Luke Graham

Luke Graham

Luke Graham: Still room to grow 


Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or

Find more columns by Luke here.

— Lacrosse in the West has been a fluid situation. 

There’s no question the sport has grown rapidly during the past 20 years out here in the mountains and on the coast of California.

There are countless established high school programs. In Colorado alone, Regis Jesuit was ranked No. 10 nationwide and Cherry Creek was No. 23, as of Sunday, according to the Coaches-Computer Rating list on

For fun, Steamboat Springs High School was 253rd on that list Sunday. 

The rankings show the power of lacrosse in the West, and Steamboat gives a great little sample. It’s tough to cruise across town and not see at least one group of young people carrying lacrosse sticks and a ball. 

Steamboat Youth Lacrosse is as strong as ever, and the high school program continues to close the gap between it and more established programs on the Front Range. 

The gap is closing enough that Aurora’s Grandview High School — which Steamboat plays today — sent coaches up to scout Steamboat last weekend against Rock Canyon. Unfortunately for those coaches, they didn’t realize the game had been moved to Denver because Rock Canyon couldn’t make the commute. 

But the question still remains: How much has the game out west caught up with the game back east? 

It’s not hard to see that the West still is behind. But it’s getting closer. 

But where lacrosse in the West still lacks is at the collegiate level.

There’s a total of 282 NCAA collegiate lacrosse programs in the country, across divisions I, II and III. That total doesn’t count club teams, which it seems just about every school has. The University of Colorado and Colorado State University are top 20 mainstays at the club level.

But of those 282 teams, only nine are west of the Mississippi. That number will go to eight next year, when Grand Canyon College drops its program. 

That’s a startling number. Like it or not, lacrosse in the West won’t catch up to the East until more programs are added. 

But adding a program costs money and with education budget shortfalls, it’s tough to ask to start a new program. 

That’s why what’s happening at Mesa State College and Adams State College is among the most intriguing developments in lacrosse. Both schools started Division II lacrosse programs this year.

The duo’s commitment to lacrosse is interesting in more than one way. The two could become major players in Division II lacrosse within the next four years. 

They fill a niche and offer opportunities to players who aren’t quite Division I caliber, or who don’t want to play Division III lacrosse. 

They have the entire West to recruit from. They aren’t competing with the hordes of East Coast schools for players. 

Imagine, in five years, one of the two competing for a national championship. 

Whether schools attempt to add programs remains to be seen. 

But that’s part of the beauty of the game. Lacrosse out this way is past its infancy and now in its teenage years. It has a fluidity that means the game will grow. 

Until colleges find ways to add programs, though, lacrosse in the West always will fall behind. 


ski_and_be_green 5 years, 12 months ago

All this talk and progress for lacrosse is great, but it's disappointing to see that it's all about men's lacrosse. Women's and girl's lacrosse has been completely fallen off the radar for most people. I was on the high school's last girl's lacrosse team before we ran out of players to continue on for another season, and it's just so disappointing to me to see that men's lacrosse gets all the focus and support. If anything needs to happen, more girl's programs need to be added and more support throughout the community needs to be garnered so that they too can compete alongside the boys.


TWill 5 years, 12 months ago

Sorry to say, green skier, but the girl’s/ women's game is missing the most exciting elements of the boy’s/ men's version of lacrosse. Although graceful and fluid, when played at its highest level, the women's game does not have the fast paced, physical nature that has lead to the growth of the men's lacrosse.

Would football be as popular in this country if we took away the helmets and pads and turned it into two-hand touch?

With the exception of the ball, goal and similar (although different) sticks, the men's and women's version of lacrosse do not share much in common with each other. Each game has different rules, field dimensions, equipment, etc.

Title IX related bureaucracy is the biggest challenge to the growth of the men's game at the NCAA level. But then again, the NCAA seems to thrive on bureaucracy, so it should be no surprise.


Kevin Nerney 5 years, 12 months ago

In addition to TWill's comments there are numerous other reasons for the failure of the girls program here at the local level. First and foremost is the inconsistency of the administration in hiring a qualified coach. I coached the girls varisty when my daughter was a senior at the High School. I was the fourth coach in four years. Despite having played the game for 35 years at the time I didn't know a thing about the girls game. So I got a rule book and a few video tapes and the team won their first game ever. After the season was over I was informed that the school was going to hire a woman as my replacement (which borders on sexual discrimination) but I let it go and that next season was the programs' last I believe. It's not that we don't have the athletes, since there is girls basketball and volleyball, and a few girl hockey players, we just don't have feeder program like the boys do. Boys are playing in the 5th and 6th grade, and I remember the Middle School Athletic Director (Bruce Winslow) I think it was who said "Lacrosse is not going to happen in this town". That was almost ten years ago when I first moved here.


greenwash 5 years, 12 months ago

FYI Lacrosse started in Colorado formally in 1966 .

Steamboat has a long way to go before it can play with the elite top tier teams from the front range .I would say they are in the middle as far as that goes.

Not enough girls are committed to play here in SBS . You need a Neil Redfern for girls to make it happen .

The other issue with growth and quality ....No indoor year round facility available .

How about baseball and soccer.....NOT


sodacreekpizza 5 years, 12 months ago

Greenwash, Steamboat teams are playing front range teams and winning.


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