The sport of lacrosse is constantly gaining popularity. More schools, from high schools to colleges, are beginning to offer lacrosse programs. According to Lacrosse All Stars, the state with the most lacrosse programs is New York.
According to World Lacrosse, the sport originated in the St. Lawrence Valley area by the Algonquian tribe. It was known as “stickball” rather than lacrosse. French Missionary Jean de Brébeuf, wrote about the game and named it “lacrosse.”
Today, the rise in popularity of lacrosse is seen across college campuses, with over 400 colleges across the country that have lacrosse programs. In New York there are 72 colleges with a NCAA men’s lacrosse team and 78 colleges with a NCAA women’s team.
|Number of Men’s Programs||Number of Women’s Programs|
|NCAA Division 1||17||18|
|NCAA Division 2||10||11|
|NCAA Division 3||45||49|
As of 2019, New York has 334 high schools with a lacrosse program and over 14,000 participants which are both the highest in the country. The second closest state is California with 273 high schools with a lacrosse program and around 10,000 participants.
Stephen Wagner is the coach for the State University of New York at Brockport’s women’s lacrosse team. He has been the head coach since 2012 and has an overall record of 121-56. He has seen much success in his coaching career, including winning the 2019 SUNYAC championship. He started coaching during his senior year of college as the defensive coordinator for SUNY Brockport.
Wagner loves the sport of lacrosse and loves what it can provide for athletes playing the game. One major thing he sees an issue is the pay barrier.
“I love the sport, and I am glad it is spreading. My only beef with it is the pay barrier involved with going to the next level. Part of the reason I feel strongly about SUNY schools is that I want kids who play the sport who aren’t rich to still have the opportunity to play. Although I love that it is expanding, I am very disheartened at the elitism. I want the game to be available to more than just to rich white kids,” Wagner said.
Along with seeing elitism in the next level of lacrosse, Wagner sees a problem between the difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse. He believes that women’s lacrosse is growing but only due to the price of running it.
“Men’s lacrosse is very aggressive, while women’s lacrosse is a very pretty sport. It’s moving along as a women’s sport. The main reason it has expanded though is that it is cheaper to run a women’s program. I don’t know if it’s expanding for any reason than it is a good offset for the men’s program,” Wagner said.
Wagner loves that lacrosse as a whole is growing, but he still sees such a major difference in what is provided between men and women. Beyond those differences he also wants to see more diversity in lacrosse.
“My frustration is that while we have provided more opportunities for women, it is not equal to men. There is about a $10,000 difference in the men’s and women’s head coaches. Women’s lacrosse has added so much but I think it’s because it’s cheap. There are so many more women that have jobs due to women’s lacrosse and have more voices. Now that we have those jobs, I want to see some diversity. We talk so much about diversity in colleges and in the world but now we need to see it,” Wagner said.
Wagner believes that the direction that lacrosse is going in is great and could lead to more opportunities for all. He knows that there are still obstacles to break the barriers, but he doesn’t believe that it needs to slowly change.
The two main lacrosse leagues in the nation are the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) and the National Lacrosse League (NLL). As of right now these leagues only have men’s teams. New York has four teams in the National Lacrosse League, as well as New York City being one of the active spots for the Premier Lacrosse League.
The NLL is an indoor box lacrosse league and has been around since 1986. The NLL has seen many changes since their founding days, including 36 different franchises across the United States and Canada. New York has had a team in the NLL since 1989. There have been multiple cities that have held a team at one point including Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, and New York City. In the present-day NLL all of those cities have a team except for Syracuse.
According to NLL.com, the NLL ranks third in average attendance for pro indoor sports worldwide, behind only the NHL and NBA. Although the NLL is one of the highest leagues in lacrosse, it is only semi-professional. The average salary for players is $19,375.
The PLL is still in its infancy stages, only being founded in 2018. This outdoor lacrosse league was founded in order to directly compete with the Major Lacrosse League (MLL), which was founded in 2001.
In 2020 the PLL and MLL merged and began to operate as one under the “PLL” brand and model. The PLL just finished up its fourth season on September 18, 2022. The PLL is quickly growing as a lacrosse league and according to Front Office Sports, the PLL has racked up 235M total impressions, with 61.4M video views, and 9.7M total engagements on social media. The average player salary in the PLL is $35,000 with each player on the 2022 championship winning team also receiving $50,000 from Cash App.
Even with the more colleges adding lacrosse programs and the sport expanding into semi-professional leagues, Sean Corp never got the opportunity to play a collegiate career. He attended D’Youville University which added a lacrosse program in 2022, only four years after he graduated. But just like any other sport, in order for lacrosse to grow people should want to play it or watch it. Corp, 26, has been playing lacrosse since he was 11 years old. The sport had a major impact on his life and gave him lifetime friends and values.
“I got into lacrosse because all my friends played it and it looked cool, but it gave me structure and discipline. It made me want to work hard. I would be in my backyard practicing my shooting almost every day. Being able to spend more time with my friends, allowed me to get closer to them. Even the people I met through travel lacrosse and even the coaches. It’s nice to have those connections, throughout life even now,” Corp said.
Beyond the values it instilled in him and the connections it gave him, lacrosse gave him the opportunity to be involved in something. The same way someone might connect with a basketball, Corp connected with a lacrosse stick.
“It definitely had a big impact on my life. It was my favorite sport, and I spent a lot of time playing it. It gave me a more positive outlook on the school experience as well. High school sucked but you know how it was, ‘oh you play sports? You’re cool bro.’ But any chance I get I try to play. I mainly play in the summer, but I’m trying to find a box league this winter,” Corp said.
Although Corp is no longer in a “structured” lacrosse setting anymore, he still enjoys watching and following along with the sport. Lacrosse was never this popular when Corp was growing up, and now with multiple semi-professional leagues he finds it interesting to see all the hype around the sport.
“I like to watch the PLL and NLL or watch my old highlights. When college lacrosse starts up I love to watch it. I got to see Maryland tear it up last year and I went to a couple Syracuse games. It’s cool to see people investing in the game like the PLL and NLL. They are growing the game and people actually know what it is now. When I was a kid only people in New York or the Maryland area knew what it was, beyond that it was nothing,” Corp said.
With more people starting to play and watch lacrosse, it is gradually growing as a sport. New York is one of the titans for the lacrosse industry and helps play a big role in the expansion of the sport.