Matt Zimmerman, Campus Carrier Contributing Columnist
I started playing lacrosse back in 3rd grade when nobody in Georgia knew what the sport of lacrosse even was. I remember having to explain what the sport even was to parents at church. I would say “it’s basically a mix of soccer and hockey, with a little bit of football.” As I grew up through middle school, the sport began to flow down into Georgia from the northern states where it is so popular. My friends began to play it too, and we all very quickly became obsessive over this sport that no one knew about. It became our secret, our escape.
High schools in Georgia began picking it up, and by the time I left middle school, almost every public school in my area had a team. I loved playing in high school and was lucky enough to carry my talents on to Berry. My career at Berry was short-lived for several reasons, but I couldn’t leave the sport for long, so I began coaching lacrosse at Darlington School. Teaching high schoolers to love the sport like I learned is the most rewarding thing I do, and I love it.
Since I started playing lacrosse, I have always wondered why it is not more popular. It combines speed, competitiveness, and physicality that no other sport offers, yet it lacks the recognition in much of America. Professional lacrosse players work just as hard as other professional athletes, but make an average of $15,000 annually. This means most athletes need to pick up part time jobs in the offseason to get by. For a point of reference, the average NFL athlete makes a salary of $1.9 million.
To prove my point, I bet you didn’t even know that there is a professional lacrosse league. Major League Lacrosse (MLL) has been around since 1999 and has seen very little growth sadly. To further prove my point, did you know that there is an indoor professional lacrosse league too? On top of this, did you know that Atlanta has a professional lacrosse team for both leagues? The Atlanta Blaze is the outdoor team in the MLL and the Swarm is the indoor team in the NLL. Believe it or not, the Atlanta Swarm won the championship this past year, and the majority of people living in Atlanta don’t even know of the team’s existence!
Maybe I’m biased because I’ve spent my whole life playing and watching lacrosse, but I am optimistic for the future of lacrosse. Watching Atlanta United become fiercely loved and accepted instantly gave me a new hope for lacrosse. It’s going to take more time, but if people start accepting their teams and loving them like they did for Atlanta United, I believe lacrosse has a very bright future for lacrosse.
Lacrosse is truly an insane sport. It’s commonly referred to as “the fastest game on two feet,” it has the same level of physicality as football and hockey, and has a creative aspect that no other sport has. This sport is a hidden gem in America, and I think people are going to wake up to it one day.
If I can offer one piece of advice to you, it is this: go watch a lacrosse game. The Blaze play up in Kennesaw at KSU not far from campus, and the Swarm play in Gwinnett. The Berry Vikings have a great team too, so you could watch good lacrosse on campus. Often times we get so caught up doing what is comfortable and natural to us, we miss totally different worlds right in front of our eyes. Step out of your comfort zone, because that is where life is.