By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/24/21
A.J. Juliani, Rob Forster and Jack Forster figured there had to be a way to make it easier and less expensive for youth travel teams to play in organized lacrosse tournaments.
That was the motivation for creating the Youth Lacrosse League (YLL).
“The Youth Lacrosse League’s goal is to get kids playing regionally in less expensive play days that are highly competitive,” said Juliani, an educator and a lacrosse coach.
This fall the YLL launched with two events, the East Coast Play Day on Oct 16 at La Salle College High and Academy of the New Church – where the Forster brothers are scholastic head coaches – and then the YLL Turkey Bowl on Nov. 14 at La Salle. The events drew 19 and 18 teams, respectively, in the ages of 2028 (5th grade) down to 2031/32 (2nd and 1st graders). Most of the clubs were from the Philadelphia region – Duke’s Elite, Team 11, Brotherly Love, Downingtown Dawgs, and Mesa – as well as New Jersey. Those clubs included South Shore and Jersey Express.
“We are focused on 2028 and down,” Juliani said “The goal is to get kids playing more lacrosse and not having to travel so far and pay so much to do so. “
Juliani said the ultimate goal is to have more regional events around the country in the summer, fall and spring and a national event in the spring/summer. Already, he said, a regional event is being planned for the West Coast. More information on future Philly region events will be announced.
“The competition was really good,” said Downingtown Dawgs 2030 coach Jim Schorn, a high school coach for many years in the region. “These events are more oriented toward the youth ages. I like that they run college rules – I think that’s important for the kids – and the facilities are top notch. We get to play on turf and not wet grass.”
Typically, youth travel teams attend large tournaments that may be geared more to the high school age players, and some are out of state or require overnight stays.
“It’s cool to get all local teams so we’re not traveling all over the place,” said Duke’s Elite 2029 coach Tom Lemieux, also the head coach of two-time PIAA champion Springfield-Delco. “It’s just easier, especially in the fall.”
Lemieux’s team went 3-0 at the Turkey Bowl and was 5-0 in the Fall events. But youth lacrosse is about having fun, meeting new kids and learning the game, he said.
“This is really cool and it’s a well-run event,” he said. “There’s many pluses for the kids. They get to know other kids and when you’re traveling with a group that’s pretty committed, it’s all about fun and the team and being a part of something. We just want them to improve and be involved.”