Taylor Cummings, Caroline Steele, etc.)
Where is the Underclass event held? And why?
The Underclass event is held at Baltimore County’s Meadowood Park and St. Paul’s School—for years, the event was held at Towson University—in 2019, we we’re forced to move the tournament due to construction. Meadowood will again serve as the events home base in 2020. The unique element that Meadowood Park offers is a cohesive venue—meaning, the girls and boys fields are directly next to each other! CSE and Under Armour have crafted a truly unique activation space where players have the opportunity to interact with UA directly, purchase merchandise, enjoy an air-conditioned tent and visit with other select vendors. While parking was a concern in 2019, CSE has a plan to eliminate the issue in 2020. Baltimore County is thrilled to host the event and has plans to evolve Meadowood Park in to Baltimore’s hub for lacrosse—“Where Baltimore Play’s Lacrosse”
CSE is proud to assist in that initiative by bringing the sports elite event to the park.
If a player makes his or her regional team, what type of experience can they expect? Will there be team practices? Who will be coaching the teams?
Coaching staffs are made up of 1 Private School Coach, 1 Public School Coach and a Club Coach. Each team has (3/4) practices before coming to Baltimore to participate in the UAAA Weekend Tournament. All players receive a regionally customized Under Armour uniform, which is modeled after that regions professional team (EX: The West uniforms are purple and gold) The Tournament is generally regarded as the best and most organized event of the summer.
In addition to the games – The players are also invited to a banquet honoring them—at the banquets we always have a featured guest speaker, in years past we’ve had Marvin Lewis (Long time Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach) Chad Fleming (Special Ops who was 1st guy into Saddam Hueseins palace) Matt Eversman, (real life hero of Blackhawk down) and many more!
What are the dates of the 2020 tournament?
Why should a kid tryout for this event? If players have played in the UAA games in the past, why should they return?
There are (3) primary reasons why players should tryout for this event:
REP YOUR REGION IN 2020.
Corrigan Sports Enterprises
US Club Lacrosse is excited to announce that it will be powering the Legends Freakshow & Western Invitational this July in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah. This showcase and tournament will be the premier events of the West this coming summer. The best clubs from the US and Canada will be coming to Utah to showcase their talents. US Club Lacrosse is thrilled to be joining Legends Lacrosse in these two unparalleled events. Salt Lake City will be a huge influx of college recruiters between July 7-9th, not wanting to miss any of this high level lacrosse action.
The Western Freakshow will take place on Tuesday, July 7th, and will be an elite showcase with over forty NCAA recruiters. This showcase will be for 2021s through 2024s and will be an opportunity that top athletes of the West will not want to miss. “The Western Freakshow will provide for about 45 college coaches to work directly with the players. Players will participate in skill and positional work, collegiate style practice settings, full field scrimmages, a recruitment seminar, and more, all directed by the NCAA coaches themselves,” explains Reid Doucette of Legends Lacrosse. Players participating in the “Freakshow” will also receive custom gear packs and all of the benefits that come with a US Club Lacrosse powered event, including player interviews, highlights from the action on US Club Lacrosse social media, and an Interactive Vendor Village.
The following two days, July 8th and 9th will be the Legends Western Invitational. This top class tournament will feature incredible teams from around the country competing to prove who is the best of the West. “The Freakshow showcase will transition us nicely into the Western Invitational where we will see teams from 10+ states and a couple of Canadian provinces compete at a high level in front of a diverse group of 40+ recruiters. With divisions ranging from 2021-2027, we’ll be seeing 80+ boys teams represent their regions and showcase their talent over 16 fields in the heart of Salt Lake City,” adds Doucette. This tournament will be a great opportunity for teams to move up the US Club Lacrosse rankings. US Club Lacrosse will also be tracking game outcomes, highlighting key match-ups and players to watch, posting video recaps, and holding post-game interviews with players and coaches.
Block off your calendars for July 7-9th, as these are events your club will not want to miss. For more information about these events, go to the event websites - Western Freakshow & Western Invitational.
