University of Denver’s Lacrosse Title and the Growth of Lacrosse
Lacrosse is becoming one of the premier sports in North America, in terms of overall growth and future potential. Lacrosse’s reputation in the past has led it to be known as the preppy sport where good players were primarily from upper middle class families who attended North Eastern private schools and well-funded public schools. All of the collegiate lacrosse powers were housed in states that touched the Atlantic Ocean, and a school west of the Appalachian Mountains had never held the national title. This all changed when the University of Denver beat the University of Maryland in the 2015 National Championship game.
The sport of lacrosse is growing immensely throughout the country. The University of Denver (current National Champions) is a very good example of this westward expansion of lacrosse and I am going to take a look at how they achieved this level of success. First, Denver hired a Hall of Fame coach in Bill Tierney, who had won 6 National Titles at Princeton before moving to UD for the 2010 season. This was, in my opinion, the major tipping point for collegiate lacrosse’s expansion across the nation. Also, five years prior to Tierney’s hiring, UD built the first stadium specifically designed for lacrosse. Now lets examine the composition of the University of Denver’s 2015 National Championship Roster to their opponent in the 2015 National Championship game, the University of Maryland.
|Northeast States||# of Denver Players||# of Maryland Players|
|Non-east coast States/International||# of Denver Players||# of Maryland Players|
These numbers are significant for a few reasons. Number one is because the 2015 national championship team was comprised primarily of players that do not hail from the traditional hotbed of lacrosse. The Northeast has forever been where the premier teams and players have come from. Good players from the west have been on excellent east coast teams in the past, however, this is the first time a national championship team has been comprised primarily of players not from the northeast. This is a very good sign for the future of lacrosse.
The amount of non-east coast players on the Denver squad is not only an indication that lacrosse is growing across the country, but is also an indication that the level of competition and level of ability has grown throughout the US. This is a very important indicator for lacrosse because it shows that not only is the amount of participation increasing, but it also shows that the level of play and competition across the US has elevated to a point where it can compete at the highest level.
The growth of lacrosse has been incredible over the past 7 years. According to US Lacrosse, from 2008 to 2013, 621 schools added boys lacrosse teams and 588 added girls lacrosse teams, which represent a 34% and 36% increase respectively. Also, youth participation topped 400,000 for the first time ever according to US Lacrosse. In 2013 there were 60 new varsity programs and of those 60, eight were at the Division I level. With the increase in participation across the country there has also been a large increase in the number of showcases and all-star travel teams nationwide including the “Riptide in Oceanside” Tournament presented by 3D Lacrosse and the “T99” presented by Under Armour and Bridge Lacrosse. These showcases give college coaches the opportunity to see players they may not necessarily have seen in the past, which is the key to the future growth of lacrosse in America. As the opportunities at the college level to play lacrosse increase, I believe that participation in the game of lacrosse at the prep level across the nation will increase along with it.