When we think about lacrosse, the first two countries that often come to mind are the US and Canada. Why? They were not only the first two countries along with the UK to participate in the Olympics but also run the few existing professional lacrosse leagues around the world, such as PLL.
Grew up in Boston and played lacrosse in Vermont during college, I have constantly been inside the lacrosse bubble as New England is the largest and most popular lacrosse home base. That said, if you are aware of the New York vs. Maryland lacrosse rivalry, I thought it would be a fun idea to write a post on which states actually reign supreme and have the largest number of lacrosse players reside in the state.
Additionally, I hope this could also help parents who want to get their kids involved in lacrosse an idea of the best lacrosse communities in the US today.
The method I use to measure and rank
To come up with an accurate and evidence-based ranking, I have done some data collection and analysis. So first, let’s unpack how I decided to tackle this question.
How many youth players there are in one state is a good indication of how much popularity there is. Thus, I conducted an experiment by calculating the total number of participants at the youth and high school levels. Next up is college lacrosse. To be considered a hotbed, the state needs strong college lacrosse programs. Whether it’s NCAA, MCLA or WCLA, I took into account any collegiate level league that exists. From there, I want to see how many championships these teams have won. A strong college team has a thriving legacy and great reputation to continue attracting talents across the nation.
Before we move onto pro league, another metric I looked at at high school and collegiate levels is the penetration of lacrosse. How many lacrosse athletes there are compared to the total number of athletes in the state.
Finally, I looked at if the state has a professional league presence and if there’s more than one lacrosse professional team in multiple leagues. In summary, that is how I collected the data.
Now let’s talk about where the data sources are from. I referenced 2018-2019 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS. Because of the covid pandemic, NFHS hasn’t released new survey results so 2018-2019 is the most recent data for measurement. What’s nice about this data source is it breaks down participants and schools by the state as well as by boys and girls athletes. The best information I found about college lacrosse is on US Lacrosse Participation Survey and NCAA lacrosse page.
After compiling everything together and some number crunching, here are the top 10 lacrosse states in the US. I took a 60% weighted average on the high school participants and a 40% weighted average on the college participants to combine them together.
|State||# of high school players||# of NCAA teams||Weighted Participants|
Top 5 most popular lacrosse states
New York by far has the most total number of participants in lacrosse both at high school and college level. To no one’s surprise, New York has always been home to the best lacrosse teams at all levels, notably Syracuse and New York Riptide. New York also has the most competitive high school league. Inside New York state, areas near Long Island and Westchester County are the central hubs on the thriving lacrosse scene.
One observation is New York has stagnated its growth in terms of both high school and college levls. Thus, although New York is ahead of all other states, considering the stunning growth we are seeing in other states like Illinois and Colorado, we are likely to see the gap starts to shrink.
Click here to find out the best New York summer camp for players at all levels.
If New York is the east coast hub, California takes the crown as the west coast hub. The third biggest state in the US hosts the second most number of participants in lacrosse. Coming in as second, California is shy of 6,000 high school laxers than New York. One big reason that helps California to be incredibly lacrosse friendly is the weather.
California offers an ideal climate to play lacrosse year-round. Unlike the New England region, playing lacrosse in California isn’t conditioned to just spring and summer. Hence young lacrosse players in California have more training and practice in comparison to their counterparts on the east coast. I am confident that lacrosse will continue to in California at all levels.
Click here to find out the best California summer camp for players at all levels.
Thanks to its proximity to New York, New Jersey has also enjoyed continuous growth and increasing popularity in lacrosse. Coming in as the third, New Jersey closely follows behind California. Noticeably, they have more NCAA lacrosse teams due to the strong school network shared among schools in the New England region.
Since New Jersey and New York are next to each other, many lacrosse camps are hosted in both states together. Not to mention, many parents living in New Jersey will also send their children to schools with great lacrosse programs in New York.
Next, if we go up north to Massachusetts, you will also find a big lacrosse community. During spring and summertime, lacrosse is one of the most popular sports in the Bay State. Leveraging its strong college network within the state, Massachusetts houses 77 different NCAA men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.
Massachusetts also has a professional lacrosse team, Cannons. The Cannons’ presence further accelerates the growth and reach lacrosse generates inside the state.
Lastly, we have Pennsylvania on the list. Lacrosse has a solid foundation in the state where the University of Pennsylvania is at the center. They are in the NCAA Division I lacrosse against other Ivy League competitors like Princeton and Yale.
If you are looking for a good college lacrosse program, be sure to check out Pennsylvania. Although they have fewer high school participants, the state offers many college programs and the second most number of NCAA lacrosse teams in the US.
It will be a disservice if Maryland isn’t part of the discussion. When people think about college lacrosse in the US, Maryland is very top on that list. Lacrosse and Maryland are closely related on many levels from youth all the way to college.
Especially the college teams such as Johns Hopkins, Loyola and the University of Maryland have all managed to win the national title. Lacrosse is part of these schools’ DNA. Additionally, the best high school lacrosse players will most likely end up playing at one of these schools in Maryland.