US Club Lacrosse is excited to partner with US Lax Events on one of the biggest showcase tournaments in the country this summer, coming to the Midwest. No need to travel to the East Coast the weekend of July 11th and 12th, because the Chicago Summer Shootout will have everything your club team is looking for - highly competitive games, premier college recruitment, and the chance to move yourself up the club rankings! This high school level event is sure to draw the best teams and college coaches from the region and beyond.
The 2020 Summer Shootout will take place July 11-12 at the Frontier Sports Complex in Naperville, IL. Just a short trip from downtown Chicago, this great central location is easily accessible to all of the Midwestern programs.
Henry Sitkiewicz, US Lax Events Director of Business, is excited to continue the great tradition of this tournament, “The Chicago Summer Shootout is where Midwest teams play to get ranked by US Club Lax. An extensive list of college coaches from across the country make the trip to the Chicago Summer Shootout knowing future collegiate players are in attendance.” Last year's tournament saw an impressive list of over 50 Division I through Division III college coaches on the sideline, and this year that list will grow as these coaches now know they can’t miss this event.
US Club Lacrosse will be powering the Summer Shootout for the first time this summer. “The partnership between US Lax and US Club Lax brings a whole new level of tournament experience to everyone in attendance, creating the best Midwest recruiting event”, adds Sitkiewicz. The 2020 Summer Shootout participants will benefit greatly due to the US Club Lacrosse partnership. Player and team profiles and highlights, All-Tournament teams, video recaps, coach and player interviews, an Interactive Vendor Village, and much more can be expected at this year’s event.
For additional information on this event, or to register you team, visit https://www.uslaxevents.com/page/show/1141479-summer-shootout.
The Legends Lacrosse National Cup has quickly become a can’t miss winter event for boys and girls teams across the country. “We are thrilled to officially be powered by US Club Lax and are excited to elevate the event experience on and off the field. By working together we will create a truly unique atmosphere that cannot be replicated anywhere else,” says Rory Doucette, Co Founder of Legends Lacrosse.
The National Cup is held at one of the top facilities in the country, the Surf Cup Sports Park, which is home to 20+ manicured grass fields and located less than a mile from the beaches of Del Mar. Mix in 35+ NCAA Coaches and 130+ boys & girls teams, there’s no reason to think twice about making this an annual stop on the club lacrosse circuit. This years’ tournament will have divisions open to 2020-2027 teams.
San Diego is widely known as “America’s finest city” and is famous for it’s miles and miles of sandy beaches and year round perfect weather. You can feel the ocean breeze while competing throughout the morning, and by the afternoon you’ll find yourself enjoying the beach, visiting the San Diego Zoo, or exploring the historic Gaslamp District downtown. There’s no shortage of off-field attractions for visitors of all ages!
"We are so excited for this opportunity to partner with Legends Lacrosse on this event. The Legend's National Cup is one of the premier events on the west coast and we look forward to providing national exposure to all the clubs and players who will be in attendance." says Denis Noonan CEO of US Club Lacrosse.
“I wish I had the opportunity to attend something like the National Cup as a kid. Growing up on the East Coast (Long Island), I feel like this would have been the perfect chance to get out of the cold and experience a dual vacation/lacrosse trip with my family” says Reid Doucette. He continued to talk about how the growth of the sport in the West, and non-traditional areas as a whole, has been substantial over the years. It has helped pave the way for the National Cup to be the perfect platform to showcase all of that growth and talent, and furthermore to put some of these high level clubs from hotbed areas to the test against national level teams that they don’t typically see. In just it’s third year, the National Cup will see teams from 13+ states and Canada put on a show in front of some of the top NCAA programs across America.
By Eric Black
US Club Lacrosse is excited to announce that we will be powering The Club Lacrosse Nationals 2020 in January near Orlando, Florida. The new tournament will be held from Jan. 3-5 and feature boys club teams from 2022-2029. It is a collaboration between US Club Lacrosse, Madlax and LI Legacy, who already own and operate experienced event management companies in MDLX Events and Top Lacrosse Tournaments.
The top 100 teams in our 2022-2025 rankings will be automatically invited to participate, while all 2026-2029 teams nationally are welcome to join. Thanks to the tournament being the first of the calendar year, it’ll also serve as the first piece of results for our 2022-2026 rankings next season.
