Hop On Board, The Fastest Growing Sport In America

May 14, 2012

This past weekend, the NCAA Men’s Division I Lacrosse tournament began at regional sites across the country.

If you’re scratching your head wondering why you didn’t know that, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Lacrosse at the collegiate level isn’t new, but as a mainstream sport it’s still pretty green. For the most part, the powerhouse programs still tend to be scattered across a thin line hugging the Eastern seaboard. States like Texas, which are a recruiting pipeline for a number of schools in major college sports like football and basketball, rarely produce more than a handful (if that) of top lacrosse talent.

However, all of that should change in the near future. It won’t be a slow change, either. The sport of lacrosse is on the verge of an explosion.

Since 2000, lacrosse is the fastest growing-sport in the country, and participation is up a whopping 218.1 percent. Whether this is due to a shift in interest among young athletes or just a response to the extreme competitiveness of sports such as baseball, football and basketball is unknown. Regardless, it is clear that is it affecting the decisions of athletic directors across the country.

The announcements of several colleges to add lacrosse as a sport in the near future is also encouraging. The University of Michigan added lacrosse as a Division I sport for both men and women this season, and Marquette University announced that it would also add lacrosse as a Division 1 sport starting in 2013.  Schools such as Monmouth and High Point also plan to introduce lacrosse within the next year.

While lacrosse may never become a revenue generating sport such as football or basketball, it is promising to see a school as far West as Marquette and a school with as much athletic history as Michigan add it as a varsity sport.

Another thing to consider is that there is very little precedent set for lacrosse players leaving early to play the sport professionally. One can be fairly confident that the players suiting up for their collegiate lacrosse team are actually going to class and plan to earn a degree, which is refreshing in an era where the best athletes in football and basketball don’t always finish their studies.

Take a look at the traditional powers in the sport. Aside from the fact that most of the teams are located in the Eastern United States, schools such as Duke, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame and the entire Ivy League are often part of the 16-team tournament played in May.

Call me old-fashioned, but that is how it’s supposed to be. The best athletes in the sport come from the most prestigious academic institutions. Real all-around individuals are what should be celebrated in college athletics.

You may not have played the sport in high school…you’re school may not have even offered lacrosse. However, I urge you to check out some of the action from the Division I tournament this coming weekend, and then during the Final Four on Memorial Day Weekend. The game is fast-paced, intense and provides the atmosphere of true intercollegiate athletics.

You may not understand what’s going on, but as we’ve come to learn in the past few years, we don’t really know what’s going on inside sports like football or basketball, either.

This isn’t a message to throw those sports under the bus. No, this is a call to hop on board the bandwagon for the fastest growing sport in America.

Hurry, though, because the wagon is picking up speed.

– K. Becks

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