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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Celebrating Two Years of Lacrosse in Des Moines!

I started this blog two years ago today. I had some lofty goals back then without a real clue about how to reach them:

My goal is simple yet complex - successfully introduce lacrosse to central Iowa. Step 1 involves getting a group of guys together regularly to toss a ball and maybe scrimmage. Step 2 has us putting a team in the regional men's league (the Great Plains Lacrosse League) and squaring off against teams in Omaha, KC, Tulsa, and Wichita. Step 3 sees a high school club or two forming and hopefully playing against the Omaha HS clubs. Step 4 sees a broader youth program and a girls' program starting up. Step 5 is pure fantasy, but maybe seeing most of the metro schools with their own club teams. Step 6 is an MLL and/or NLL franchise in DM (A pure pipe dream, I know).

I ventured forth blindly with nothing but ambition guiding me. When I found out about the recently started Valley team and Tyler Nielsen's efforts to start lax, my drive only increased. As I started communicating with Tyler and Valley coach Zach Zielonko, things began to fall into place. A rough idea for the first summer league began to form. Then I was contacted by Ben Shoff at Drake and those plans gained momentum. After finally getting some sticks for Christmas, we held our first Toss Around in January of 2009.

Step One is complete.

I had hoped to field the Demons in the GPLL last year, but as I got better acclimated to the game, I realized that would not happen. We considered last year's summer pick up games, the box league, and the graduating Valley players over the winter. Ultimately we did not see enough depth to field a travel team. Then the 2010 Summer League brought waves of new players to our attention. Since many of these players will be in the metro and have expressed interest in the Demons, we are about 95% certain that the Demons will happen in 2011!
Over the course of this year's box league we will figure out dues, jersey fees, and how the team will be put together. A formal announcement will be made later this fall. Stay tuned for more information.

Step Two is in progress.

During the first Toss Around, Zach asked Tyler and me to help run Valley's practices. I started the team's website and helped with organization. The Tigers played as a junior varsity team in 2009. This spring they played at the varsity club level and finished fourth over all in the Nebraska League. A couple of weeks ago they won the Lincoln Rampage Mid-Fall Classic.

Step Three is complete.

With the arrival of more laxers, we have reached the point where we can start expanding our programs. Austin Ladd has graciously volunteered to spearhead the upcoming youth program. Although the specific details are not available, the program will start within the next month or so. CILA members also did a clinic at a recent Boy Scouts of America event at Water Works Park. We have also helped with Walnut Creek YMCA-sponsored clinics. I will run at least one clinic at the South Suburban YMCA this winter. Other groups in the metro have contacted me about starting youth lacrosse programs.

Jaacki McKinney took the reigns of the girls program at Waukee. She has built a competitive high school team that faces teams from Omaha, Kansas City, and other cities in our region. Other girls and women in the metro have expressed interest as well.

Step Four is nearly complete.

As Valley's program continues to expand, the Waukee students may be able to splinter off into their own team in a couple of years. Talks have also been held with the Activities Directors at Lincoln and Dowling. A few Dowling students currently play with Valley; more say they would be interested if a Dowling team was available. I have begun working with Lincoln students this fall with a southside high school team being the goal. We have had discussions about how this league can grow and evolve organically, yet sustainably. The burgeoning youth program(s) will help.

And the sport is spreading beyond the metro. Dubuque officially launched its program this fall. Efforts are still underway in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo. Sioux City has been mentioned as well, but I have not heard many specifics about their plans. Perhaps the most interesting place I've heard about is the Pella/Oskaloosa area. A few experienced individuals live in the area and are looking to start a program.

Step Five is in progress.

I am afraid that this is the closest we will come to a MLL team in Des Moines. Although the NLL is out of play, there is the possibility of a competitive box lacrosse team. However, this team will be strictly amateur. But the ultimate goal of the league is establishing a junior box lacrosse league akin to the Canadian leagues and junior hockey.

Step Six would require a massive financial windfall.

Upon reflection, I cannot believe how far we have come as a lacrosse community in two short years. Although I had hoped for some sort of summer rec program, I honestly did not believe that we would have a full blown league within our first two years. Many other more established areas do not have that luxury. As late as last September, we were unsure that the box league would even take off and now are less than two weeks from starting our second - with an additional team to boot!

The past two years have seen the creation of the Drake University team, a dedicated CILA website, a CILA facebook page, a dedicated CILA bank account (no link for that, natch!), sponsored jerseys, and a local lacrosse brotherhood. As we begin our third year, I'm looking forward to the launch of the Demons competitive/travel team, the beginning of our youth program, the continuation of our recreational leagues, and the progress of additional high school programs.

For more information on the current Central Iowa Lacrosse Association programs, please visit the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association website. Feel free to post your comments below or on Facebook, or even email me. Thank you for your support!
I would like to thank the following people for everything they have done to help support the growth of lacrosse in Des Moines: Zach Zielonko, Tyler Nielsen, Jim Burk, Jaacki McKinney, Gabe Carlson, Phil, Austin Ladd, Mark Anderson, Ben Shoff, Bill Bostwick, Cam Bostwick, Alec Sundermann, Kurt Sundermann, Dirk Arends, Chad Thompson, Tiffany Edgington, and everybody that has participated in a CILA event or league over the past two years. We would not be where we are without their efforts!

Tribe 7