Located just 20 minutes away from Disneyworld, the tournament will take place on luxurious Bermuda grass fields at the Austin-Tindall Sports Complex. Teams will play games over the span of three days, allowing for off-the-field fun in and around the area.
“We felt teams nationally wanted a warm weather, vacation style, first-class tournament (that was not a recruiting event),” Madlax founder Cabell Maddux said, “but (also) attracted some of the top teams ranked in (the U.S. Club Lacrosse rankings).”
Maddux hopes to expand the tournament to include both girls and boys in its second year. With Madlax already part of the NAL and its tournaments, he hopes The Club Lacrosse Nationals will serve as a fun vacation event that features strong lacrosse. He added that the partnership with U.S. Club Lacrosse makes it extremely exciting and validates the quality of the teams that will be participating.
U.S. Club Lacrosse is the go-to site for the lacrosse community to obtain information on tournaments, rankings, tryouts, clinics, and further details on Club teams. It was created to conduct research in order to find the best fit for your player or team's developmental needs.
Usclublax.com also provides a forum for club and tournament directors to keep their information up to date with the rest of the lacrosse community. The Club Lacrosse Nationals is the first-ever tournament powered by U.S. Club Lacrosse.
“We are really excited about powering this event that utilizes our social media and marketing to make it fun, competitive and exciting for all the boys and teams competing,” U.S. Club Lacrosse owner Denis Noonan said, “and helping make this the biggest event of the new club lacrosse season.”
By Eric Black
When Brian Langtry first moved to Colorado 20 years ago, few people were involved with lacrosse at the youth level. Aside from a handful of coaches and a high school scene dominated by only a few teams, lacrosse was a largely-unexploited sport.
“Then everyone went all-in on the club scene,” Langtry said. “And I felt like there was a piece of development that wasn’t really getting done.”
Langtry, a Long Island native who played over two decades of professional lacrosse, noticed that while there was a lot of team building going on, there wasn’t a big enough focus on individual development. A few years ago, he began training players on the side before their parents spoke up, wanting more. They told him he should start putting club teams together and when his brother, Rich, doubled down on the thought, Langtry committed to the idea.
Today, 6 Star Lacrosse has boys teams at the 2023, 2025, and 2026 level with tryouts for 2024 and 2027 teams set to take place in August. At the core of each of their practices is specialized training based on what each specific player needs to work on or what the team struggled with in their last game. Langtry’s commitment to player development and training is what he believes sets 6 Star apart from other programs.
“I spent 16 years as a teacher, knowing that each kid needs something different,” Langtry said. “So I try to look at the player as an individual and meet their needs.”
Langtry played attack for two seasons during his lacrosse career - his senior year of college at Hofstra and his last year with the Long Island Lizards of Major League Lacrosse, when he was 35. In order to adjust to playing the position, Langtry focused in and studied the game.
After starting in the MLL when all midfielders had short sticks, he had to break down how to carry against a long pole, especially in the latter stages of his career. To do so, he began to watch more lacrosse, something he still does today. If he’s not going to a high school or youth game he’s watching college games, either live or taped.
“I played 21 seasons of professional lacrosse, and I'm not exactly the most athletic person on earth,” Langtry said, laughing. “So I know the skill aspect of the game.”
Langtry’s love of watching lacrosse extends into his coaching and training, as at least once per season he’ll break down video of his team’s game, minute-by-minute, writing notes as it goes on. Then he’ll send it out, notes and all, to the players and their parents for them to review. In the fall, he’ll even go over video with the parents and players himself.
During practices he’ll use Coach’s Eye, an app that allows him to film a player shooting and break down their body movements. It allows him to determine the technicalities of how they’re shooting, like if they’re snapping their wrists or not. With help from Chase Clark, another coach in the program, 6 Star also does Black Diamond training, which involves offensive and defensive groups splitting up. The defense goes with Clark while the offense follows Langtry, then the players begin playing 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 before shifting to a full-team situation.
“Practices are really intense, I personally have my hand in everything,” Langtry said. “...My goal is to make every individual player better, and at the end of the day the wins will follow if every player is improving.”
