The Milwaukee Area Youth Lacrosse Association encompasses about 1,500 boys and girls players in grades 3-8, and schedules over 900 games during its spring season. It’s the point of entry with the sport of lacrosse for most Milwaukee-area kids.

“In our area, we see lacrosse education as one of our main priorities,” said Emily Anderson, current president of the Milwaukee Area Youth Lacrosse Association (MAYLA) and a board member since 2011. “We’re still about growing the game in Southeast Wisconsin, so we are educators.”

“Our devotion to helping kids fall in love with this game is what carries them as they progress to travel teams, high school, and hopefully beyond,” Anderson added.

One of MAYLA’s most visible initiatives, designed to further enhance the love of the game, is its annual end-of-season event in early June. Called the LAXtravaganza, it’s a two-day festival and celebration of lacrosse featuring all of the league’s teams and 162 games in less than 48 hours.

“It’s like a tournament, but there are no standings, because we want it to be all about fun,” Anderson said.

As the sport grows in Wisconsin, Anderson notes that more club and travel programs are emerging. Most times, however, there is no real conflict between MAYLA and the select programs. She estimates that less than 10-percent of MAYLA’s participants double up.

“We have to recognize the importance of each other and respect the other’s mission, but we each provide a different service to kids and parents,” Anderson said.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. Player retention, for one, is always an issue that has the potential to cause trickle-down problems.

While MAYLA asks all of its programs to submit a declaration form in September, teams that withdraw at the 11th hour due to enrollment ignite a scheduling scramble for the league’s organizers.

“Some teams struggle with their participation and registration from year-to-year,” Anderson said. “Having teams pull out at the last minute is a challenge.”

It’s an issue that is leading MAYLA to consider some changes for the future.

MAYLA’s board has discussed adopting the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, a US Lacrosse initiative reimagining how to introduce new participants to the sport, the principles of which might allow for smaller teams also to join the league. MAYLA also would like to host a TryLax clinic in the fall.

“We try to take all the tools and resources that US Lacrosse provides and apply them as well as we can to our situation,” Anderson said. “US Lacrosse has provided us with the tools to become a great league.”

One of MAYLA’s unique offerings comes through its partnership with the Missouri Institute of Positive Coaching. Serving as a complement to the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), MAYLA’s relationship with the Missouri Institute allows the league to offer all of its coaches access to additional online training. The institute is an extension of the University of Missouri’s College of Education.

“We’re very happy with this partnership and many of our coaches benefit from the online training,” Anderson said. “To our knowledge, we’re the only youth lacrosse association in the country that provides these resources.”