As lifelong residents of Mobile, Alabama who grew up in families devoted to baseball, neither Josh Friedman nor Tucker Frazer could have foreseen the roles they occupy today as board members and program leaders for the Mobile Youth Lacrosse League (MYLL).
“We were just a couple of dads who had sons that started playing the game,” Friedman said. “I was just a dad hanging out, enjoying my time on the sidelines, and then I got asked to be on the board. After a couple of years, I got asked to be the president. Then I asked Tucker to come in and join the board as the treasurer.”
The two dads are now the principal leaders of the MYLL’s continued growth.
Reducing registration rates has been part of the strategy. “We want kids from everywhere to join us,” Friedman said. “We’re trying to create an environment that allows everyone to be able to play. That’s what makes lacrosse so cool.”
Founded in 2010 with one U13 boys’ team, the MYLL Mavericks eventually grew to more than 100 players across multiple boys’ and girls’ age divisions. An organizational split in 2019 spawned a new program, the Mobile Machine. During the COVID-shortened 2020 spring season, those numbers were cut in half, but the MYLL is now rebooting.
A US Lacrosse TryLax clinic helped to jumpstart the 2020 campaign in February and drew approximately 40 boys and girls for an introductory lacrosse experience. New coaches, including college club players from the University of South Alabama, were recruited to join the MYLL.
More recently, league leaders worked with Mobile Parks and Rec to acquire field permits to get players back in action this fall. The MYLL presented a detailed COVID safety plan.
“People want to get back out there,” Frazer said. “We’re all navigating through COVID the best that we can.”
The fall season focuses on practices, clinics and skill development. It’s also a time to expose the sport to first-timers.
“There’s lot of new interest that we try to connect with in the fall,” Friedman said. “Our best recruiting tool is word of mouth through other kids.”
During the spring, MYLL teams travel along the Gulf Coast for games, ranging from the Florida Panhandle to the east to Southern Louisiana to the west. But the marquee event — the annual Battleship Shootout — is right in Mobile.
Hosted in prior years by the MYLL, and most recently by the new Mobile Machine program, the event annually attracts upward of 50 teams from throughout the region to the unique setting of Battleship Park, situated alongside Mobile Bay.
With the retired USS Alabama battleship serving as a backdrop, there are 10-12 fields in play at a time. As many as 50 volunteers in some years have helped line fields, manage parking and run the tournament.
“Thousands of people come to this event,” said Dan Hannan, who was one of the initial founders of the MYLL and now serves as a coach and board member with the Machine program. “It’s so fun to see teams that are now well-organized and well-coached, and kids having fun.”
“It’s a huge undertaking and requires a lot of manpower, but it’s a very unique Mobile event,” Frazer said. “It’s a very cool location for the kids. All the teams love it.”
While the Battleship Shootout isn’t designed as a fundraiser, in some years the MYLL has made revenue to invest back into the program. A scholarship fund offsets expenses for participants of need.
“It’s very exciting to watch the growth of the sport,” Hannan said. “It was tough to split off from the Mavericks, but it was for the expansion of the sport. It was a chance to bring in more families and allow more children to play for a longer period of time.”
“There’s a lot more kids playing lacrosse in Mobile than I realized,” Frazer said. “It’s pretty incredible to think about how far we’ve come.”
That’s true for the sport, as well as the former baseball dads who are now running the Mavericks.
“Tucker and I are equally vested in the MYLL. We’re baseball families that switched to lacrosse when our kids got sticks in their hands,” Friedman said. “We fell in love with it. Now we’re trying to help other kids and families do the same thing.”
The North Alabama Lacrosse Association was recently formed. League president Elliott Bender is an advocate of the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model.
Ridge Johnson from Lakeside High School will play lacrosse at Notre Dame next year. Johnson was one of several high schoolers who helped mentor and teach more than 100 players in the Augusta community during a US Lacrosse TryLax event this past fall.
Bowling Green Youth Lacrosse continues to see growth of the game thanks to a community partnership with Bowling Green Parks and Recreation. BGYL provides a low entry fee to introduce players grades K-8 grade to the sport.
Rich Maconochie of Davie County Youth Lacrosse continues to be the pied piper of lacrosse in his community. He has put on countless clinics around the state and most recently put on a very successful TryLax event. Maconochie works with many parks and recreation departments to implement programming.
Charleston-based Low Lax Lacrosse plan to host a US Lacrosse TryLax event in Ashley, an underserved community.