While almost every American is aware of the popularity of the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB and NHL; most would be stumped if asked which is the fastest growing team sport. If someone were to hazard a guess, they would most likely be wrong, because the fastest growing sport is none of these.
Fastest Growing Sport
According to an annual report by US Lacrosse,“A record total of 746,859 players competed on organized lacrosse teams in 2013. The growth rate from last year (722,205) was 3.4 percent and youth participation topped 400,000 for the first time ever.”
Two Reasons for The Upward Trend
What’s behind lacrosse -the first team sport in America and once played mainly as an amateur sport in Northeastern prep schools and private colleges – and its increasingly mainstream appeal? Primarily, three things:
The first reason is that it’s a gender neutral sport. There is not much difference in the way men and women play it.
The second is that it can adapt to most playing fields, so there are no set limits on where it can be played.
The third reason is it was not until the 1970’s that manufacturers mass produced lacrosse sticks. Before then it was only available in limited supply because each stick was handcrafted by Mohawk craftsmen in Canada. Today, they are widely available from specialty websites like Lacrosse Monkey.
The combined effect of these three causal factors have made it easy for school districts to include it as a High School sport, as well as for colleges, and professional teams to organize the game.
Expanding Beyond the Northeast Corridor
When people think of lacrosse, they immediately associate it with the northeast corridor; where it is a long-established, preppy sport.
However, lacrosse can no longer be considered a Northeast-based sport. It is now even played in unlikely states such as Texas, Minnesota and South Carolina, where sports fans have never been known for appreciating the game. Moreover, from 2009 to 2013, participation in the sport has grown significantly in both the Midwestern and Southern states. Lacrosse is now popular in Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Lacrosse in High Schools and Colleges
The popularity of lacrosse is highest at the high school level, where its popularity can be described as explosive. From this swelling mass of young players, it may one day become a future All-American sport. Lacrosse, of course, still has some ways to catch up with well-established high school sports like soccer, football, basketball or baseball.
According to a press release by US Lacrosse, “Lacrosse continues to be the fastest-growing sport at the high school level, and a total of 290,046 players competed in 2013.”
The popularity of lacrosse in high school appears to have trickled into colleges, too. According to the same press release,”Lacrosse is also the fastest-growing NCAA sport, and more than 35,000 players competed on varsity, club or junior college teams in 2013. A staggering 60 new varsity programs were added in 2013.”
Lacrosse Is On The Rise
Although lacrosse is edging toward becoming a mainstream sport, it is not as well known as other major American sports played in high schools, colleges and professionally. However, it’s popularity is growing at a faster rate. As young players in high schools graduate and go to college, it is expected to increase at the collegiate level, as well as at the club and professional level. While lacrosse is becoming popular in the United States, organizers also hope that it will become an international sport and that it will make it’s Olympic debut by 2024.