Continue Cal Women's Lacrosse!

Cutting Lacrosse, a Sport With Growing Popularity, Is Simply a Shortsighted Mistake

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The need for the Cal athletic department to participate in the resolution of the current budget issues is at this point uncontested. The major issue right now is the apparent lack of transparency or engagement of the affected coaches in the process of deciding which programs to cut, and the uncertainty about whether the right cuts were made.

Cutting programs of this significance can have far reaching impacts beyond the Berkeley campus on parents, players and coaches at all levels of play. Without transparency in the "process," which includes engaging the coaches, it is very difficult for the coaches and the others who are impacted to rationalize or begin to support a direction they can't understand.

Regional and national supporters of women's lacrosse are trying to understand how a sport that has sixth grade through high school and NCAA participation levels that greatly exceed participation levels of other Cal women's sports, especially in Northern California, has been selected to be cut.

Two comparable women's sports programs - field hockey and lacrosse - were under consideration for termination. Without visibility into the process or financials considered by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Cal's athletic director Sandy Barbour, I will offer transparency into a customer and facts-based decision process that yields a different conclusion.

The first step in making this decision is recognizing the key external customers whose interest should be a major consideration in the decision process. One set of these customers is composed of the best and brightest high school students who represent the pool of applicants to Cal every year. Another important customer is the California taxpayer, who is still funding at least part of the Cal budget.

How do we measure interest in a sports program? Players, taxpaying parents and opportunity drive participation, which begins as early as the sixth grade.

A well-managed college sports program can extend participation far beyond the Berkeley campus. Theresa Sherry and her staff have provided countless hours of support to the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association (NCJLA). The NCJLA program experienced a 12 percent growth this last year coordinating over 2000 lacrosse games across Northern California. There were 88 programs specifically for girls.

Sherry has also developed the BearLax program to be the largest women's lacrosse program in the Bay Area with players from sixth grade through high school. Recruitment of talented coaching staff from the east coast can be a challenge for lacrosse. Theresa has closed the east coast/west coast gap with talent from Notre Dame, University of Virginia, Dartmouth and even Northwestern to support her program, which includes college counseling. Select teams are formed at the high school level and organized by graduating year to maximize the visibility of these players to college recruiters. They practice and train year round for tournament play across the country. Sherry has the business acumen to recognize that a Cal scholarship dollar can recruit more California talent at in-state tuition rates and has a recruitment engine in place to achieve maximum visibility into California women's lacrosse players.

By contrast, the Bay Area Youth Field Hockey program is co-ed only and is limited to just a six training sessions in September and October 2010.

Participation in women's lacrosse vs. field hockey in Northern California is extremely unbalanced in favor of lacrosse. The NCJLA and Theresa Sherry's BearLax program is light-years ahead in developing an infrastructure to produce exceptional California based talent and a recruitment engine to bring the best and brightest women's lacrosse players to UC Berkeley.

The National Federation of State High School Associations provides clarity regarding participation at the high school level.

At the national level, more US high schools are participating in women's lacrosse than field hockey.

At the California level, the difference is striking. In the 2009-10 year, 157 California high schools participated in women's lacrosse compared to 98 California high schools participating in women's field hockey.

The perception that lacrosse is an east coast game is old school. More players from California programs are getting placed into east coast schools every year.

At both national and state level, significantly more women are participating in women's high school lacrosse than field hockey.

The NCAA provides details regarding institutions sponsoring sport programs at the Division 1 level.

The number of institutions sponsoring women's lacrosse at the Division 1 level is 92 compared to only 79 institutions currently sponsoring women's field hockey.

San Diego State University and Fresno State are adding Division 1 women's lacrosse programs so the numbers in California are growing even in the difficult economy.

The NCAA tournament final game for women's lacrosse set a record for attendance.

NCAA participation also favors women's lacrosse over field hockey.

Based on high school and college participation as measured by the National Federation of State High School Associations and NCAA Sports Sponsorship statistics, women's lacrosse is favored over field hockey.

Additionally, the well-developed NCJLA organization, with Cal's own BearLax club representing the largest number of women's lacrosse players in the Bay Area, is expertly positioned to support the taxpaying parents and players in making the most of their lacrosse experience.

In conclusion, this fact-based transparent process yields a decision to remove field hockey in favor of sponsoring women's lacrosse. Eliminating the women's lacrosse program when it has greater participation at the high school/college level and significantly greater momentum in California at the youth level, seems to be missing the best interest of the majority of taxpaying parents, players and coaches participating in the support of women's sport programs.

A measure of a good management team is its willingness to embrace change when given new information.

To the Cal administrators, please consider an approach to reduce sporting programs consistent with all levels of participation and with less impact to the Bay Area and California as a whole. Move forward with supporting the sports that have greater levels of participation and can demonstrate positive impact to the Bay Area and California.

Honor North America's original game and the fastest sport on two feet. Support women's lacrosse at Cal!

Tags: CAL ATHLETICS, CAL WOMEN'S LACROSSE, SANDY BARBOUR


Eric Arden has a daughter in BearLax. Reply to [email protected]



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