I'm starting this blog by saying that I had an absolute blast at Laxcon 2023. Meeting up with suppliers and getting to see products that you guys will not see until late this year and beyond, seeing friends I have made over various laxcon trips and hanging out with former teammates to tell tales of when we younger and more athletic.
Laxcon really is an event that I look forward to and one that other staff members here at Northern Soul wish they could attend every year. If you read one of our early Laxcon blogs then you'll get a feel for just how much fun it can be. After Covid put the stop on the 2021 event and the Omicron variant make many of the leading brands take the decision to pull out of 2022 convention, I was really excited to be back at Laxcon.
The USA Lacrosse Convention held in Baltimore was poorly attended. There is no single reason for the low turn out but here's my take on it.
If you can't sell lacrosse to lacrosse people then you have a poor sales team. USA Lacrosse run this event and it's their job to sell it to the community, I did not feel the hype building up to this years event was as big as normal but not just from the governing body but from the brands attending. The reach they have on social media is huge, but here lies another problem, far fewer of the key lacrosse people on Instagram were talking about the event in the run up.
It's expensive. If you are a brand big or small, it's expensive to be there on the convention hall floor. No matter whether you've vending or exhibiting, you need people to be there so you can sell your product or brand.
As disappointing as it was to see many brands missing from this years event you can understand why. No StringKing, no Stylin' Strings, no All-Ball Pro, nobody selling referee and umpire gear and a strange lack of uniform and bag companies. I know for a fact that one a number of brands questioned whether they should attend this year but at the last minute made the leap of faith and made the effect to be there, at a huge cost and very little return. Fact is that many companies use their advertising dollars in a way that sees a good return, poor attendance might mean that many more companies drop out of future Laxcons. One of the strongest brand booths this year was by Cascade and Maverik, it really looked the part and from the Laxcon events I have attended, I'd say it was their best booth so far and had some of the sickest custom gear in the hall.
Now I've always had a knack of finding the party. But outside of the convention hours was definitely not as cool as past years. So when Baltimore hosts Laxcon I'd normally attend the True stringers party on the Thursday night which has always been a fun way to kick off the weekend, Friday night Epoch and Inside Lacrosse host a party at the Inside Lacrosse offices overlooking the historic ships in Baltimore Inner Habour. Sadly, True Temper and Epoch were not in attendance this year but myself and offers still found a party or three over the course of the weekend. One Gait that did have a constant buzz was the Gait booth, great products one of the only brands to be showing upcoming new equipment.
It's expensive. An old teammate of mine came to the fanfest for the first time with his wife, a former standout player, along with 2 of his 3 children. These 2 little lax players had an amazing time, the young lady was incredibly excited to meet Charlotte North and Ally Mastroianni at the Gait Booth. But here's the thing, family of four visit for a few hours of fanfest, they pay to park the car, pay the walk up entry fee, kids get hungry, parents and kids see stuff they like to leave close to $400 lighter. By no means is Laxcon a cheap day out but you could have 10 times the number people at the Fanfest if kids got in for free, parents have to bring them let's face it, Mom and Pop still going to buy stuff for the kids once in the convention hall.
Now I have some great memories of past Laxcon events but one thing I've always said to friends is that Friday I pack as many meetings with the brands as possible because come Saturday when Joe public comes for Fanfest, I'm struggling to speak to the people I need to speak to as many of them are under a pile of laxrat kids. I'm not kidding, in past years on the Saturday I'd get hit by a dozen different sticks held by young players dashing from booth to booth checking out the latest gear or meeting their idols who are all happy to stop for a photo and sign a ball or poster.
Although there seemed to be way less of the big names you'd expect to see at Laxcon, something what was awesome and at the same time very disappointing was the USA women's team having a championship ring ceremony at the end of Saturday. First problem is that this was not really given the pre event exposure it should have had, my buddies 10 year old daughter missed this as her parents had no idea it was going on. How many youth girls teams within a 40 minute radius would have made the trip to experience that alone had they have known? Perhaps there was a chance to do a "free" coaching clinic for early sign ups to the event?
PLL is blowing up and great of making the game for professional right? There were a few PLL players around but they PLL merch staff was average at best, oh and sorry to all UK and mainland European customers hoping to see PLL merch available at Northern Soul. It seems the PLL not that interested in growing it's fanbase outside the USA after all.
In terms of speakers there were some great coaches and lots going on for players and coaches alike to increase their knowledge but maybe not as many as previous years. Tough one for me to pick at as I was there for the trade part of the convention but certainly heard others comment on how there were fewer speakers as in years past you would really have to plan out your day in catch the demos and talks you wanted to see as many clashed and some were standing room only as so packed.
I get the fact that it may be a hard sell to some local programs to attend the convention when their own coaching staff are so experienced but I've always seen value in listening to other coaches, you really don't stop learning as a coach. My buddy was telling me about the coaching staff on his eight year old son's team along with the Dads on the sideline not coaching, wow, many International teams would benefit from a staff like that. Maybe the event is a tough sell to a coaching staff like this but I doubt it if you have good salesmen selling a good product.
Now I suspect that as big as USA Lacrosse is as a governing body it is still understaffed and that the game might still be seeing the post Covid issues that most, if not all, Countries have been experiencing. But surely Laxcon 2023 had to have been a big part of the return to play?
With so many leading collegiate programs in and around Baltimore I find it strange that were is so little to zero interaction with this event. Hell, even a mascot fight would pull in a bigger crowd then we saw this year.
By no means do I want this blog to come across as a swipe at USA Lacrosse. I love Laxcon and would encourage anyone and everyone to try and make at least one convention because once they do one, they'll be back again and again.