Behind the Back: #GrowTheGame

The game of lacrosse has grown exponentially in the last decade and a big part of the growth is from many players who are giving back to the sport that has given them so much.  Superstars like Shawn Evans, Brad Self, John Grant Jr and Tracey Kelusky are all involved in developmental camps while draw ball specialist Jordan MacIntosh even has his own face-off camp.

Although these guys work at different camps they are not in direct competition with each other which allows them to take completely different paths while succeeding simultaneously.

Grant and Kelusky, two of planet’s greatest players, have put their focus on developing young, experienced field lacrosse players who are ready to take it to the next level. The two all-stars run Evolve Elite Lacrosse and they do exactly what the name says; they focus on evolving the skills of elite players, giving participants much needed exposure as they gain valuable game experience while competing throughout North America.

Evans and Self on the other hand have put their focus into the grassroots of lacrosse as they teach the basics and the fundamentals of the game.  They co-founded Nationwide Lacrosse in October of 2012, shortly after their Peterborough Lakers (Major Series Lacrosse) defeated the Langley Thunder (Western Lacrosse Association) in a six game series to win the Mann Cup.

In previous years the co-founders had worked at Lakers camps and helped out our other camps as well but they both wanted to do something different, something that nobody had really been done before. Their vision was to focus on the basics and go back to the grassroots of lacrosse to teach the fundamentals of the game they love to eager kids across the Nation.

The first year was a success as they not only ran camps in and around their hometown of Peterborough Ontario but also throughout the province to cities that have lacrosse programs but don’t necessarily have anyone who can teach these young kids some of the proper techniques of lacrosse.

They also brought Nationwide to elementary schools, not only helping young players hone their skills but exposing the game to kids who have never seen a lacrosse stick let alone played the game.

Nationwide has been so successful that they even started a winter league in Peterborough for both boys and girls. In a city that eats, breathes and sleeps lacrosse, it’s hard to believe that this is the first winter league of its kind; as expected space filled up fast with each lucky participant receiving a new stick courtesy of Under Armour’s Team 22.

Its incredible how much Self and Evans have accomplished with Nationwide Lacrosse in such a short time. The vision they had just over a year ago has turned into a brand that people everywhere are starting to recognize; I’m amazed at how many people approach me when I’m wearing my Nationwide hoodie to talk about their camps, clinics and of course the two co-founders themselves.

Self and Evans are not only the co-founders but also the main instructors so anyone who is fortunate enough to attend a Nationwide Lacrosse camp will have a chance to learn first hand for these two phenoms.

Evans is the reigning MSL and NLL Most Valuable Player while Self is (arguably) the fastest player in the National Lacrosse League and one of the most talented multi sports athletes around. The Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League selected him in the eighth round in 1999 and then in 2001 he was snatched by the NLL’s Buffalo Bandits in the second round, making him the only person in history to be drafted by two different major professional sports teams in the same city.

It’s easy to say you want to grow the game but these superstars along with countless others are practicing what they preach and actually getting out there to grow the game that we all love. I just wanted to take this opportunity to dedicate this week’s Behind The Back column to all the amazing players who are giving back, especially Shawn Evans and Brad Self of Nationwide Lacrosse whose hard work I’ve been fortunate enough to witness on several occasions first hand. Thanks boys!


**Irrelevant Side Note: On Friday night in Week 4 of the National Lacrosse League, John Grant Jr. scored the greatest lacrosse goal that any of us will probably ever see in our lifetimes; check it out **