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| May 20, 2024

No Days Off as Chandler Lacrosse Grows the Game in Arizona

By Paul Ohanian | Photo courtesy of Chandler Lacrosse

Chandler Lacrosse, a youth and high school club based in the southeast suburbs of Phoenix, has one simple goal – introduce the sport to kids.

One of the club’s key strategies to achieve that goal is to host free clinics throughout the year, with equipment provided for the participants. The hope, of course, is that kids who give lacrosse a try will choose to continue.

“We don’t take too many days off and we don’t take our foot off the gas,” said James Diaz, who initially joined the Chandler program when his son started playing and now serves as a member of the leadership board.

The outreach message is as simple and straightforward as the organization’s main goal.

“We tell parents that all they need to do is bring the kids, and we’ll happily arrange a session,” Diaz said. “Whether they have a few kids or just a couple, it’s no issue. We can tailor drills to give them a taste of the sport and its fundamentals.”

Diaz admits that lacrosse has a lot of competition in its quest to grab the attention of local athletes.

“We’re competing against well-established sports like football, basketball, and soccer,” he said. “We have to stay committed to spreading the word of lacrosse.”

Chandler has sponsored a high school club team, the Dogs, for almost 20 years, drawing players from four of the high schools within its boundary. The club expanded its mission to reach younger players around 2018.

A USA Lacrosse equipment grant helps to facilitate Chandler’s free clinics that serve as the main pipeline for entry. The grant is also helping the organization make inroads with local schools, with Diaz and others providing physical education demos at elementary schools and middle schools.

“This is the first year that we have had such great luck with being able to get into schools, including some after-school programs,” Diaz said. “The grant is making it possible for us to bring the game and the joy of lacrosse to more youth in our area.”

The club had about 85 participants for the 2024 season, sponsoring youth teams at four age levels in addition to the high school squad. The youth teams, which allow co-ed participation, compete in the Arizona Youth Lacrosse League, while the boys’ high school team is a member of the Arizona Lacrosse League.

Chandler’s no-cut philosophy, supported by financial aid and equipment for all kids and families that need assistance, is part of its ‘no player left behind’ mantra. The club provided four full scholarships for participation this past season.

“We’re definitely committed to alleviating the barriers of entry into our program,” Diaz said. “It's an incredible feeling to be able to provide a meaningful opportunity for Arizona youth where they get the chance to build friendships, leadership skills, and learn to compete. USA Lacrosse helps to make this possible.”

It Starts With a Stick

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