It’s no secret. Idaho is not a hotbed for lacrosse.

“It’s a challenge because nobody knows the game out here like they do back east,” said Maggie Williams, co-founder and treasurer of the Treasure Valley Youth Lacrosse League. “It’s not a staple.”

But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of success stories.

Kaden Lewis of Meridian, Idaho, who attended Mountain View High School, picked up the sport in the TVYLL before being recruited to play at Boise State in the MCLA.

“He came in as a second grader when we were only doing third and fourth,” Williams said. “His parents begged me to let him play because his best friend was playing and we allowed it. He was a tiny kid who was just a spitfire.”

Since becoming a Bronco, Lewis returned home to join the youth league in its mentor-coach program, in which college-level players are paired with a new coach, or “a dad-coach” as Williams described it.

The results are two-fold.   

“We’re developing a coach that way, but also developing the college kid to become a coach,” she said. “Once the guys get coaching bugs, they come back. They love it because the kids adore them. They’re gods in their eyes.”

Providing knowledge to parents who want to coach is just one way the TVYLL is unique in its mission of growing the game regardless of experience. It also boasts an equipment rental program.

“We want every kid that wants a chance to play to be able to play – and pay-to-play is only for the kids that can afford it,” said Williams, whose day only gets better when she hands out gear to first-time participants. “They’re so bright-eyed and enthusiastic about playing the game and they’re so excited. They feel like warriors when they put their equipment on and it’s so much fun to see their big ol’ smiles.”

TVYLL’s growth has decelerated since its first season in 2008, due in part to the formation of travel programs. As a result, Williams and her colleagues, who are all volunteers, have increased their efforts to boost accessibility by building a scholarship fund, hosting clinics and now presenting a persuasive case for adding the sport to physical education curriculums at local schools. Plus, by creating teams based on geography, the league also aims to create a feeder program for high schools.

Williams’ own children, Alex and TJ, were the inspiration behind the creation of TVYLL. When TJ was in seventh grade, he came home one day and asked his parents if he could play lacrosse.

“What’s lacrosse?” Williams remembered responding then, as the sport wasn’t sanctioned. “I bought all this equipment on ebay because I had no idea what I was doing. He, as TJ would do, recruited just about every kid he knew to play lacrosse with him and it just started growing from there.”

TJ went on to play at Boise State, while Alex was recruited by Chapman University. But it was their interest that motivated Williams’ decision to take over TVYLL, which was then run as a side program by a soccer league.

“We said, ‘No, hold on, they know nothing about lacrosse. Lacrosse people need to be running lacrosse!” Williams said. “[TJ and Alex] sparked it for sure. I do have grandkids graduating from the program this year too. It’s kind of a family affair.”