Langtry explained that he’d rather have five more kids join 6 Star than have a team win a gold medal or a t-shirt from some tournament. The growth of Colorado lacrosse at the youth level is what’s most important to him, and so far he’s making a difference.
There weren’t many kids committed to the sport when Langtry first started coaching in the area - rather, it was more of a “fun sport” that they played on the side. Now, he’s seeing players get to the point where they’re being serious and seeing their potential opportunities with lacrosse. Quality-wise, there’s a long way to go to get to the level of play of their peers on Long Island, but the gap is smaller than it used to be.
“I couldn't have played on these teams, like my sixth-grade team,” Langtry said. “When I was in sixth grade I wouldn't have made this team, in Colorado, and I lived on Long Island. They're just a lot better. The level of everything has been raised.”
By Eric Black
Recently, US Club Lacrosse has been notified of the issue of players switching club teams for a weekend, game, or tournament. Often, these players are some of the stars of their teams, and their absence or presence could decide a game one way or another. These “ringers” are becoming apparent all around the club circuit, and raise the question over whether or not the practice is fair or in any way undercuts the value of tryouts or the sportsmanship of competition.
On one hand, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, most players compete in these club tournaments in order to get exposure from college coaches. Many tournaments are even deemed showcases, rather than tournaments, because the ultimate goal is to have players display their skills.
Tad Doyle, the founder of Rising Sons lacrosse, is generally not in favor of adding players to load a team, despite the fact that he’s seen it been done at the younger ages. That being said, he permitted one of his players to briefly switch teams in an effort to improve his college hopes.
“We did just have one (player) who Amherst wanted to see play,” Doyle said. “So I called (the team) to see if they would let him run with them. They were short kids and obliged. That is how and why it should be done. Not to stack a team versus regular club teams.”
Patty Daley, the head coach of the 2020 Check-Hers Elite team, has seen her players been recruited by other teams in the past. While they’ve never decided to change teams, Daley’s players are given the opportunity to make the decision for themselves and consider the pros and cons of doing so.
She believes that ringers defeat the purpose of a team’s tryouts, and no matter what team a player decides to play for, they’ll always receive exposure and recognition.
“It really comes down to the team and coaches a player wants to play for,” Daley said. “And the philosophy of the club. All three things are considerations for players.”
Daley thinks that the mid-season recruitment of players shouldn’t occur as much as it does, but there isn’t really any plausible way to police it. Another coach that has seen his players been recruited in a similar fashion is Andy Pons, the Director of Lacrosse Operations for Thunder LB3 lacrosse. Teams have reached out to the kids on their Elite teams in the past through social media, something Pons described as “slimy”.
Thunder LB3 Elite, based out of the Atlanta area, never recruits kids outside Georgia because that would “hurt their overall mission.” While they do have a national team, with players outside of the state, Pons explained that they only play in one tournament (Naptown Challenge) and instead enjoy weekends filled with college tours and training. If a player is already on a team scheduled to play in the Naptown Challenge, Thunder LB3 doesn’t take him.
“The topic of ‘ringers’ is always a hot conversation,” Pons said. “Personally, I don't understand the attraction. Our guys get the best training in the country and we have developed a great track record of college commitments...We do not want to develop a reputation for ‘stealing kids.’”
Dave Mitchell, the President and Owner of Next Level Lacrosse, often sees ringers at big-time recruiting events in the November, June, and July months, he said. Many of these kids are likely on a different team than usual because their original squad either wasn’t playing in the event, or they thought they’d get more exposure on the new team.
If this was the case for all ringers, there’d likely be less brushback from opposing coaches, parents, and players. Although winning games is always important no matter what the setting, that concept may need to be viewed through a different lens when it comes to the future careers and college choices of teenagers.
Mitchell doesn’t think ringers are a problem for club lacrosse, but he does think they “undermine the value of the team,” and its long-term chemistry. What do you think? Is the increasing frequency of ringers in club lacrosse good or bad for the sport?
