This has been a real crazy year for professional lacrosse, especially when it comes to “growth”. It appears that suddenly everyone wants to make greater efforts to spread the sport, and their method seems to be by starting new leagues. In the past year we have seen the introductions of the NALL, CLax, PLL, MILA, and now the new Prospects Lacrosse League. Its too early to say much about the new PLL, but for the other four leagues each has seen major struggles. Huge roadblocks have shown these groups that starting up a minor professional league in a fringe sport like lacrosse is a tad harder than it may sound.
I have been one of the keyÂ proponents of growing the sport in any way possible, and when each new league was created I was filled withÂ optimism. However with time my stance slowly changed as I’ve seen the complications. I’ve always thought that for lacrosse to really work on a professional level and be successful there needs to be some sort of team work. This isn’t just with new leagues either. Why is there absolutely no communication between the NLL and MLL? Why do the two major lacrosse league’s seasons run into each other?
Time and time again you’ve seen a lack of leagues working together to help grow the sport, whether it be the NLL, MLL, or Canadian Box. For some reason people seem to put themselves ahead of others. Egos have sometimes gotten in the way ofÂ benefitingÂ the sport.
So now there are five leagues that all say they are pro leagues. None work with each other, or evenÂ acknowledgeÂ each others existence. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the leagues could really be missing out on an outstanding opportunity.
Lets not forget that lacrosse is not everywhere yet. When you turn on SportsCenter you don’t see a breakdown of the MLL teams or hear about who’s leading the scoring race in the NLL. For many you have to search to find lacrosse, and when you find some it doesn’t mean you’re knowledgeable of the entire lacrosse world. If you’re a casual fan who heard about the Minnesota Swarm from a friend and fell in love with the sport how are you supposed to know about the Long Island Lizards? These leagues need as many fans as possible. They shouldn’t pass up any chance to make a NLL fan a fan of the MLL, an NALL fan a member of the NLL, or anything in between.
Of course this is all coming in response to the recent news out of the PLL, that the New Jersey Rascals are postponing their start until 2013 and that the league will go ahead with three teams. This isn’t the first time that the NALL or PLL has not delivered, and that can leave a sour taste in fans mouths.
If you’re a fan in one of these cities that hasn’t seen professional lacrosse before, how does that look to you? You’re all excited for your team to start playing, they’re selling tickets, and suddenly they fold or decide to move their season to a year from now. Does that make you want to get more involved with lacrosse? Does that really help the game?
Not only that, but with no lack of communications it is very easy for a fan to be confused. I’ve seen on numerous occasions people thinking that the Kentucky Stickhorses were a member of the top tier of indoor lacrosse. It goes back to my point about general knowledge of the relationships of the various lacrosse leagues. There are many people in the United States that have not heard of the NLL. If you have multiple leagues all saying they have the best players in the world it would be fair for a casual fan to be a bit confused.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should throw their cards into one basket and come together in one league. I understand each league serves its own purpose. What I’m saying is that for a league to ever grow, there needs to be some stability. People can’t be starting new leagues left and right without the ability to back it up. If not its just a stain on lacrosse, another reason for people to think that it won’t succeed. We need to make it clear what the top tier of indoor and outdoor is. People need to come together to do what is best for the sport, which I truly hope is their desire.
Everyone of us knows that lacrosse doesn’t equal instant cash. The sport is still growing, and even the main leagues (which have been around for a while now) have to work very hard to get people in the seats. At some point business decisions need to be made to make the sport stable, to make it so the thought of teams folding isn’t constantly looming. The way the sport is currentlyÂ progressing, the odds are that it happens eventually. Everyone mentions the incredible growth at a youth level. Those kids will get older and have families of their own. Then they’ll have the money and ability to get to events themselves. I know its optimistic, but I’ve always felt we had to hold out until eventually the sport breaks out. Until then the leagues have to be smart and lay a good groundwork for the future.