Sticking Power
The influx of younger players is fueling the growth of lacrosse in America. (Photo: Tempura)
Although lacrosse won’t be included in the 2024 Paris Olympics, it will return to the 2028 Games in Los Angeles as North America’s first sport is now played in nearly 100 countries around the world. To celebrate the inclusion of lacrosse in the Olympics, World Lacrosse, the international governing body for the sport, has launched A New Era, a campaign intended to help propel lacrosse into its next generation via growth in participation, popularity and sustainability.

Over the past decade, lacrosse – dubbed “the fastest sport on two feet” – has seen tremendous growth, doubling its membership from 45 to 91 national federations. The game is now played in all five continental regions, with four continents represented in the World Top 10 rankings for both men and women.

One of the key growth drivers of women’s lacrosse in the U.S. is the increasing number of young athletes taking up the sport. According to the NFHS 2022-23 participation survey, there were 98,014 participants in girls’ lacrosse in 3164 high schools. The sport ranked No. 10 on the organization’s list of Ten Most Popular Girls Programs. More broadly, SFIA’s Lacrosse Single Sport Report 2023 revealed that total female lacrosse participation was 759,000, while core female participation stood at 404,000.

Although lacrosse isn’t a factor in all team markets across the country, it is popular in areas where it is available in schools and where club and league play are offered.

“Women’s lacrosse is a growing part of our business,” says Eric Tanner, owner of Tama Lacrosse, which operates three locations, one each in Colorado Springs, CO; Naperville, IL; and Syracuse, NY. “In terms of volume, sales to women have increased a little bit. There are now more high-end sticks available and price points have gone up. There are also new vendors in the market. The more experienced, core female players want the higher-end product.”

Tama Lacrosse owns decorating facilities and Tanner reports that girls’ teams buy as much as guys do. “We have deals with schools, but the travel and rec people have better control over their money because there’s no athletic director in the mix. About 20 percent of our business is women’s retail and 30 percent is women’s team sales,” he says.

As for eventual Olympic-fueled sales, Tanner believes “it will depend on how well the lacrosse community will embrace it.” But what will really help participation and interest is more focus on the girls’ game. “We need a short-sided game like sixes or sevens for girls, especially at the high school level,” he explains. “It’s easier for schools to field smaller teams.”

At PJ’s Soccer/Lacrosse, girls’ growth in both of its namesake sports are stronger than boys’, says owner Mike Galipo. “In lacrosse, we have more girls than boys in our Virginia store, but the ratio favors guys 60/40 in our Maryland store.”

He adds, “On the youth side we do really well, but interest dwindles in high school and college. In lacrosse the kids start young, but after college it kind of stops. Until you get other women and peers investing in the game and going to see games, the growth will be limited. We need support from fans at a higher level to grow the sport.”

Lacrosse Fast Facts

• Although lacrosse won’t be included in the 2024 Paris Olympics, it will return at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

• Lacrosse has been the fastest-growing NCAA sport. Over the last two decades, it has seen 95 percent program growth and now boasts 917 teams.

• There are 2.5 million recreationallacrosse players in the U.S., according to World Lacrosse.