WINNERS Lacrosse (DC), MetroLacrosse (Boston), City Lax (Denver), Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership (New York), Charm City Lacrosse (Baltimore), OWLS (Chicago), BRIDGE Dallas, City Lacrosse (Los Angeles) and Oakland Lacrosse (California). What do all of these organizations have in common? They’re all non-profit organizations bringing lacrosse to urban areas throughout the country, some in existence for over a decade.

I started playing lacrosse when I was five, played club, high school, and ended my career last year as a goalie at Stanford. Needless to say lacrosse has been my life for the past 18 years. Despite all of this, if you had told me the names of those organizations over a year ago I would have no idea what they were. Even being in Maryland, I had no idea WINNERS Lacrosse existed until last summer when I saw a Facebook video US Lacrosse shared about WINNERS. Amazed by what WINNERS was doing, I emailed Executive Director Matt Breslin to see how I could contribute (fun fact: Matt was a goalie too, at Duke!). Coincidentally enough, a position was open for the Program Director of the organization. Immediately I sent my application in, interviewed, and here I am, a year later.

Some of you may have seen the Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial recently, or read in The Washington Post about our very own golf outing where a 29 year-old hit a hole-in-one and made the incredible decision to donate the value of the awarded car back to WINNERS. Despite these amazing stories, many in the lacrosse community don’t know about these organizations or what they are doing. I know this because I still get many emails from people saying they just learned about us despite living in the DC area for a while and want to get involved.

With the help of Inside Lacrosse, we hope through this blog to change that. Our hope is that not only do people become aware and involved with urban lacrosse, but educated on what exactly it is that we even do. Each group runs a little differently, but I’m going to be sharing with you what we do at WINNERS Lacrosse.

So, what exactly do we do?

WINNERS Lacrosse started in 2000, and has grown each year in existence. So far, we have reached over 9,000 boys and girls in DC, and can’t wait to do more this year! We run a year-round program so that if boys and girls want to keep playing they can, and do so at no cost to our participants. Yes, you read that right. All of our programs are free and we provide all of the equipment our players need. We’re able to do this through help from sponsors, fundraising, grants, and individual donations.

We just wrapped up our first ever Fall Ball Lacrosse League, for boys and girls in grades K-8. In our first outing, we had over 160 boys and girls sign up and it was a blast!

You might be wondering, “how does it work?” We separate the boys and girls, and then they are placed into groups based on their age. Our “sticklettes” are K-2nd, “pee-wees” are 3rd-5th, and “juniors” are 6th-8th. For this league, we have one practice per week and one game day per week. During practices, the players are split up by ages and participate in station work to learn and improve their skills. Game days are structured like a traditional “pick-up” game, we hand out reversibles and split the players into teams.

At the beginning and end of the fall we surveyed our participants in 3rd-8th grade and found out some exciting news! From our spring survey findings, almost half of the participants had never played lacrosse before! This fall, only 30% of our participants had never played lacrosse before. In addition, only 16% had never seen or heard about lacrosse, compared to 25% in spring. What this means is more boys and girls in DC are being exposed to the sport and want to keep playing! This is HUGE for the sport, and telling of the findings from the NCAA that lacrosse really is the fastest growing sport! I hope you enjoyed reading and check back in next month to read what we’re doing next!