The ELEVATE28 Charter is one of the most important documents in lacrosse history.
On October 31st, 2023, eight of the world’s leading lacrosse organizations came together in unprecedented unity to sign the ELEVATE28 Charter. This monumental document states that the National Lacrosse League, Athletes Unlimited, Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, Joe Tsai Sports, Premier Lacrosse League, USA Lacrosse, and World Lacrosse combined efforts and resources to double lacrosse participation in the United States by 2030.
Lacrosse has been one of the fastest-growing sports in America for a couple of decades. With the signing of the ELEVATE28 Charter, this will undoubtedly continue to be the case through the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, California, and beyond.
Yet, despite the tremendous growth the game has seen for generations, there is still much work to be done to make lacrosse a household sport. The ELEVATE28 initiative will make great strides to make this a reality.
USA Lacrosse CEO Marc Riccio understands that as far as lacrosse has come up to this moment in history, there is so much of the U.S. that has still not been introduced to the beauty and creativity of The Creator’s Game.
“We have so much upside as a sport,” Riccio said. “There’s so many places in the U.S. where, if someone wants to play the game, they don’t have that opportunity. Where we can go as a sport – there’s so many places that are untapped opportunities. There are so many places that are ripe for new lacrosse players. We’ve been punching above our weight for a long time, so this actually starts to put us in the big leagues, and we’re pretty excited about that.”
What is incredibly optimistic for the future of lacrosse is not only that the game has yet to be seen or played by so many around the United States but that there are many disciplines for men, women, boys, and girls to get involved with the game. Whether exploring field, box, or Sixes (the Olympic version of the sport), there will be different avenues to wander down Lacrosse Lane.
In the words of former NLL player and current PLL commentator Ryan Boyle, an American who dove head first into the box game with no previous experience, if there are more opportunities to play lacrosse, that’s better for the sport both now and in the long run. The ELEVATE28 Charter marks a firm commitment to the ultimate goal of all the parties that signed the document: the growth of lacrosse is what matters most.
“The more lacrosse, the better, and I think that’s the biggest thing,” Boyle said. “When you look at the Olympics, and you look at the initiative of Elevate28 for growth participation, we’re just trying to spread the love of this game, this beautiful game that we all love so much, regardless of form or fashion. Whether it’s box, field, or Sixes, if you’re playing lacrosse and you’re actively contributing to the growth, well-being, instruction, and education – if we’re all rowing in the same direction – then you’re trying to grow the game.”
The outcome of the signing of this charter is unknown, but it can only be seen as a gigantic leap in the right direction, particularly in the areas where the box game is still such a foreign concept to most people. The women’s box game is just beginning to take off. In 2024, World Lacrosse will host the first-ever women’s box championship at the 2024 World Lacrosse Box Championships in Utica, New York, from September 20th-29th.
Kylie Ohlmiller, a former field star at Stony Brook University, was recently named as one of the 48 U.S. women on the 2024 Women’s Box Training Team. She is also a member of the U.S. Women’s Field Team. Ohlmiller was one of the distinguished guests at The Closing Bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange on October 31st. She recognizes the value of learning box and sees the importance of girls learning box skills on top of field skills. Women and girls are changing the lacrosse landscape, and Ohlmiller is one of those who is leading the movement.
“For me, it’s a version of the sport that I didn’t grow up playing, but it’s been a version of the sport that I’ve admired,” Ohlmiller said. “It’s been in the back of my head if I could play and if I could add that into my arsenal. Now that the opportunity is there to be able to play in the World Championships, to be able to create teams not only in the U.S. but across the world, and not only at the field level but at the box level too, is such a great opportunity for women in the game if they’ve never played or never learned box lacrosse to add it to their skill set.”
One of Ohlmiller’s assistant coaches at the 2024 World Lacrosse Box Championships will be Ryan Wheeler, an American field player who also spent seven years playing box up in Canada in both B.C. and Ontario. As someone who has had success in both the field and the box versions of the game, Wheeler is one American who is very excited about what the ELEVATE28 charter will mean for the future of the sport.
Having been part of the rich box lacrosse culture in Canada, he’s seen how much of an impact lacrosse can make on a community and how passionate people can get about lacrosse.
“I think it’s fantastic to see box and field come together,” Wheeler said. “I think for a long time, the U.S. (maybe to its own detriment) has shooed away box lacrosse development. So, it’s great now to see total commitment and buy-in from USA Lacrosse and have that ubiquitous buy-in from both the men’s and women’s program and the senior and junior levels.”
This signing of this charter will likely have miraculous and unfathomable implications for generations to come. However, the eventual success of this charter will only be realized if all treaty members stay true to their commitment.
Legendary lacrosse coach Bill Tierney, who lead Denver University to incredibly new heights, was another distinguished guest on hand to celebrate lacrosse at the New York Stock Exchange last week. Tierney has helped transform many of the NLL stars that we have loved for years to become who they are. He emphatically voiced his support of this historic moment for lacrosse and is pleased to see how far all parties have come for the betterment of the sport.
“The coming together is the thing, in my opinion,” Tierney said. “There’s been so many years where everyone in the lacrosse world had their own little niche in life and wanted no one else to be a part of it. What we started to realize is that we need two things: we need kids to play, and we need coaches to coach. The realization from the PLL, the NLL, the World Games, and now the Olympics, who were trying to figure this whole thing out, we realized we need each other.”
The lacrosse world must always remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are all on this mission to grow the game together. The longer we stick together with this goal in mind, the sport will be in a far greater place than it is today.
The men’s box game will benefit. The women’s box game will benefit. The youth box game will benefit. We will benefit. Box lacrosse will benefit.