The State of Lacrosse: Alaska

The State of Lacrosse features a state-by-state look at lacrosse growth in the US. In each post we'll interview individuals involved in growing lacrosse in their home state. Today we focus on Alaska and speak with Mike Driscoll and Brandon Cota. Mike runs the Anchorage Lacrosse League which oversees a Men's, Women's and Youth league in the Anchorage area. Brandon is a member of the Anchorage Lacrosse men's team and earlier this summer uploaded a YouTube helmet cam video of one of their games.

Tell us a little bit about lacrosse in Alaska?

MD: The men’s lacrosse program up here started around 2005. With the youth program starting out about a year later. We play year around, playing on indoor turf October through April. I think both indoor and outdoor are equally popular. Our men’s league is about 20-40 guys from year to year and about the same for our youth league. The last few years we’ve tried to start up a women’s league with luke-warm results.

Right now our men’s league is just a pickup game once a week. Who ever shows, plays. Our Youth league is basically the same. We usually run drills and work fundamentals for an hour and then have a 30 minute scrimmage.

There is a youth league in the near by town of Eagle River. In the summer time we will set up a couple scrimmages between our youth teams. In the winter time, we all play under the same roof.

Last year we got in touch with a Kenai/Soldotna youth lacrosse team and scheduled a little 3 team tournament in Anchorage last year between Anchorage, Eagle River and Kenai/Soldotna youth lacrosse teams. We’d love to do that again in the future.

BC: Lacrosse in Anchorage is quite new. They are a great bunch of guys with a lot of combined experience. I know most of the guys played NCAA lacrosse so it has been an awesome experience getting to play with those guys, and get a taste of the next level.

I think some people were surprised to see a helmet cam clip come out of all places Anchorage, Alaska. Can you give me a little background on the video?

BC: My buddy who you see in the very first part of the video (Connor Meyer) had a GoPro Helmet cam he uses for longboarding videos, and he approached me on doing one for lacrosse.

What region of the state are you seeing the most growth?

MD: There is tremendous potential in the Anchorage/Eagle River area. The limiting factor is getting the word out about our league and having enough lacrosse coaching support for more than 2 nights a week to keep momentum. Every time we put concerted effort into getting the word out we get a big upswing in player attendance.

BC: Lacrosse is blowing up in Anchorage, and the valley. I also heard Kenai has a youth team although I'm not sure about a mens league down there.

Is lacrosse in Alaska similar to the sport in Canada in the sense that the indoor game is more popular than the field game?

MD: Nope. Most people seem to like the summer lacrosse more

BC: As far as I can tell, no. Canada mostly plays true box (indoor) lacrosse. In Anchorage, (when we play indoors) we play the outdoor game on a smaller indoor field.

Is lacrosse seen as a more economic alternative to hockey by Alaskan parents?

MD: It’s definitely cheaper.

BC: I have a bunch of friends who play competitive hockey and I can spend more on lacrosse gear than they spend on all of their hockey gear. Just depends how much your parents are willing to spend.

Is there a lot of crossover between hockey and lacrosse athletes?

MD: Absolutely. Those hockey players pick up the game so fast it makes us one-sport lacrosse players sick. All those damn shuffle passes and under hand shots…uhg. And they’re always so good at ground balls.

Have any collegiate clubs developed in Alaska? One would think the geographic separation of the state makes it quite challenging for a college team in Alaska to truly thrive.

MD: Nope. Not yet.

BC: I do not know if there are any college teams in Alaska. As far as I can tell that won't be for a while until teams can travel for cheaper, or more competition grows in state.

Are Alaskan teams at any level traveling out of state to tournaments to test their skills nationally?

MD: Our men’s league team, the Bush Pilots, has participated in the San Diego Jam By The Sea LAX tournament for the last two years. Nice break from April in AK. Some of our players have gone out to play tournaments in New York, Colorado, Hawaii.

BC: I know the (Anchorage) Men's League travels to San Diego every year for a lacrosse tournament. I've been trying to talk to the guys about playing in Vail. The Vail tournament would be HUGE with teams coming from across the country to come play.

According to this facebook group it looks like Service High School and Dimond High School are trying to get programs started? Any thoughts? What are their chances?

MD: Yup. Those are our boys. They are the most energetic about growing the program honestly. They have a great chance, I think. Our youth/highschool team has seen the most growth over the last few years.

BC: I think that's awesome, but it isn't easy. If they can get enough interest the school may add it. They'll have to talk to the Athletic Director, propose ideas how you will build a budget for the sport (Fundraising, Sponsors, etc..) If they go in with a plan, and show genuine interest, hopefully they'll get what they want.

What are the most prominent challenges that faces growth in Alaska?

MD: It’s all opportunity. If someone wanted to double the league in size over the next year I think it’s entirely possible by just getting more aggressive in getting the word out. Honestly, our goals for the league are pretty modest right now. Provide a space to play. Provide a space to teach young players. We seem to have reached a critical mass and are currently enjoying the numbers we’ve got. But there really aren’t many challenges that slow our growth. It’s a great time for lacrosse in Alaska.

BC: The only problem I see possibly, is people lacking enough motivation to try to make it bigger due to the many challenges. You have to do whatever you can. Start small

What should be some of the goals for Alaska lacrosse in the near future?

MD: Our goals right now are to provide a place for adults to continue to play and learn the game and allow our adult players to get involved with teaching our youth squad to love the game as well. I think putting a little more structure to the program (ie having standing teams that play regular scrimmages to build a little team pride/competition) would be good. Plus we need to provide access to lacrosse gear. There are limited alternatives for getting lacrosse gear in Alaska. I think we could provide some service in that arena.

BC: I would think it would be a really good idea to host a tournament in Alaska. Invite teams from Canada, and Northwestern U.S. Schools and have a huge tourney to gather interest. Get the attention of more people, put it in the media, help make lacrosse more mainstream, etc.


Samuel Ferro said...

What happened to the anchorage lacrosse league?