10/10/11 10:45 AM
Before the stars of Major League Lacrosse found themselves playing in front of thousands of people on national TV, they learned their skills in youth leagues around the country and fostered a life-long passion for the game. Since the start of the MLL in 2001, the participation in the sport has grown 138%, according to U.S Lacrosse.
The growth of youth lacrosse has been seen all over the country, but has grown even more so in Ohio. Ohio Machine season ticket holder and President of the Southern Ohio chapter of U.S Lacrosse, James Rice has seen this growth first hand. “Ohio youth lacrosse has grown 20-25% year after year,” said Rice. “For example the boy’s youth lacrosse league [3rd-6th grade] in Cincinnati has grown in five years from 45 to 92 teams. We absolutely expect to have 100 plus teams soon.”
As president of the Southern Ohio chapter, Rice facilitates the hundreds of youth leagues across the southern part of Ohio. Rice views the addition of a professional lacrosse team in the area as an asset in the continuous growth of the youth game.
“Having the Machine here solidifies the efforts of many people over the years who have introduced, taught and helped grow the sport of lacrosse in a quality way here in Ohio,” said Rice. “The Ohio Machine not only publicly acknowledges Ohio as a hot spot for lacrosse but also does so by making Ohio their home.”
By becoming a season ticket holder, Rice not only gets to enjoy the fast-paced, exciting games but also support the growth of lacrosse in Ohio. Rice knows the Machine will have a unique chance to be successful in impacting the growth of the sport especially through supporting the local lacrosse community first.
“For the Machine to be successful they will have to make a connection with their fan base, especially with the youth players, by making themselves accessible through clinics and camps on a local level throughout the state of Ohio,” said Rice.
Rice hopes that the Machine’s connection with their fan base will not only grow the sport in Ohio but the central region of the United States as well, including spotlighting the Midwest as a hot bed for extraordinary lacrosse talent.
“Having a professional lacrosse team in Ohio will continue to aid in the growth of lacrosse in our area, as well as throughout the Midwest by bringing the sport to the forefront,” said Rice. “I also think it will help the local high school players and their efforts to be recognized by top lacrosse schools by bringing the spotlight on Midwest lacrosse.”
Even though the growth of youth lacrosse has vastly increased in the past five years it is still not recognized as a varsity sport by the Ohio High School Association. Rice hopes that the addition of the Machine in Ohio will serve as a catalyst for that change and increase the popularity of the sport with regular sports fans.
“With the television coverage growing I think that lacrosse will continue to work its way towards becoming a main stream sport,” said Rice. “I just hope we remember where we came from when we get there.”
To join James Rice as part of the Ohio Machine inaugural season ticket holder family, contact the Machine front office at (614) 754-1973 or by visiting www.theohiomachine.com/tickets. Season ticket deposits are available now for only $20.12 with season ticket packages being announced at a later date. Most of the 2012 inaugural season tickets will be priced at $100 for all seven home games.