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Making Lacrosse History

What a time to be a lacrosse fan.

Three weeks into the Premier Lacrosse League’s inaugural season and every game has been full of incredible highlights, new broadcast features, and provided heart pounding action for long time lacrosse fans as well as new ones now tuning in as the first PLL game on the NBC main channel was the most watched professional outdoor pro lacrosse game ever. It has been nothing short of amazing to see how committed the players, coaches, support staff, social media teams, and everyone involved have been to showcasing lacrosse like never before. Major League Lacrosse has also made big strides so far this summer, but let’s focus on how the PLL has been able to bridge the gap from lacrosse’s past to its present and future.

North America’s first sport, played hundreds of years ago by the Indigenous people who created it, will have its modern version played in Hamilton, Columbus, and Albany on the PLL tour near the very places where it was first played by Native tribes centuries ago. Where players centuries ago bumped hips as they battled to pick the ball off the ground with their stick just as players still do today.

I have to imagine every PLL game on the NBC networks has ignited a spark in the hearts of dozens or hopefully hundreds of young kids who now have an unstoppable hunger for more lacrosse. Thanks to the never ending buffet of content the PLL and MLL are putting out every hour of every day, there are always highlights or behind the scenes videos for young fans to watch all week leading up to the games. It is encouraging to see the long time lacrosse fans or players interacting with new fans of the sport on social media helping them to understand the rules better or both marveling at an amazing play together. A young fan could comment on one of Paul Rabil, Tom Schreiber, Kyle Harrison, or Jake Froccaro’s social media posts and have a good chance of getting a response from them.

The league is new and the teams are new, but the league and players have done a great job to link the game’s past to the present. The teams were formed by keeping players from the same schools together or those who have played with each other professionally on the same teams. From playing against them in college, in the World Games, or from previous MLL or NLL teams all of these players have a history playing with or against each other. Some players may still hold a grudge against another for a dirty play or knocking them out of the playoffs years ago making every dodge, faceoff, or groundball battle even more intense.

There are players, coaches, and front office staff that link the PLL to the storied past of lacrosse. Dom Starsia has been coaching lacrosse since the 1970s with several National Championships under his belt and is now the head coach of the Chrome. Josh Sims, the Head of Lacrosse for the PLL, won National Championships with Princeton in 1997 and 1998. The PLL players have won college National Championships from Steven Brooks winning with Syracuse in 2004, Kyle Harrison and Paul Rabil winning with Johns Hopkins in 2005, and as recent as Ryan Conrad winning the 2019 National Championship with Virginia just a few weeks ago.

When the Chaos play the Chrome during the PLL’s stop in Atlanta on June 29, it will be another meeting of Brodie Merrill and Matt Danowski who have been playing against each other since 2004 when Merrill was at Georgetown and Danowski at Duke. They have met dozens and dozens of times since then in professional lacrosse and in the great USA vs Canada battles at the World Games. Having such legendary players be a part of this league is part of that bridge from the past to now what is hopefully the start of a bright new future for lacrosse in the sports world. The veterans like Merrill and Danowski giving the young players tips and advice to ensure the sport is in good hands.

In 2019, the players, coaches, and PLL staff are working together for something bigger using today’s technology to bring the lacrosse community together and keep the sport’s history alive. The segments at halftime breaking down the mechanics of different dodges, how hard defenders can throw stick checks, or how accurate players can shoot the ball. Players can comment on a highlight of themselves on Instagram or even breakdown plays mid-game as they are mic’d up.

It feels like lacrosse is on the precipice of a breakthrough from its niche sport past to a future of possibly being up there with the major sports. The craziest part is that we are only three weeks in to the biggest summer of professional lacrosse ever. Maybe that breakthrough moment is closer than we think as we all are along for this wild ride until the PLL and MLL championship games in September.

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