How Lacrosse Attracts Multisport Athletes
LeagueApps CEO Brian Litvack often reminds his employees that the modern sports organizer faces a variety of challenges, chief among them a shortage of time. The checklist for a club director can be downright daunting. Securing field space, negotiating with apparel companies, hiring and training coaches, booking referees and athletic trainers, the list goes on and on. The most successful in the industry have relied upon technology to streamline their day-to-day, but that can only take you so far. In the end, the true go-getters, who can manage their time and resources properly, rise to the top.
Interacting with enthusiastic overachievers, willing to take on any challenge, has become a daily occurrence at LeagueApps HQ, but Amanda Kammes may be one of the most impressive to date. The COO of Lakeshore Lacrosse has been busy since her playing days ended. After four years as a point guard at the University of Pennsylvania, Kammes jampacked her professional life. The hit list includes five years as a D-1 college basketball coach, four years as a D-1 lacrosse coach, completion of a BS and Masters in Nursing, four years as a high school lacrosse coach, and a stint as the Director of Sales with NXT Sports. Just in her time as a high school lacrosse coach she produced over 20 D-1 recruits and 10 USL All-Americans. Kammes is now tasked with bringing that same level of accomplishment to Lakeshore Lacrosse while growing the game throughout the Midwest. So pull up a chair and enjoy what this modern renaissance woman has to say about the future of youth lacrosse.
Lacrosse has grown significantly over the past decade, transforming from a regional sport into a national sport. Have you noticed an increased interest in Illinois? What are some of the challenges that remain as you look to accelerate growth?
I think from an interest perspective, lacrosse is booming here. From a “boots on the ground” perspective here with Lakeshore Lacrosse, I’ve been struck by how much the parents ask for, and how much the kids want, more training and more opportunities to learn about their sticks/equipment. Their interest level is really multifaceted. Out East, I found the kids to be spoiled. There is a lacrosse store every mile. Literally, in the Philadelphia area, I could drive down one road, and in a five-mile stretch, I could hit three lacrosse stores. It is not like that here. There is one lacrosse store, and it is way up in the shore, so it is not convenient for 90% of the kids in the Chicago area. The lack of exposure may seem like a small thing, but it magnifies how new the sport is out here. I also think one of the limiting factors and the biggest difference from the East, is the number of quality coaches. Right now the volume of coaches can’t keep up with the demand.
Finding good coaches who have either played or coached the game at a high-level to educate these kids and make sure they are taught properly, ends up being a real challenge. And again, we are spoiled out East, even on the parental level. Sure, parents are parents at the end of the day and sometimes they know what they are talking about and sometimes they don’t, but many parents out East played the game in some capacity. That’s simply not the case in the Midwest. What that means is that as the game grows, it feeds back into the coaching ranks. The new wave of coaches are former club players and high school players from the area. Then you have kids returning from college and college graduates who played at our Midwest schools like Marquette, Notre Dame, Northwestern and stayed here after graduation. We’re scooping them up to teach our beginner kids and be a part of the club, and to execute some of the elite training products. Those are the types of coaches you need, so it makes it really challenging to execute those things when it is slim pickings on who is available to run it.
For lacrosse to grow, there needs to be a some, “poaching” so to speak. You need to convince young athletes who are playing other sports to try lacrosse. What are some sports that you believe have the biggest crossover appeal skill-wise?
Three immediately come to mind, and again this is a very regional difference. The first one is basketball. The crossover in similarities between basketball and lacrosse are huge. It is one of the reasons why as a point guard on the basketball court, I saw how similar the games were to one another. From the Xs and Os of it, to the fluid movement of the game, there’s a lot of overlap. Teaching the core concepts, the fundamentals, even the mechanical elements of proper shooting or simple stick-work mechanics, it is just a very similar concept to what I was taught on the basketball court. So basketball is huge, and out East, I think a lot of the best lacrosse players are also very good basketball players, and that is their winter sport.
The second one would be soccer. Again, the similarities between the soccer field and the lacrosse field are number one, the size and the scope of the field are almost identical. So middies and the type of kid that you have playing soccer, running 100-yard sprints back and forth, that really lends itself to the midfield position in lacrosse. The other piece in soccer that lends itself to lacrosse is a lot of the spatial awareness and understanding of how to move the ball through space that soccer really emphasizes. Soccer kids do a lot of possession drills and quick touches, moving the ball with one touch. Those types of concepts are very relevant in lacrosse, so that is the second sport that I think really lends itself, especially with the changes in lacrosse on the women’s side, with the shot clock and the self start. All of these things are making the game even faster than it was already. And the type of athlete over the next ten years that we see playing women’s lacrosse is going to end up being more soccer-like just because of how fast the game is becoming.
The third sport that lends itself is hockey. I actually see a lot of lacrosse kids playing hockey as their second sport here in the Chicago area. This has been really interesting for me because that is certainly a regional difference. I didn’t have a single hockey player in Philadelphia, all of my kids were soccer or basketball players and their other sport was lacrosse. But if you watch hockey and you understand it, the way they run lines on and off the ice lends itself again to the lacrosse field. A lot of the comfort in holding a hockey stick is obviously very transferable to the lacrosse field. And I have to laugh now because I was the opposite coming from basketball. The idea of moving with a stick didn’t come naturally at all. I always felt kind of encumbered by this stick as I was running around. I was like “what the heck is this?” So kids who think of the equipment as an extension of their body, and not an unnatural element, they come into the game of lacrosse with a leg up.
Those are the three sports that I think really lend themselves seamlessly to the game of lacrosse. Some people argue that field hockey should be in there as well. I don’t agree with that simply because I think that while at the pro level, it could potentially have some similarities to lacrosse, at the high school level, lacrosse is a much faster game.
In your opinion how does technology play a part in the growth of the game?
Technology is so important when it comes to running the day to day operations and also as a growth tool. The simple reason to value technology is the data it can provide. Data is so important in this business, understanding who your customer base is and how to contact them appropriately about certain programs is what I would say is one of my number one concerns on a day to day basis. We weren’t using LeagueApps technology when I came on board at Lakeshore, but we were using it at NXT for many years. Utilizing LeagueApps was kind of the first thing that I did when I was starting to change some of our processes and procedures in the organization here. LeagueApps provides us with so many advantages on an organizational level. From streamlining our registration process, allowing waivers to be apart of our registration process so that isn’t an additional thing that I need to ask people to fill out, to providing payment plans and storing credit card information. It goes on and on really. Even the simplicity around invoicing, an issue that parents care about, all of these things are streamlined thanks to LeagueApps. So many of the back office headaches are taken off my plate because I know LeagueApps is managing that for me.
The other tremendously valuable element to LeagueApps is that you guys are always growing your product, it is not this stagnate, stationary technology. The platform is ever changing, ever evolving based on the needs of its customer base, so I am really excited about starting to use the app to further transform my communication with the club and coaches. Simplifying and streamlining ultimately makes for happier customers. Happy customers leads to happier coaches, and then you have retention in your programming. It all fits together and integrates the program’s various aspects, which is critical because there are so many moving parts to a successful sports organization. So to sum it up, I would say that LeagueApps is one of the foundational elements of what we do here at Lakeshore.