Colorado Youth Lacrosse Expands Well Beyond Denver Metro Area


Boulder Valley Lacrosse in northern Colorado is part of a burgeoning youth lacrosse scene in the state.

This article appears in the May/June edition part of a series on community-based lacrosse leagues that are thriving despite the growing trend toward privatization in youth sports.

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You might know the name Dillon Roy if you’re from Denver.

After graduating from Denver East High School with All-American honors, Roy captained the Pioneers as a senior in 2010 during coach Bill Tierney’s first season at the helm. Roy recorded 195 ground balls and forced 82 turnovers as an all-ECAC defenseman.

Drafted by the Denver Outlaws in the 2010 Major League Lacrosse draft, Roy continued his stalwart play as a pro before winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 FIL World Championship – also in Denver.

However, Roy’s success as an elite lacrosse player was rooted in recreational play. Roy first competed with the Redhawks, one of two clubs established in 1990 by Mark Foster and Jamie Duke that joined forces to create a junior boys’ lacrosse organization, now known as the Colorado Youth Lacrosse Association. The two teams played their first game in March 1991.

A similar story could be told for attackman Eric Law, who was also born and raised in Denver, graduated from Arapahoe High School and went on to play for the University of Denver and Denver Outlaws. Now Law competes in the Premier Lacrosse League.

Both Law and Roy have extended their resumes as youth lacrosse coaches in the CYLA, the latter a 2014 recipient of a US Lacrosse Colorado Chapter Annual Award for his outstanding contribution to the game. Today, Law works with Denver City Lax and Roy leads Boomtown Lacrosse.

“It’s the full circle, where they started in Colorado, they excelled collegiately, at the high school level and the pro level, and they’re now giving back to the community,” CYLA president Mike Stears said. “We’ve also got kids that came through our program that are playing at Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina and Air Force Academy. All of those are great examples where you can start out in the CYLA as a U7 kid and end up at DU or end up with the Outlaws.”

The talent pool emerging from the CYLA has continued to grow since its inception nearly 30 years ago because of its broad-based mission of exposing kids to the sport.

Now representing 28 clubs in the state, the CYLA does have a presence in the city of Denver, but also extends 280 miles west to Grand Junction, 112 miles south to Pueblo, 65 miles north to Fort Collins and 10 miles east to Aurora.

“Youth lacrosse in Colorado has expanded far, far beyond the original Denver metro area where Jamie Duke and company originated,” Stears said. “If you look at what happened 30 years ago, you’ve got two individuals that are driving things. Now, there’s this massive amount of energy from Bill Tierney down to a U7 ‘dad-coach’ who’s participating.”

Because his sons expressed interested in lacrosse, Stears, a Montana native who never played, went through the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program. Before the likes of Tierney came to town, the sport survived and thrived thanks to like-minded youth coaches and the CYLA, which lays the groundwork before boys move on to elite clubs to hone their skills.

“We really go out and find the next kid,” Stears said. “We offer programs like Learn to Play. We’re constantly bringing new people in. Then we’ve got the relationships with people like LXTC, where they’ve got access to the people we bring in and they develop them. All parties are working together for the betterment [of the sport]. They’re complementary and not adversarial.”

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