In December, US Lacrosse announced it had entered into a multi-year partnership with NXTsports to run the annual US Lacrosse Nationals event beginning in 2018. That may have been the headline, but the goal is for this relationship to do much more than influence a single event.

“Over the past few years, US Lacrosse has launched a number of strategies focused on increasing player participation and retention,” said Steve Stenersen, CEO of US Lacrosse. “We’ve introduced age-appropriate youth rules, standardized player segmentation guidelines, an online age verification system, an event sanctioning program and a Long-term Athlete Development Model (LADM). Our NXT partnership provides a powerful and growing platform to expose and deliver these strategies to the national lacrosse community.”

As part of the agreement, NXT, one of the largest youth tournament operators in the country and one already recognized for its commitment to safety, will follow the protocols of the US Lacrosse event sanctioning program at its own events and aim to influence other groups.

“We can set an example by following the US Lacrosse sanctioning guidelines,” said Joel Zuercher, president of NXTsports. “By encouraging other event operators and clubs to do the same, we can make a big impact.”

The 2018 US Lacrosse Nationals powered by NXT will be a major expansion for the traditional US Lacrosse event, which began as a U15 event in 2009. The event will feature bracket play at the older age levels of 14U, 13U and 12U for boys and girls, but also will include younger age divisions that will fully incorporate the fundamentals and rules of the LADM. It’s a chance to showcase the sport in the best light on a national stage and provide the experience of a lifetime for the participants.

“The opportunity to travel with your team and compete against players from around the country in an atmosphere like this is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said Mark Hogan, VP Brand Marketing & Membership, US Lacrosse. “We’re excited about the future of this event and what it can ultimately mean in broader terms for the healthy development of the sport.”

Under the model being developed by NXT and US Lacrosse, teams will qualify for the US Lacrosse Nationals through a series of events over the course of the previous playing season. It’s an open and inclusive process that welcomes all existing event operators to participate.

Teams will earn points for their results in tournaments that choose to become involved in the qualifying process. Rankings will be published based on those results and will be used to determine which programs are invited to the US Lacrosse Nationals.

NXT has begun reaching out to potential qualifying events and will continue that process through the spring. The summer of 2017 will be a pilot phase for the qualifying process with the full program set to launch in 2018.

“The most common reaction we’ve heard is excitement,” Zuercher said. “People think that with us working with US Lacrosse we can standardize a lot of this and clean it up. Most people do a good job, but there are too many people doing things in too many ways. With people grouping by grades at the youth level, you end up with players two to three years apart in age playing against each other. We can level the playing field and make things safer and fairer.”

US Lacrosse Sanctioned Tournaments

The US Lacrosse Sanctioning Program provides best practices for tournament operators in order to create a more safe and consistent event. Through the adoption of the Sanctioned Tournament Standards, tournaments commit to providing the best possible lacros

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