A New Era with the National Lacrosse Association

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LACROSSE ASSOCIATION

The NLA Pro league currently features two teams — Marauders LC (pictured) and Groove LC.


A new dawn arises in the distance. This summer will mark a new era of professional lacrosse, as the much-anticipated National Lacrosse Association (NLA) makes its debut.

Despite the sport lacking adequate diversity, NLA aims to break lacrosse’s status quo from every angle. The travel-based league will showcase Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Latino and Asian lacrosse talent that hasn’t traditionally been granted professional opportunities.

Encore and Signature Lacrosse headline the partnership and sponsorship roster of the nation’s first Black-owned professional lacrosse league. It season will begin in July and run through September in select East Coast markets.

NLA Pro Management Team and league owner Arthur Johnson shared their perspectives about the league’s vision and mission.

“The inspiration came from the lack of playing opportunities that the game hasn’t offered and gaps in the system,” the NLA Pro Management Team said. “We were tired of watching the game grow from the sidelines without us and players that truly can make a change. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, who knows better about what’s truly needed than those affected by the lack of it?”

While moving under the sole intention of growing the game, NLA Pro is built on three integral pillars. The league plans to resolve the sweeping lack of diversity, add professional standards and aid community relations.

Compared to existing competitors, NLA Pro seeks to build a structure that allows players to be themselves while evolving into pioneering professionals that brings unmatched entertainment.

Team branding was an important variable that the league wanted to emphasize through both franchises, Groove LC and Marauders LC.

“We wanted to come up with names that spoke to minority cultures and had deep roots,” the collective said.

NLA Pro has a unique composition of rosters and rules guaranteed to turn heads.

By instituting field dimensions of 100 yards in length and 60 yards in width, the league will promote fast-paced and high-scoring contests.

Compared to the standard field, NLA Pro trimmed off 5 yards on each vertical end and added a modified two-point arc that starts at goal line extended. This unique design is an incentive to attempt more two-point opportunities.

Groove LC and Marauders LC are comprised of players who represent eight national teams (Bermuda, Columbia, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands), plus American and Indigenous talent.

“We provide sight for an opportunity in growth, reinforce sustainability and make lacrosse globally recognized,” NLA Pro Management Team said. “It’s important to show diversity at the highest level because it gives the youth someone to rally around. You look up to someone that understands your lingo, walk and style. It’s a genuine connection.”







To be eligible to play in NLA Pro, you must be at least 21 years old and waive remaining collegiate eligibility. The league aims to develop players into pioneers who can lead future generations of youth lacrosse from introductory to club ranks.

On August 7, the league launched a pro-day event involving evaluations and scrimmages of protected players registered to the inaugural draft in Philadelphia. A combine on August 28 followed, and over 50 players competed.

“The one thing lacrosse isn’t short on is inventory,” the collective said. “Were adding a professional standard and understanding of what a professional lacrosse player looks like. If these forms of measure (consistent running, jumping, transition) are good enough for other sports, then why not professional lacrosse?”

Ahead of its maiden season, NLA Pro selected two head coaches with outstanding leadership and dynamic tactics.

Groove LC will be led by Tre Sherwood, a Long Island native and Western Connecticut State alumnus who later became a member of the 2013 Sankofa Lacrosse Alliance Ambassadors. He is the son of Duke goalie legend Chuck Sherwood.

Marauders LC will be led by Matt Casey, a nine-year professional lacrosse veteran and two-time champion who graduated from Ithaca College while hailing from Syracuse.

On September 11, the NLA 2021 Entry Draft began with a pair of attackmen poised to set the tone.

Marauders LC selected Limestone graduate and Puerto Rico captain Desi Gonzales with the first overall selection. The 2009 NJCAA champion was recently promoted as head coach at Westtown School.

Groove LC followed by picking Baltimore native, Randy Belton with the second overall pick. Belton currently serves as head coach at Forest Park High School.

Other notable draftees include Rhamel Bratton (Virginia), Shaun Church (Salisbury), LaRon Hinton (UDC), Kevin Mondy Jr. (Hampton), Brendan Murphy (UAlbany), Koichi Nakamura (Onondaga CC, Japan), Jamar Peete (Limestone) and Marty Ward (Limestone, Cherokee Nation).

The league plans to host additional pro-day events, as over 150 players registered from the East and West Coasts. For subsequent seasons, pro days will be offered to post-collegiate prospects as combines serve recent collegiate graduates.

Potential playing opportunities can be inquired through an interest form hosted on the NLA Pro website.

THE FUTURE

NLA Pro Management Team spoke about the league’s short-term goals.

“Most importantly, we must ensure that the quality of play is top-notch, our players get the exposure they’ve worked hard for, and fans have great experiences while attending games,” the collective said.

To establish equitable opportunities, NLA Pro anticipates adding a women’s counterpart in due time.

“The issues plaguing lacrosse are affecting women as well, not just men,” the league said.

From a long-term standpoint, the league wants to transition towards a successful expansion of teams and events alongside other five-year benchmarks.

NLA Pro also created a non-profit initiative — Jr. NLA — that will operate under the AAU Lacrosse structure.

“It’s a chance for programs coming from low-to-middle-class socioeconomic communities to afford resources that aren’t normally available to them,” the collective said. “It’s important to connect these programs associated with our players as some are from middle to upper-class communities. AAU USA has always had a need of embracing youth lacrosse and was excited about our plan that offers sustainable growth, development and inclusion.”

Broadcasts of league games will be hosted on www.nlapro.com.

Prospective partners and sponsors interested in supporting the league’s mission and vision should contact frontoffice@nlapro.com.

By attending and streaming games, sharing content, involving young fans with youth initiatives, the lacrosse community can best support NLA Pro’s endeavors further.

For detailed information about upcoming NLA Pro events, you can join the league’s email list.

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