Lacrosse: How far will it come?

Fernando Castro

Lacrosse has had tremendous growth in Radnor as of recent. The amount of talent and students receiving scholarships is growing exponentially, so much so that one student committed to a college by the end of his freshman year due to his talent in the sport. We have especially seen growth in talent as of recent, when the Radnor Boy’s Lacrosse team was crowned state champions. When you also consider low injury risk and new opportunities, you can see why lacrosse has grown as a sport across the country as well. But will it ever eclipse the popularity of basketball, football, baseball and other sports that have been around before our own grandparents? To determine this we can look at interest level from the perspective of players and spectators.

The very first level where sports must generate interest is for players. High school football teams are usually the largest out of any sport, but as more light is shedded on the risk of long term injury and concussions in many football players, the sport may lose popularity if students become more cautious, or if parents just don’t allow them to play. It was reported in 2012 that per 100,000 “exposures” (a game or practice, regardless of time) 64-76.8 concussions took place, while in lacrosse only 40-46.6 were reported. People who play football might now play soccer, run track, or train for a sport that would be currently out of season. In Radnor, there is a huge amount of students playing lacrosse in the spring, and many people are receiving scholarships from it and going on to play at the collegiate level. With such huge pools of talent to choose from, football scholarships are much more difficult to earn. Over time, if it has gained enough popularity, the same thing might happen with lacrosse. But will the sport remain at the collegiate level forever? Or will it exceed into a professional realm, where lacrosse players make millions of dollars annually playing on TV?

At the spectator level, it’s obvious to see football at the high school and collegiate level attract the most viewers and generate the most revenue through tickets, especially when compared to lacrosse.  Whilst a school like Radnor still gets many fans each game, especially last season, the talent of the team caused their rise in popularity which was at its peak on their run to becoming state champs. However, the football games this year and past years so far have attracted just as many people, if not more, even during the worst of seasons. But many of the people who attend don’t go for their love of the game. Some students who attend football games go simply to socialize, or because their part of a group such as the cheerleaders, marching band or color guard. Football games are stereotypical places of social interaction, which we see in old high school movies time and again. Football games aren’t just about football, and that’s what make them so perennially popular, not to mention the excitement of rivalries, and Radnor being a part of the oldest in the country certainly helps.  While many people who play lacrosse have friends that go to games just to cheer them on, lacrosse hasn’t reached that general level of popularity yet that football does. College football remains the 3rd most watched league in America behind the NFL and MLB, but with growing concerns of criminal activity in the NFL and the unpopularity of the commisioner, Roger Goodell, that could lead to change. Right now however, the average attendance of an NFL game is 67,605 while an MLL is only 5,608. No doubt about it, there is growth to be made there.  

Lacrosse in Radnor is growing fast, and has a strong community and group of players and will most likely continue to see success each year. But nationally, it hasn’t come close to the kind of interest and popularity generated from soccer, football or basketball. It’s growth is rapid though, as seen by the 158% increase in youth participation from 2008-2012. The time might come when football begins to fade out and is seen more as a dangerous sport,. But that time seems to be far away, out of most of our lifetimes. But no matter what kind of global traction these sports have they can all be enjoyed just the same, which the Radnor Ruckus does very well.