By Eric Black
Greer Hanlon was the only one of his friends who owned a stick when he began playing lacrosse in the suburbs of Chicago in the late ‘90s. They didn’t know the game, nor did they have much opportunity to watch it, and instead opted for more popular sports. Hanlon had to work on his game by himself.
He ultimately committed to play the sport collegiately at the University of Denver and played there for four years before moving to Charleston. There, last July, he started Charleston Elite, a new club lacrosse program for boys and girls in the area. Although it’s still early on in its stages of development, the program is already inspiring kids to start playing the sport of lacrosse at a young age.
The first call Hanlon made before he started the program was to Matt Brown, the current associate head coach at Denver. Brown is also one of the founders and directors of Denver Elite Lacrosse and the Denver Elite Box Lacrosse Program. Despite the distance, Hanlon knew he wanted his program to be connected.
“I said, ‘Matt, look. I want to start a club. Can I affiliate with you?’” Hanlon explained. “And he said ‘absolutely’...One of our players is going to play for their box team this summer and we hope to have them down for some clinics and things of that nature to help promote the game by us.”
Box lacrosse is a major part of the plan to teach the game and develop players by Charleston Elite, which runs a box lacrosse academy in the winter. If Hanlon had it his way, all kids in 5th grade and below would play box lacrosse instead of field lacrosse, where many kids could take a number of trips up and down the field without even touching the ball.
With box, they can develop their comfort with and without the ball in constant high-pressure situations, which field lacrosse games feature significantly less often. The skill aspect that box lacrosse can help with is something the program is really trying to expand in with its teachings. One of the ways they’re doing this is by going to schools, classrooms, and specifically physical education classes to teach the game. Hanlon’s found that it’s a great way to organically introduce the game to young kids.
“I talk about it with PE teachers all the time,” Hanlon said. “(The kids) like sports, they’re okay at sports, but they’re really enthusiastic about lacrosse. Whereas they’re not enthusiastic about soccer or football or basketball or whatever else. For me, that’s awesome. If we do that for one person, we’re doing our job of growing the game.”
Hanlon explained that they’ve ventured to four different middle schools so far, all with about 700 kids in them, in addition to a high school. He’s been helped by the fact that there’s “no better place” than Charleston to play lacrosse because of its climate, aside from some rain. So far, Hanlon estimates that they’ve introduced lacrosse to over 2,500 kids that otherwise would’ve been unable to play due to barriers of entry such as cost and equipment.
Charleston Elite features six boys teams and two girls teams in the program, numbers that are expected to grow in the near future. The girls' teams are specifically of interest to him because he’s noticed that there’s a drop between 8th and 9th grade in the level of participation.
“What we're trying to do is garner that interest early on,” Hanlon said, “so that we can push through that drop-off.”
Another way Charleston Elite is trying to establish interest in the game is through the free clinics they offer, which kids can just show up to and play at. After the first clinic, there are five or six sessions of only stickwork that follow, so the key is just trying to get the kids to stay with it. Using freelacrosse.org to spread the word, they got 75 kids to come to the first clinic and play the sport for the first time, of which 50 signed up for the next clinic.
After the interest has been garnered and the fundamentals established, Charleston Elite’s goal is to ultimately compete at the regional and national levels. To do so, Hanlon hopes to be able to grow the game organically around Charleston and attract kids from all over the region to come play for the program. Even though Hanlon had to create his own path into the lacrosse world, Charleston Elite is making sure kids in the area don’t have to do the same.
"There is a lot of similarity, so what I see is the same thing Illinois had, is athletes that just haven't played the game very long or don't know the game very well,” Hanlon said. “So if we can just capture those athletes, teach them the game the right way, foster the growth, I think the success will come, it's just gonna take a bit of time.”
By Eric Black
Ryan Flanagan didn’t last more than a quarter through a high school lacrosse game in the spring of 2012. The North Carolina graduate had just graduated and was interested in continuing to work with lacrosse, so he decided to check out the quality level of high school teams in the area. It was so difficult to watch that he left before the first buzzer.
Seven years later, the former NCAA division-I defenseman of the year is back watching high school games and nowadays, he can watch contests from start to finish.
