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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seedlings Need Water to Grow

With the birth of the Valley Lacrosse Club came the first indications that lax can and will work in Des Moines. I was completely unaware of the then recently formed club when I launched this blog. It took about three months for contact between myself and the team to happen. I provided some water for the seeds to grow and the team is on its way to becoming a mighty oak.*

Continuing this metaphor, it is quite obvious that I envision a massive lacrosse forest covering the Des Moines metro and the state as a whole within the next 15 years. Even now while you are sitting here reading this, seeds are being dispersed across the state. A growing number of dedicated individuals are making like Johnny Appleseed and spreading the game. Their efforts are more valuable than my own and I appreciate every one of them.

A talented crop of Valley players will graduate at the end of this season. A few among them have committed to schools with existing MCLA programs and plan to continue playing from day one of their freshman year. Others are planning to take at least a year off of lax to focus on academics; many of them will probably not touch a lax stick during the academic year. But a few dedicated individuals have strong plans to introduce lax to currently vacant campuses. These individuals not only have my support, but they also have my utmost respect.

Starting a lacrosse program/club is a difficult thing; Ben Shoff definitely had some hurdles setting up the program at Drake. Being a freshman in college is no easy task either. Anyone that intends to do both - and these guys definitely can - is a hero in my book.
The potential for a second metro high school team is still very strong. A split between Waukee and Valley is the most likely considering the number of kids from each school on the current team.
Dowling stills hold potential, although right now it would probably be more of a "Des Moines Catholic" type team than a true Dowling team. Still there is strong potential for funding from parents and the school has a very competitive attitude overall. Setting up a team could be as simple as Valley winning the Nebraska League championship.
The city of Ankeny also has strong potential due to their competitive nature and desire to topple the western suburbs in every way possible. To get a team going in the northern 'burb, I just need to find somebody to carry and plant the seed. I am not saying that these are the only places that would work; they are just the most likely based on economics, history, and similar factors.


Something that bothers me - even if it does not necessarily hinder our growth - is the absolute lack of support from the local media. Sure the Register has covered both the Valley boys and Waukee girls to some extent, but only in the West Des Moines/Waukee special insert and not in the full paper. Online, both stories are buried. Nothing has been said of Drake starting a club. I find this odd because the establishment of a previously unknown sport - and the immediate success of the programs - surely seems newsworthy.

And the Register is not alone. None of the local television stations have come out to Valley's practices or home games despite repeated invitations and news releases. I have never even received a response from any of them. Admittedly I have never contacted the local sports radio stations, but will look into doing so in the future. But lacrosse is a game that has to be seen and not heard.
I am not surprised that the local media is unwilling to cover lacrosse. After all, they rarely cover the minor league sports teams in town at anything approaching a satisfactory level. Sure the Barnstormers and I-Cubs get some love, but when is the last time you heard about the Energy (despite their playoffs run), Buccaneers, or Menace? The Stars/Chops only got coverage when bad things happened like the infamous name change and subsequent suspension. Have you even heard one word about the Iowa Exposure Basketball League?** A whole minor league arises in Des Moines and not a single word anywhere...
Can we continue to grow without the support of our local media? Of course. Will I continue to try and force our way into the homes of residents via the papers and local channels? Of course. Hopefully we will get to the point where we can take out advertisements and/or put Valley lax team posters up around town. Anything to increase exposure is a good thing, but to do those things we will need funding. Hopefully some area businesses will sponsor teams in our summer league or at least allow fliers to be posted. Maybe we can even end up with some extra cash to buy some ad space. The future is ours and the boundaries are limitless.
*Not that I am claiming that a silly little website is the reason for the Tigers' success. I am merely saying that a recognizable web presence increases interest which translates into growth and sustainability. The real credit goes to head coach Zach Zielonko. Without Zach none of us would have had the opportunities that we have enjoyed over the last year or so. Thank you Zach.
**Granted their website looks weak and the league sounds sketchy.

Tribe 7