The late David Bowie encouraged us to turn and face the strange (changes). A classic rock song with an inspiring message, but the problem is no other word causes more sleepless nights and worry than change. This proves especially acute when the change affects something close to our hearts… I am referring to lacrosse, the sport we all agree we love.
Earlier this year Paul Rabil announced the formation of competing professional field lacrosse league scheduled to begin play in the summer of 2019. Almost immediately, the naysayers predicted doom and the death of all professional field lacrosse. There was not enough interest in the game, another league in addition to the already struggling MLL would thin out the talent pool, and neither league would survive.
This was it boys, after Memorial Day there would be no more lacrosse unless it was in Canada. Rabil was the Millennial Don Quixote charging at windmills.
But Rabil rewrote the classic and Don Quixote charged the windmill, knocked it over, downed a Red Bull and embarked on a whirlwind of activity. He announced that 140 players from the MLL intended on playing in the new league. In addition to taking over half the league, the Premier Lacrosse League would pay more, offer health benefits, shares in the league and a broadcast deal with NBC. The announcement of an all-star investment group led by Alibaba President and former Yale lacrosse player Joe Tsai, the Raine Group, Brett Jefferson, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Evolution Media, The Chernin Group and Blum Capital collectively made the impossible dream very reachable.
The Premier Lacrosse League held their training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the site where the U.S. Men’s National team held Spring Premier selection process. I attended the final day of scrimmages and failed to get the smile off my face. All the players attending training camp marveled at how smooth and professional the experience went. Camp consisted of scrimmages, film work, team building and workshops that focused on social media, compensation and brand development and growth. This game is fast and designed to fit into a media friendly package. Premier Lacrosse assembled a squad of media that dominated all forms of social media during the week of training camp and had more social media presence than other established sports teams like the NFL, NBA and MLB.
The motto for the new league is: “We the players.” Tucker Durkin’s thoughts posted on the PLL website sums up my impression of the Premier Lacrosse League: all players are learning how to be full time lacrosse players. The PLL is a player driven entity that recognizes the value of social media and putting the best possible product out for diehard fans and those new to the sport. This is not the old school perception of prep school lax bros, but rather some of the best players and athletes in the world working to bring lacrosse into the mainstream. Now is the time for all of us to face the changes, charge at the windmill and watch as history is made.