“I went and watched Weddington High School play Mallard Creek,” Flanagan said, “and I’m watching a kid who’s going to Towson covering a kid who’s going to Duke...It’s a pretty good lacrosse game.”
Flanagan, a three-time All-American with the Tar Heels and current player with the Chrome of the Premier Lacrosse League, started Team 24/7 Lacrosse when he graduated from Chapel Hill. Nearly a decade since, Team 24/7 has partnered with Team Carolina at the high school level, now has 12 travel teams and puts sticks in the hands of hundreds of kids who otherwise never would’ve played lacrosse.
From the get-go, he’s encountered those cultural differences regarding the sport in the area compared to where he grew up, in West Islip, N.Y. On Long Island, lacrosse dominates the youth sports landscape and most kids, from fifth or sixth grade on, even walk down the street with a stick in their hands. In the Charlotte area, Flanagan explained, lacrosse takes a backseat to baseball, soccer, and football.
“It’s just not as ingrained in the culture,” Flanagan said. “You have a handful of guys that are playing lacrosse, but up and down your roster, your kids aren’t as committed to it.”
That lack of commitment has lead to a significantly smaller pool of athletes than areas like Long Island or Maryland have to choose from. The best athletes in the area or in schools are playing football or baseball and focusing on it, as opposed to up north, where many kids play lacrosse as a “1A” sport and another sport as a “1B”, Flanagan explained.
The next offshoot of the cultural differences is stick skills that aren’t as good, if only because kids are rarely working on them on a consistent basis. While there are always top players that will lead the team and be mostly, if not entirely, committed to lacrosse, the talent gap is more apparent as you go down the roster. That’s despite a lot of players being great athletes - they’re just unable or unwilling to play lacrosse year-round or close to it.
Flanagan described the growth and future growth of the program in terms of a pyramid. First, you have to attract more athletes to build a bigger pool of players to choose from. After that, those players have to practice and be trained and build consistent skills.
“Part one is always build the base,” Flanagan said. “Then develop the base. You have to have your pool and develop it, and then a byproduct of that is going to be consistently competing at the national level. And then another byproduct of that is going to be more recruiting opportunities.”
To build the pool of athletes, Team 24/7 has employed a number of different strategies. What first started as a singular camp has advanced to a rec league, travel teams, and day camps. Early on, they worked with 20 to 30 kids per camp, but now their day camps are filled with upwards of 100 players and their winter league has double that.
Flanagan made sure to emphasize how important the initiative to grow the game at the youth level is, both to him personally and his program. Team 24/7 has partnered with South Park Youth Association, the same one NBA star Stephen Curry was a part of as a kid, to build a lacrosse program. When Curry was younger, there was no lacrosse program. Now, Flanagan hopes that in the future, the next Stephen Curry will take advantage of the opportunity.
Team 24/7 also began Little Stix Lacrosse, an after-school lacrosse program for kids at the elementary school level. It’s one hour, one day a week, and last year, it gave 400 kids the ability to have a lacrosse stick for the first time.
“As that grows, and those kids come through the youth programs and into the high school program,” Flanagan said, “it’s gonna be huge for the sport.”
It’s not always as simple as just putting sticks in kids’ hands, however. During the first practice Flanagan ever ran, he told his team to go into a clear and none of them knew what he meant. Between shapes and positioning, some kids need to be taught the game from the ground up. But as those fundamentals have become more known in the community and at the youth level, the quality of play has improved in addition to the jump in numbers.
Flanagan’s long-term goal is to improve the recruiting process and success for kids in North Carolina. He doesn’t understand why places like Atlanta, which doesn’t have a college team nearby, should have so much more success on the recruiting stage than North Carolina, which has schools like Duke, UNC, and Limestone in the area.
He hopes that one day, there will be someone like Peter Baum, a Seattle native who was the first West Coast player to win the Tewaaraton Trophy, from North Carolina to give kids someone to look up to and emulate.
“We’re years away from that, but that’s a working process,” Flanagan said. “And there’s all the parts of the process to get there.”
