The Rise of the Sunshine State
In the past 10 years, lacrosse has found a strong foothold in Florida with the rise of youth, high school, and college programs now dotting the state from coast to coast. We’d like to take a look at the programs and people who are making a difference all over the state.
There is a deep rooted history of the game on this peninsula. The Seminole tribe and others in the south played a two stick version of stickball long ago. Stickball is still played today, but is different from the modern version of lacrosse that is now seen on the fields here. The first lacrosse teams popped up gradually decades ago and several are still going strong now like the programs at colleges like South Florida, Florida, and Florida State who began playing in the 70s.
Of course the Florida weather gives players and coaches the advantage of having more days outside to develop players year round. They could be doing drills on the field or having fun playing speed lacrosse on the beach, but Florida boys and girls are getting their touches. The homegrown talent has gotten better and better, but when building a college team, the palm trees and beach nearby make it a pretty easy sell for players from the north to venture down to play or coach.
Whether it was Syracuse traveling to play Yale in Boca Raton or the Spring Break trips for dozens of northern teams, Florida was the place to go to escape the frigid winters. All of that exposure for the local players and coaches of the game’s best players only added to the momentum and interest.
The growth here is being supported by dozens of lacrosse legends making their way down to support and nurture the love for the game. Tom Marechek, Tony Seaman, John Galloway, Amanda O’Leary, Regy Thorpe, and many more have become fixtures in the community. Their knowledge and support has elevated the level of play across the board.
Because of the weather, Florida High School lacrosse starts in January, which is unheard of up North. As a result Florida players are getting more reps outside and more opportunities to compete. Teams like Boys Latin have regularly traveled to play St. Andrews in the early part of their season. IMG Academy in Bradenton has become a factory for producing top lacrosse recruits and travels all over the country to play against the best teams.
No longer do the colleges in the Northeast dominate on the national stage. Tampa brought the first National Championship for a Florida based men’s team in the 2022 D2 National Championship and Florida Southern won the women’s D2 National Championship in 2016.
To see the Jacksonville men’s team regularly in the Top 20 is proof that lacrosse in Florida is ready to climb even higher. John Galloway, a Syracuse native, has been the driving force behind building a program that is ready to compete with the big boys. It’s taken time, but with homegrown talent and giving overlooked players a chance, they are getting Top 10 wins and making people take notice that Florida lacrosse is legit.
Let’s not forget the Florida and Jacksonville women’s teams who have become national title contenders and could be raising that trophy one day soon. The Gators have become a marquee program in the women’s game and attract some of the best recruits in the country every year.
A huge next step would be to see these bigger schools like FSU, UCF, Miami, or Florida add lacrosse as a Division 1 sport. This obviously takes a big commitment and funding from the athletic departments, but the growth is there to support these programs with recruits, fans, and national recognition.
Along with many other Floridians, the Bernhardt brothers Jake, Jesse, and Jared have proven that Florida could produce top talent and play at the highest level in college and the pros. Jared was the first player from Florida to win the Tewaaraton Award in 2021.
Pro lacrosse has dipped its toe a few times into Florida’s waters with the Orlando Titans of the NLL playing one season (2010) and the Florida Launch of the MLL lasting four seasons (2014 to 2018). The love of lacrosse and participation numbers continue to grow across the state in 2023, so will it be time for the return of pro lacrosse some time soon? Maybe in another few years as this next crop of youth players comes up there will be a hunger for a home town team to support.
Casey Powell often tells the story of how his coach Roy Simmons Jr. would bring Syracuse down to Boca Raton every season to play Yale during spring break. He would look at the beach, the weather, and the people and say this would be an amazing place to live. Fast forward and he would do just that while becoming a key part of the growth that is spreading all over the state.
CP played on the Orlando Titans, was the 2014 MLL MVP playing for the Florida Launch, coached at St. Andrews and Jacksonville, and is now providing training and camp experiences all over the state.
I’ve been visiting Florida my whole life to visit family in Tampa and Orlando around Christmas and Easter. The past few times I’ve been I’ve seen more lacrosse nets in yards than ever before and have had family bringing up how they watched a game on TV. From men’s box lacrosse teams to youth programs it's been incredible to see the recognition of the game grow every time I visit.
We’re lucky to have two members of our sales team located right in Tampa to help reach Florida teams directly. Devin Phelps and Ben Falge are both Syracuse natives who have been crucial in our continued growth there. We’re excited to be working with several amazing programs around the state including our friends Snipers Lacrosse.
For 11 years the Snipers Lacrosse program has offered elite training for young players in South Florida thanks to the hard work of Director Tony Lowe, a Long Island native, and a dedicated coaching staff. Casey Powell has also helped coach their teams and develop players with a high skills set and huge love of the game. They have gone up against some of the best club teams in the country and won.
Whenever we check in with the Snipers, they are always having a blast! Taking trick shots at practice, celebrating like crazy after a win, and putting in the work for their teammates. Teams like this are going to be what it takes for Florida lacrosse to take the next step from the grassroots level.
We’ve worked with the Snipers for the past few years and are proud to help them look good with reversibles, custom apparel, and retro mesh uniforms while they have blast out on the field. We’re sure that we will be seeing Snipers players suiting up at top college programs someday soon.
Our connection to the Sunshine State is strong and we’re ready to continue to help fuel its growth one program and one player at a time.
Interested in getting custom uniforms for your squad? Fill out the inquiry form and we will reach out - we'd love to work with you.