Use this expert advice to start or expand a lacrosse team — even if you’re in a region where the sport is still up-and-coming.

Lacrosse may be the fastest-growing team sport in the U.S., but it can be challenging to start or grow a team in a region where the game hasn’t reached peak popularity.

“Lacrosse is a budding sport in the Midwest,” said Kyle McGuire, lacrosse coach at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. “2018 was the first year that it was an official, state-sanctioned sport in Illinois.”

Adding lacrosse is a great opportunity to expand sport offerings at your school. Instead of waiting for people to catch on, use this advice from lacrosse pros to generate interest in your team.

1. Increase visibility with video.

“Video is so important,” said Jordan MacIntosh, player for the Georgia Swarm and Dallas Rattlers. “A lot of times, people have no idea what lacrosse is. They see kids walking around with those weird-looking sticks and wonder, ‘What sport is that?’”

When people see lacrosse in action, they’re drawn in by its physicality and fast-paced play. In addition to sparking interest, video helps players new to the sport learn how to play.

“If you’re starting a program, get film and show it to kids,” Mike Murphy, Penn lacrosse coach, said. “Then film them playing and show that to them. Embrace the interest and use it as a teaching tool.”

2. Attract players with social media.

The biggest clubs already use social media content to grow their brand. They’re active where their audience is.

“Kids want to be in that video on Instagram or that picture on Twitter,” MacIntosh said. “You’re trying to attract kids where they spend their time.”

Share the positive things happening in your program—or if you’re still getting started, share lacrosse content from college and professional teams that will inspire potential players in your area.

3. Use pro teams to spark interest.

Murphy thinks televised games have contributed to lacrosse’s increased popularity—the more people who see the sport played, the more interest there is.

He advises bringing college teams to play in the area or traveling to see professional teams’ games. In summer 2019, the Premier Lacrosse League will be touring in the hopes of bringing more attention to the sport.

Local media could also help your team or club gain momentum. Since lacrosse is trending nationally, reporters in your area may be attracted to a story about the local interest. Reach out to TV stations and papers and it could result in a feature for your team. (Check out these tips to get started.)

4. Fight misconceptions.

A huge misconception about lacrosse is that it’s expensive to start and play—but the cost of entry is less than people think.

MacIntosh recommends educating parents with the help of the US Lacrosse site, which provides a comprehensive guide to finding clubs and teams, what costs to expect, and what players need to get started.

McGuire’s crafted an entire presentation geared toward new players and their families.

“You’ll run into parents who are like, ‘This is awesome, but I have no idea what I’m really watching here,’” McGuire said. “On our freshman team, we have a Lacrosse 101 PowerPoint that we give out the first day—these are the rules, here’s what you can yell and what you can’t. Things you can expect on the game field. We’re always educating the lacrosse community out here.”

5. Get your players noticed.

As lacrosse gains popularity, the pool of recruitable players only gets bigger. And if you’re coaching in a region where lacrosse is still a growing sport like McGuire, video is key for showcasing players to colleges.

“I think it’s a necessity for these kids to have a highlight tape,” McGuire said. “For a Midwest kid, video is a nice way to be able to share those highlights. And that lets that coach do a little bit better job of recruiting that player or feeling comfortable in the player they’re recruiting. I think that was a huge hurdle for kids from non-traditional areas in lacrosse.”

And as a college coach, video is essential to recruiting. “When I hear about a kid, one of the first places I look for film is Hudl,” Murphy said.

6. Focus on player improvement.

The key to taking players to the next level? Practice. While it’s tempting to focus on playing games, Murphy said it’s more important to spend time working on the game.  

At Penn, he’s made daily improvement the goal for the lacrosse team, and he recommends high school and club coaches do the same.

“For any coaches out there, the more they can do to focus on the improvement of players, the better,” Murphy said. “A product like Hudl can be instrumental—you’re showing kids what they’re doing on film can help them understand their technique.”

McGuire wants his team to focus on improving throughout the season. “We know that we’re going to have some young kids coming to this school that might not have the lacrosse IQ or some of the background that is needed to be really successful on a varsity level,” he said. “But as long as those kids’ IQ and the speed of lacrosse that we’re playing is trending in that upward direction coming into May, then that’s how we view our success.

“It’s not really about wins and losses. It’s really about the quality of the wins are you getting, and how quality you’re playing when you get those losses.”