The foundation of our sport — the bellwether of its health and vitality — has always been community lacrosse.

Depending on where you live, you may refer to it as “rec” lacrosse, while some prefer the term “town” lacrosse. And still others have only known the word “club” to describe accessible youth lacrosse organizations formed to introduce the sport in new zip codes and develop young players.

More recently, of course, the word “club” has also become synonymous with businesses that offer youth sports opportunities requiring a more significant investment of time and money.

The most basic principle of community lacrosse programs is accessibility — the goal of providing parents with the opportunity for their children to learn and play lacrosse as affordably as possible. Somehow, this primary goal has been interpreted by some to suggest that the quality and value of experience provided by community programs is not of a high standard.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, community lacrosse programs are more likely to be aligned with US Lacrosse best practices in the areas of coach education/certification and player development, as well as safety and risk management. They are also highly accountable to and representative of the communities they serve.

The limited page count of the print issue of US Lacrosse Magazine allowed to recognize the contributions of only a handful of community lacrosse programs throughout the country that represent the best of our sport in a recent issue of the magazine. But there are countless others that serve as entry points for tens of thousands of new players each year, provide effective development pathways for players as their skills evolve, and instill in young players and their parents a joy for the sport that can last a lifetime.

Whatever the preferred vernacular, community lacrosse programs are as beneficial to young players as they are critical to our sport’s future.

Steve Stenersen is the CEO of US Lacrosse.

See below for community programs recently highlighted by US Lacrosse Magazine: