This article appears in the May/June edition part of a series on community-based lacrosse leagues that are thriving despite the growing trend toward privatization in youth sports. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription.

Formed in 2011 as a successor to the area’s middle school league, the Greater Houston Youth Lacrosse Association (GHYLA) now includes about 1,300 boys on 82 teams across four age levels. The 82 teams are divided among 20 clubs spaced around the Houston region. Offering two divisions (playoff) and (non-playoff), the season begins in late January and concludes at the end of April.

The GHYLA’s stated goal is to organize, develop, and promote boys' lacrosse, and to instill the values of sportsmanship, athletics and teamwork. The organization has recently strengthened its affiliation with US Lacrosse to incorporate best practices that will help fulfill its mission.

“We’ve made a lot of changes and renewed our connection to US Lacrosse because we are trying to establish a better presence for all youth lacrosse in Houston,” said Shelley Boyle, the league’s 2019 coordinator and a member of the GHYLA’s executive committee. “We welcome everybody with open arms.”

The uniqueness of Houston, which encompasses a wide geographic area, has traditionally forced each of the GHYLA’s member clubs to act very independently. Clinics, educational sessions and officiating relationships have historically had a siloed approach. But changes are being made.

“We’re looking to do more things on a league level,” Boyle said. “We’re trying to unify more operations through the GHYLA.”

To ease scheduling and city-wide travel logistics, the GHYLA adopted a North-South breakdown this year, divided by Interstate 10. More emphasis is also being placed on the player experience. The league added an end-of-year “celebration” tournament for teams in the non-playoff division to conclude the year with a fun-focused event.

Efforts to strengthen the league’s relationship with the Texas Lacrosse Officials Association (TXLOA) as well as with the Texas High School Lacrosse League (THSLL) have been recent priorities. As part of that effort, two of the GHYLA’s age group city championships will be played in collaboration with the 2019 THSLL state championships.

The GHYLA is also exploring more joint efforts with its sister organization, the Greater Houston Girls Youth Lacrosse Association, an entity that operates independent of the boys’ association.

“The boys’ and girls’ leagues in Houston have always been separate, but we’re looking into some shared initiatives,” Boyle said. “We’re learning more every year.”

The GHYLA’s website, recently upgraded, is being further developed into a tool that will serve as a one-stop destination for all local lacrosse information. Connections to Houston-area select programs and travel clubs are provided to help facilitate more cohesion.

“We want to be more proactive in promoting the travel lacrosse options,” Boyle said. “We’re focused on full transparency. There’s lots of positive momentum and movement for lacrosse in Houston. We want to help everybody grow and keep a stick in every player’s hands.”