The following article appeared in the Midwest version of the April print edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Help fuel the future of the sport and have the magazine delivered right to your mailbox by becoming a USA Lacrosse member today.
Mark Greaney has become the Johnny Appleseed of lacrosse in Michigan, crisscrossing the state since the fall to spread the game to new communities.
Last September, Greaney’s Premier Lacrosse Group (PLG) launched its Play250 initiative, hosting low-cost introductory clinics for boys and girls in grades 3-8.
Based in Ann Arbor, PLG targeted five Michigan communities — Detroit, Canton, Lansing, Livonia, and Ann Arbor — as well as Toledo, Ohio, where Greaney collaborated with local partners to host the clinics.
“We wanted to make a difference in our own region by providing new lacrosse opportunities,” Greaney said.
Play250 hosted three clinics in each location, usually on successive Sundays, where kids learned fundamentals like throwing, catching, scooping and shooting. Each participant received a stick and a ball that was theirs to keep. The cost was $20 per player.
Greaney targeted 250 as the total number of participants, and thus, sticks that would be given away. His goal was met when PLG wrapped up the last of the clinics in Ann Arbor in February.
“We’re thankful to the great network of people that helped get so many kids involved,” Greaney said. “We succeeded in making an impact.”
Originally from Troy, a northern suburb of Detroit, Greaney’s passion for the game goes back to seventh grade.
“I remember my first stick and the time I spent trying to figure out how to use it,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to help other young players to fall in love with the sport.”
After a successful high school career at Detroit Jesuit, Greaney eventually became a four-year collegiate starter at Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia, where he finished his career as the NCAA Division II team’s all-time scoring leader with 161 goals.
Greaney’s coaching journey began almost immediately after college. He traveled overseas with the English Lacrosse Association before returning stateside for coaching stops at Michigan, Arizona and Detroit Country Day. Along the way, Greaney also served as president of the Michigan Youth Lacrosse Association.
“I really have a passion for coaching,” he said. “I considered what I love to do the most before launching PLG in 2012.”
Beginning modestly, mostly with private lessons that Greaney taught, PLG has steadily grown over the past 10 years, both mirroring and fueling the growth of the game in the Wolverine state. Today, PLG’s diverse programming ranges from travel teams to camps and clinics.
The club’s success served as a catalyst behind the Play250 initiative.
“We’ve grown enough that we now have the resources to provide these introductory opportunities,” Greaney said. “It was time to put a plan into action.”
PLG offers 15 different spring and summer travel teams for field players, as well as box teams and an 8v8 winter league. The sport’s traditional spring season, however, is dormant.
“We don’t sponsor any teams in the spring because I don’t want to steal kids from their local programs,” Greaney said.
He employed the same philosophy with the Play250 clinics, seeking to drive the first-time participants into their local springtime community programs.
“As part of the clinics, we provided the families with information about the local rec leagues in their communities,” Greaney said. “We feel pretty confident that a good percentage will continue with the sport.”
Greaney’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“A lot of these areas are not popular lacrosse spots in the Midwest,” said Matt Burke, regional manager for the Midwest at USA Lacrosse. “Mark has really gone where other clubs will not and has worked incredibly hard to the grow the game and grow it the right way.”
Despite the time spent planning and organizing each of the Play250 events, Greaney still made time to be on the field for each clinic.
“I love working with the kids,” Greaney said. “It’s so exciting for me to see the kids with their sticks as they enjoy their first lacrosse experiences.”
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