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STX Backs Premier Lacrosse League
Lacrosse is finding its footing in the professional sports space.
The fastest sport on two feet, lacrosse has always had what it takes to draw a captive and loyal audience. Historically a sport that was popular in specific pockets of the U.S., the challenge has been finding the right platform to elevate the sport at the national level and support the growth of resources, coaches and players in new communities.
Over the last several months, the launch of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) has generated buzz around the sport like never before. For those of us who’ve been playing and watching the game for years, one word comes to mind — finally. Our time has come.
Just a few months out from the PLL’s inaugural season, we sat down with one of the league’s key leaders — and lacrosse living legend — Kyle Harrison, and Joel Layman, Director of Lacrosse Marketing for STX, to talk about what the new league means for the future of the sport and the brand’s decision to back it.
Kyle Harrison, director of player relations for the PLL, talks the future of the sport at LaxCon 2019.
It's been an exciting couple of months with all the buzz around the PLL and the partnership with NBC Sports. What's been most exciting for you?
Kyle: The idea of professional lacrosse players, being just that, professional lacrosse players. It sounds simple, but in this sport, it’s everything because it’s never really been done. Elevated wages and healthcare will allow pro players to focus on becoming the best athlete they can possibly be to perform each weekend. I think we'll see a level of lacrosse we've never seen before.
STX has been in the game a long time and seen lots of pro leagues come and go — how did you know this was the league to back?
Joel: After spending a great deal of time evaluating the men’s pro lacrosse landscape, we felt that the PLL was the best fit for our vision of growing the game and supporting the players. They have an incredible roster that includes all of our Team STX athletes, and a unique take on how to manage the league to be successful. They’ve thought through all the scenarios, so they’re coming at this from an experienced, strategic perspective.
How cool is it to be in the sport at this time, when you can be in on the ground floor of a league like this?
Kyle: It doesn't get any better! It's an extremely exciting time to be a part of this sport. We've never gotten exposure like we're getting right now. People who have never talked about lacrosse before, are talking about it, and that's a huge step in the right direction. To be a part of making that happen is a real privilege. Hopefully, twenty years from now, youth lacrosse players will be dreaming about making it to the PLL, just like youth basketball players dream of making it to the NBA.
What’s the key to success?
Joel: I think exposure in any way possible is going to be key to long-term success at the pro level. We have the best players in the world on one stage, but if no one can watch them play, then what’s the point? With the PLL securing a distribution deal with NBC Sports, as well as their commitment to creating engaging content on and off the field, kids will be able to engage and watch pro lacrosse like never before.
STX’s full roster was named to the 140-plus elite player line-up and will play in the league’s inaugural season.
Why is a strong pro league critical to the growth of the game, and particularly developing the next generation?
Kyle: Like any professional league, you want there to be an aspirational component. I watched NBA games growing up, and aspired to be a professional athlete because of it. From the PLL Academy, to PLL Assists, to activation at events, there will be a large youth component.
What are you most excited to see this first season?
Joel: I’m excited to see what the game will look like on the field. Will they bring new and innovative ways to make the game more appealing to the non-lacrosse fan that is watching on TV? What type of content can they generate off the field to keep kids engaged between games and during the off-season? Pro sports are mostly 12-month seasons now. The NFL, NBA, etc. have found ways to keep fans engaged all year long. I think the PLL team gets that and they’re off to a great start.
What are your thoughts on the tour-based approach, over what we might see in other sports with the city-based approach?
Joel: It’s definitely an interesting concept that you haven’t really seen much in team sports. Lacrosse is unique because it’s popular in certain pockets of the country, but obviously the goal is to see it grow beyond those pockets. I like the approach of a “market takeover” each week and having all of the players in one city. It will help build a festival-like atmosphere each weekend, and generate some of the hype we need to lay a foundation in places where lacrosse may not be as well-known.
How has the lacrosse community responded?
Kyle: It's been great. The lacrosse community has always been supportive of new ventures that come along within the sport, especially when it's folks from within the sport starting it. The momentum has been incredible, but we're just getting started!
Pictured above: The custom STX x PLL Rival helmet. Get the elite-level STX Rival Helmet here.
The players are a key part of this, but so are coaches, fans, and brands. What part do each of these groups have to play in the success of the league and the future of pro lacrosse?
Joel: Buy-in from everyone will be critical. If one of the main focuses of the league is creating content, then the coaches, brands and fans have to be involved, not just the players. If you look at other professional leagues, some coaches have almost as much appeal and personality as certain players. Fans feel connected to their teams and players more than ever before, thanks in large part to social media. As a fan, I can follow my favorite player or team on social media and pretty much know what they’re doing, on or off the field, 24 hours a day. That connection is critical to fans being engaged and wanting to follow the league every step of the way.
Kyle, obviously you're on the roster of players for the 2019 season — anything you can tease about what the teams are going to look like?
Kyle: The teams will be formed by our lacrosse advisory board. Unfortunately, I've got nothing to tease, but, I can say, the rosters are gonna be STACKED.
Counting down the days until June 1! In the meantime, we’ll be tuning into The Season 2019 for an inside look with at what it takes to be a D1 lacrosse program with Cornell University. First episode drops February 14 — click here for all the updates and exclusive content.