By Eric Black
When Sweetlax Lacrosse co-owners Joe Huber and Kevin Martin started Sweetlax Florida three years ago, they waded into nearly-uncharted territory. The teams they’d seen from the state that played up north in the years prior still looked to be in their developmental stages, and there were no top-tier clubs.
But Martin, who moved down to Florida six years ago, saw there was a need for an elite travel team. He’d been working with lacrosse clinics and saw a lot of kids had talent and needed the exposure. Sweetlax Florida would provide them with that.
“So, we came down here and started Sweetlax. And the first tryout, we had five kids at it,” Martin said, laughing.
Since then, the Sweetlax Florida program has emerged as one of the top programs in the state after he and other employees began making phone calls, going to high school games, and identifying kids who may be interested. This summer, there are 400 players in the program on over 20 teams, with age groups in the fall that will range from 2020-2028.
One of the hallmarks of the Sweetlax Florida program is its four Regional Development Programs (RDPs) across the state. Former Loyola star Paul Hummer recently took the reigns of the Leatherbacks RDP, located in South Florida. There’s also the Wahoos North and South teams, their Gulf Coast regional programs, and the Tallahassee Redfish for the northern part of the state.
At the RDPs, coaches work with players to create consistency in drills, player development, and team development. That means no matter what age you are in the program, all of the terminologies are the same.
“These regional development programs enable us to give our players and other talented young boys the opportunity to train and play with us throughout the course of the week,” said Kevin Dugan, Sweetlax Florida Director and head of the RDPs. “That is really helping us prepare a lot of our players for when they're playing in these NLF events and the other big events that they're competing in across the country.”
In his role, Dugan travels around the state throughout the week to visit the RDPs and run trainings and practices. With the consistency he and the program are trying to build, the teams are more able to come together and get on the same page quicker. This vision for team and player development is already coming to fruition, and Sweetlax Florida’s 2020 team is one of the major beneficiaries.
At the 2019 Adrenaline Platinum Cup in early June, the Sweetlax Florida '20s went 3-0 in their Pool, outscoring opponents 33-12 in the process. While past Sweetlax teams had success on the club level, Martin said that the 2020 group is the first that’s been able to take the next step and beat elite teams up north.
“We started beating some of the teams, and we’re like ‘whoa, this group is good,’” Martin said. “...This was our team that really officially turned the corner.”
Martin pointed out the squad’s midfield line as one of the primary reasons it’s a force to be reckoned with on the club circuit. Players like Carter Parlette and Eric Dobson, who will both be heading off to play at Notre Dame next fall, have become a “wild 1-2 punch” for Sweetlax, Dugan said. While Parlette is a great two-way middie, Dobson is a dominant, 6’5” lefty and they love playing with each other.
They’re joined by Dylan Hess, a Georgetown commit who Martin compared to Ryan Conrad. One of the special things Martin noted about the team is where they all call home. Parlette is from Orlando, Dobson is from a small school in the Jacksonville area and Hess hails from a larger school right outside the city. Meanwhile, defenseman Kaden Brothers and midfielder Marcelo Arteaga, both committed to Johns Hopkins, are from Vero Beach and Miami, respectively.
“The culture of that team is very much a positive one built around friendships and relationships,” Dugan said. They've grown up together and they've kind of put Sweetlax on the map and they've helped Florida lacrosse sort of on the map.”
Martin, who handles most of the recruiting duties for Sweetlax Florida, believes that the explanation of the recruiting process is something that the 2020 players and their families really appreciated. He dedicates his personal time to walk them through everything, and at this point, there are only four players on the team that are uncommitted, two of which are new to the program.
That’s just one of the ways Sweetlax Florida is investing in the growth and development of Florida lacrosse. Full-time coaches are being brought in to help with the RDPs and camps in an effort to really focus on the coaching, player, and team development pieces of the program, Dugan explained. At the end of the day, Sweetlax Florida wants to make sure it not only has the best players in the state, but they’re being coached and developed correctly so that they’re in the best possible position to be successful.
“We’re across the board looking at helping the state of Florida, from developing the top players in the state (and) having that attention to the grassroots component of it,” Dugan said. “We’re investing in coaching and staffing, which will enable us to better serve the Florida lacrosse community and better serve our players to their full potential.”