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In response to the growing demand, lacrosse camps have sprouted up across the country. The common theme among them is that they provide a fun lacrosse experience, but leave a lot on the table in regards to performance and profits. Currently, lacrosse camps and their “owners’” number one priority is to make an upfront, short term profit. As a result, many don’t have a vested interest in long-term gains or expansion. And because of this, many will never be as successful as they can be. Either the camps are run by current college coaches who have responsibilities far greater than a couple weeks of camps, or by former players who are content with collecting cash from a few weeks of work. There is an opportunity to take a different approach and transforming a lacrosse camp into an actual company, but it takes a comprehensive overhaul of the current model.
In order to run a truly successful lacrosse camp with the potential to evolve into a bigger business enterprise, you need to have a disciplined structure. You need to view your camp as a company. It must attract a clientele (youth lacrosse players) at a very young age and retain them year after year, instead of continually relying on a new crop of players. In order to retain clients, your company must provide an enjoyable experience, but just as importantly, it needs to make its clients feel as if they are benefiting from the service. Therefore, the key is that the players need to be evaluated individually, even though they are technically a small part of a larger group. This is achieved by producing a more interactive model in which steps are taken from the outset to evaluate the players at the time they enter the program. This allows for the formation of a progress report. Even if the player only attends one clinic, one camp, or stays with the program for years, monitoring the players is invaluable because not only do you give them feedback on their play, it helps you determine how effective your program is. This serves as both a benefit for the players and an examination of your camp’s instruction and techniques.
Once you have created a strong business/program model, in order to expand, you must diversify. Diversification is an integral part of any company. In lacrosse, running a camp can be a profitable venture, but its long-term profits are essentially capped. Since the goal of any successful company is growth and sustainability, the “camp only model” causes a problem in the long run. Diversifying your business includes expanding into individual tutoring sessions, instructional videos, online progress reports, travel teams, college recruiting/advising, etc. With today’s communication network and the power of the Internet, this is more manageable than ever, even with a small workforce. As you diversify, the camp becomes the marketing side of the camp instead of the sole profit generator. It provides a cheap source of advertising as your have an immediate and attentive audience. In turn, if the camp is successful and the players leave impressed, they become your marketers. In essence, they are paying you (camp tuition) to market your company…not a bad deal.
Lastly, professionalism is lacking in many lacrosse camp companies. This is not to say that the people running them aren’t working hard or are neglecting the campers. I am referring more to the fact that the more can be done. Right now, a typical lacrosse camp looks like an outlet store in a strip mall. There is value to be had, but things are difficult to find and the quality just doesn’t seem up to par across the board. Counselors tend to be college-age players dressed in flip flops and board shorts, practice sessions are more like organized versions of capture the flag, and player evaluations are non-existent. There are several camps that disprove this stereotype, but unfortunately, they are the exceptions and not the rule. There are obvious ways to improve on the professionalism of a lacrosse camp: (1) Dress for Success is a bit of a cliché, but it goes a long way. The staff should be in uniform. By uniform, I do not mean a white t-shirt with a camp logo on it. I am talking about shirt, shorts, hats, the works. First impressions go a long way, and the first thing a parent or a player sees when they show up for registration is the staff. (2) Splurge a little on the Web site. It is the face of your “franchise”. Possible customers should be able to navigate it easily and enjoy visiting it (as well as register online). The better the Web site, the more inclined a customer will be to buy into your product. (3) Follow up. Stay in touch with your campers/customers. Get feedback from them and give them consultation. It’s a give and take relationship. The more you give, the more you are likely to receive in return.
An example of a company that seems to be on the right track is Trilogy Lacrosse, founded by former Princeton lacrosse players Ryan Boyle and Rob Lindsay. They have taken a unique approach to the business of lacrosse and even state in their mission that they try “to redefine lacrosse instruction by cultivating the potential in every player and take the time to make personal connections with every kid”. If you get a chance, take a look at their website www.trilogylacrosse.com . Another company that is getting off the ground and has the potential to be creating a unique product is Lacrosse Coach USA started by former UVA attackman Justin Mullen. This company is taking a unique approach to lacrosse coaching and instruction starting as a Web based instruction manual (www.lacrossecoachusa.com) and expanding out from there. This model will help both novice and experienced youth lacrosse coaches take what they have learned on the website and apply it to on-the-field instruction.
There are obviously many more ways to get the most value out of your company, but hopefully this gives you a little insight into the first steps that will go a long way. As I have consistently said, lacrosse is a sport with unlimited upside, but is still going through a growth phase and trying to determine its own path. This is a wonderful time and opportunity to be a part of the expansion of the game.
Teddy Lamade played midfield at the University of Virginia from 2000-2004 where he was a part of the 2003 National Championship and captained the 2004 Team. He went on to finish his final year of eligibility at Georgetown while completing a masters degree in international affairs where he completed a thesis on the Invasion of Iraq and it’s Consequences. He is currently working at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York City on the fixed income rates desk dealing with a variety of products including government bonds, high grade corporate issuance, and mortgages. He writes about the business of lacrosse monthly for LacrossePlayground.com.