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Why are girls schools stopping playing lacrosse?

Why are girls schools stopping playing lacrosse?

Jason Perrin |

Girls schools in the UK have a long history of participating in various sports, including lacrosse. However, in recent years, there has been a steady decline in the number of girls schools that offer lacrosse as an option. This worrying trend has raised searching questions about why this traditional sport is losing popularity among girls schools in the UK.

Success on the international stage for the Home Nations, and England Lacrosse in particular, has relied on the self sufficient private girl schools lacrosse development programme for many years. What will happen if this highly successful programme contracts? Will the consistent production of athletic young women to populate the junior and senior team rosters be seriously jeopardised? This constant stream of experienced female players has been the backbone of regional, national and international performance in the women's game. It has supported the exponential growth and development of University lacrosse following BUCS recognition a decade ago. There is the depth and experience of female players to support all the new variants of lacrosse including Sixes and Box at European as well as World Championship level.

Most recently St. George's, Ascot have announced they will no longer play lacrosse, a sport they have played consistently since 1901. Women's lacrosse has a long and distinguished history in the UK and was first played at St. Leonards School in Scotland back in 1890.

In 1985, there was 185 schools affiliated to the AEWLA. Today there might be 90 schools playing lacrosse at all age groups. You have to ask the question why so many schools have dropped lacrosse in favour of competing team sports? What can be done to prevent a further decline? How do we encourage lacrosse playing schools to continue to play the game today and in the future? Counties such as Suffolk and Norfolk, now barren of our sport, had many lacrosse playing schools just 20 years ago. Felixstowe is a small town in Suffolk, but once had 3 schools playing the game. 

International Competition

Our European cousins simply do not have anything to compete with our girls school lacrosse development. Most countries on mainland Europe develop their female players through their university system with the majority of players discovering the sport for the first time at Freshers events. Junior clubs are getting more established in Europe but numbers are still small by comparison with the UK girls schools. However, the lack of any baggage and a fresh enthusiasm about all aspects of this sport lead to exciting challenges for Euro Lax. There are tournaments every weekend across Europe & no shortage of local teams wanting to enter & improve their performance.

Some European programmes are more open to the use, involvement and support of N America based "heritage" players or dual passport holders eligible for National Squad selection. With Olympic recognition and more qualifying competitions required to progress then we can expect to see more heritage players on some country's team roster. How will the Home Nations react to the import of more eligible heritage players on competing rosters? Podium success seems to be essential to secure Sports Council here in the UK so we must compete at the highest level to win funding for the sport at all levels.

Changing Trends in Sports

One of the major reasons why girls' schools may be moving away from lacrosse is the changing landscape of sports in the UK, particularly women's sports. In recent years other team sports such as football, cricket, hockey and rugby have achieved increased exposure and serious promotion by various interested parties. Some schools may be prioritizing these more high profile mainstream sports over lacrosse. Many of these traditionally male associated sports have been made much more accessible to girls and schools will react to that change in profile and the player pool demands. Parents also put pressure on the offering of school sport curriculums. As a result, lacrosse may be getting less attention and resources in girls' schools.

Perhaps a major factor is that many women's team sports have recently gained success at international level and consequently greater exposure on TV and in the news. Lacrosse still remains the best kept secret and sadly is being left behind as a result. 

Many believe the salvation for lacrosse is its recent selection at Olympic level with men's and women's Sixes Lacrosse being selected for inclusion at Los Angeles, USA in 2028. Undoubtedly, Olympic recognition will help promote the sport worldwide and that will rub off on the Home Nations and filter down to youth sport in time but can we wait that long? What if it Olympic recognition does not have the desired effect on lacrosse popularity? If British Lacrosse fails to feature on the podium will that have a negative effect on the growth of the sport subsequently? Should there be a Plan B?

Cost and Resources 

Another factor that may contribute to the decline of lacrosse in girls schools is the cost and resources required to maintain a full lacrosse program. Lacrosse equipment, field maintenance, and coaching staff can be expensive, and schools may be looking to allocate their resources to other sports that are more cost-effective. Competing sports offer all sorts of subsidy and grant support to encourage the introduction of football, cricket, rugby and hockey. That is a tough act for lacrosse to compete with but it has to be done to keep lacrosse on the PE list of options. If schools drop lacrosse, the regional fixtures map will have bigger gaps meaning travel time and cost increases and puts added pressure on the school budget.

Competition and Skill Development

Additionally, the level of competition in lacrosse may play a role in why girls schools are moving away from the sport. School teams need fixtures and with some schools dropping lacrosse and others cutting back on the amount of lacrosse offered within school it is becoming harder to provide competitive fixtures within easy reach. With the increasing competitiveness in sports, schools may be focusing on sports where they have a higher chance of success and where they can develop their students' skills more effectively.

Changing Interests and Demands

Lastly, the interests and demands of students may also be a factor in why girls schools are stopping playing lacrosse. As students' interests evolve, schools may need to adapt their sports programs to meet the changing preferences of their students. If there is less interest in lacrosse among the student body, schools may choose to phase out the sport in favour of other options.

In conclusion, the decline of lacrosse in girls schools in the UK can be attributed to a combination of changing trends in sports, cost and resources, competition, and evolving student interests. While lacrosse has a rich history in girls schools, it is important for schools to adapt to the needs and preferences of their students to ensure a vibrant and engaging sports program.