Editor's Note: The following is a guest blog post by John Mixson, a board member of the Lower Alabama Lacrosse League. The league held "The Fallen Guardsmen Lacrosse Jamboree" on April 21, which raised funds for the Foundation's Family Disaster Relief Fund and The Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund in honor of the four crewmembers of CG-6535, who were lost earlier this year.
On April 21, 2012 the efforts of the Gulf Coast Lacrosse Conference and Lower Alabama Lacrosse League culminated in Daphne, AL with the Fallen Guardsmen Lacrosse Jamboree. While April 21 was a previously scheduled jamboree, the LAL Board Members, following the Coast Guard's loss of Helicopter CG-6535 and 4 crewmembers in Mobile Bay, began looking for an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the Coast Guard Foundation which provides money and assistance to the families through the Family Disaster Fund and Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. The members elected to dedicate the jamboree to LCDR Dale Taylor, LTJG Thomas Cameron, CPO Fernando Jorge and Petty Officer Drew Knight and all the proceeds from admission donations and t-shirt sales went to the foundation.
The jamboree itself was an amazing lacrosse sight for Deep South Alabama focused on bringing in players from all across the region, hosting 18 teams, 500 players and nearly 1,000 spectators for youth lacrosse. The GCLC had all 7 leagues in attendance plus the Tallahassee Outkast and Lafayette Hurricanes. In all the event raised more than $4,000 for the Coast Guard Foundation and awareness of youth lacrosse on the Gulf Coast.
The Lower Alabama Lacrosse League formed on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama 4 years ago with about 20 kids and two teams. Today the league, run by all volunteers, has expanded to nearly 100 players, ages 8 to 18 with four boys squads and one girls team. LAL now offers a Fall Ball program in October in which they utilize the opportunity to bring in new players and refresh the skills of returning players for the regular season.
With very little lacrosse in the south along the Gulf of Mexico coast, the league began reaching out to the nearest programs in the area looking for opportunities to play other teams. This effort initially started out with Gulf Breeze, FL and Ocean Springs, MS and quickly spread to teams in Destin, Mobile, and Louisiana. In August of 2011, teams from Destin, Gulf Breeze, Mobile, Catholic Resurrection School, Ocean Springs and North Shore, AL meet in Mississippi to form the Gulf Coast Lacrosse Conference (GCLC). The Conference was formed utilizing the guidelines set forth by U. S. Lacrosse and adapted to fit the unique challenges of our programs. All 7 leagues had started recently and all had limited coaching availability with youth, middle and high school aged players but various roster sizes ranging from 18 per team to 40 plus in some cases.
Distance was an immediate issue to address in order to continue the growth of each program. Most parents would prefer to travel to either the same field each weekend or at least stay in the same town. This is just not possible on the Gulf Coast at this time for programs to play different teams. The GCLC took a unique approach to the solution and established guidelines for regional jamborees. The jamboree concept allow for all teams to "share" in the travel burden. Each team hosts at least one jamboree at their home fields and travels to the other 6 teams' jamborees. This ensures that among the 7 leagues there will be at least 7 jamboree Saturdays. The typical jamboree Saturday hosts games that either have running clocks like a tournament or standard stop clock play, the time format depends on the number of teams in attendance and the field space available. Following the scheduling of the jamborees teams then fill the "open spaces" in their February to April schedule with either teams located nearby or traveling to tournaments such as Dan Anderson Memorial Tournament in Birmingham, AL.
For the first time in the conference's short history, summer 2012 the GCLC is forming 3 select teams comprised Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 players from across the conference. This group of the "Best of the Best on Gulf Coast" will travel as the Gulf Coast Bandits to 3 tournaments in Florida during the month of June.