The Means To Play: Bridgeport Youth Lacrosse Provides Outlet for Success On and Off Field

Don Wilson, founder and president of Bridgeport Youth Lacrosse in Connecticut, grew up in nearby Greenwich, Conn., with ample opportunities to participate in sports, like mountain climbing and skiing, which he described as life-shaping experiences with his exposure to diversity. 

However, less than 30 miles north stands a community lacking that opportunity due to financial constraints and geographical isolation. 

Eight of Bridgeport’s 34 elementary schools with more than 2,000 students do not have a gymnasium for physical education. Another eight elementary schools with more than 3,000 students do not have an outdoor space for P.E., and 11 of the 26 schools with an outdoor blacktop play area share the space with the parking lot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of P.E. classes each week, but children in kindergarten through third grade only get 30 minutes. 

That is why Wilson decided to create the BYL program in 2006, which currently serves 200 youth from six different Bridgeport schools. Boys’ and girls’ players ages 7-21 ride the bus or their bikes, hop in cabs, or walk with a parent just to get to practices or games.

“Our long-term goal is a self-sustaining youth lacrosse program which will support the city of Bridgeport’s most vulnerable and underserved youth population,” Wilson said. “I feel that Bridgeport youth are affected by not even knowing what is available to them, apart from violence and poverty. For many families with children interested in playing a sport, the decision often must be made to pay bills or take on an extracurricular activity.”

As a member of the Urban Lacrosse Alliance, a US Lacrosse program designed to enable qualified affiliates the ability to address needs unique to their lacrosse programming through education and resources, BYL has received $5,000 in support from 2014-2016 via in-kind donations and stipends toward transportation costs, registration fees and more. Thanks to US Lacrosse, the Rusty Red Foundation, state residents, fundraising events and Fairfield County corporations, Wilson is able to supply new and used equipment to his players.

“Our relationship with US Lacrosse has been a huge part of our success and has guided our principles and growth every step of the way, through the national insurance program, equipment grants, leadership training and access to US Lacrosse staff and training clinics,” Wilson said. “We are very thankful to have also received financial support from our local Connecticut chapter. Thanks to the chapter and Phillip Schneider, this spring, seven of our past youth and high school players are now on their way to becoming Level 1-certified coaches after participating in a local CDP clinic.”

Not only are BYL players attaining success on the field —many have gone on to play at the University of Bridgeport — but also they have grown as individuals through the programming offered, including the required S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, math) academic program, SAT prep courses and college interview training.

“It is a great honor to see the maturity of this program in our short existence,” Wilson said. “These kids are resilient if not relentless.”

Locally Grown


Thirty physical education teachers from the city school district of Albany attended a US Lacrosse PE Workshop to spread the sport in schools.


The chapter hosted its annual CT Coaches clinic at Mohegan Sun with more than 70 coaches in attendance, part of a broader partnership with the NLL’s New England Black Wolves.

Eastern Massachusetts

The chapter held its annual grant program to help new and upcoming lacrosse teams and conducted two Learn to Play clinics resulting also in eight new trainers.

Greater Rochester

Look for US Lacrosse nights at Rattlers (MLL) and Knighthawks (NLL) home games with discounted tickets for members. The chapter also is hosting a Shootout for Soldiers event.

Hudson Valley

A three-hour US Lacrosse CDP Level 1 clinic served as a launching point for many coaches this spring.


An early adopter of the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, the chapter is working with Maine Youth Lacrosse to promote LADM practices and values.

New Hampshire

The chapter cohosts the girls’ team that will attend the US Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament Memorial Day weekend at Yale.

Rhode Island

The chapter conducted its first-ever Hall of Fame event with more than 100 people in attendance.

Upstate New York

Chapter leaders staged a 24-hour lacrosse-around-the-clock event to support veterans and local community grants.


More than 70 coaches attended the chapter’s annual US Lacrosse CDP Level 1 and Level 2 clinics.

Western Massachusetts

Multi-sport participation took on new meaning when the chapter hosted its third-annual Hall of Fame event at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Western New York

A free lacrosse clinic in Buffalo drew more than 20 youth participants.

Picture This


The Greater Rochester chapter of US Lacrosse maintains close ties to the NLL’s Knighthawks and MLL’s Rattlers, showcasing here its Hall of Fame plaque at Blue Cross Arena, where it will reside all year.

My USL Rep

Ryan Larkum, Northeast

Ryan Larkum is from West Hartford, Conn. He played lacrosse at Conard High School and then one season at Springfield College. While working for New Britain Parks and Recreation, he coached at Farmington (Conn.) High School.  He joined US Lacrosse in 2014 is now in his third season as the junior varsity coach at his alma mater Conard.

How can US Lacrosse help grow the sport in your area? Contact Ryan at or 410-235-6882, extension 176.

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