Boom in the Big Easy: US Lacrosse Invests in New Orleans

This article appears in the Southwest version of the July/August edition. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Ray Davis never played lacrosse, but that hasn’t stopped the lifelong resident of New Orleans from serving as a catalyst in growing the game in his hometown.

Like many others, Davis’ first exposure to the sport was as a parent. Both of his sons began playing as middle school students at Christian Brothers School. Davis slowly got involved in learning the game and supporting the program. The fire was lit.

“I came to love the sport,” he said.

When his boys progressed to Brother Martin High School, Davis joined other parents in helping to launch a new program at the school. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a US Lacrosse equipment grant provided needed support. Davis remained active with the program at BMHS for a decade, including serving as the head coach for several years. 

His involvement didn’t stop there.

As more teams were established across the state, Davis again banded with other leaders to draft bylaws and create the Louisiana High School Lacrosse League. Formed in 2008, the LHSLL has now grown to 24 teams across four districts, with more members coming.

Before leaving Brother Martin in 2016, Davis also launched an annual tournament, dubbed Lax in the Park, to provide a season-ending championship event for local high school boys’ junior varsity squads.

“We wanted to have a final hoorah for these teams every year,” he said. “It grew into a big deal.”

While still active with Lax in the Park, a new challenge erupted in 2018, and Davis couldn’t say no. This time, his alma mater came calling.

Davis is a graduate of Archbishop Shaw, the only Catholic high school in greater New Orleans located on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Spurred by enrollment challenges in recent years, Davis knew it was time to once again leverage lacrosse.

“I told the school board that it was time to start a lacrosse program here,” he said. “It would help with both enrollment and retention. We wanted to attract youngsters that weren’t playing other sports. We targeted the students that weren’t involved in doing anything.”

Davis again turned to US Lacrosse, which had helped in launching the program at Brother Martin a decade earlier. This time, Davis submitted a First Stick Program application and received a grant to launch the boys’ team this year. 

“Without US Lacrosse, we couldn’t have done it,” he said. “The funding of equipment gave us the confidence that we could do this.”

Davis volunteered to serve as Shaw’s head coach. Practices began in February, and he started to reach out to his coaching contacts to schedule games.

“I just picked up the phone and called people,” he said. “I told them I need some games.”

With a first-year roster of 18 consistent participants, Archbishop Shaw played a limited schedule of six games in 2019.

“We were competitive in every game we played,” he said. “The boys picked up the skills very fast.  They caught on quickly.” 

Archbishop Shaw has been approved for LHSLL membership in 2020. A new all-grass field with stadium seating for 2,000 people serves as an attractive home venue. The school is also offering the facility to other area lacrosse teams as a game site.

Enthusiasm for the game continues to grow in town and on campus.

“Our boys are excited, and they have already committed to practicing all through the summer,” Davis said.

Davis realizes that there are additional challenges ahead, like expanding the roster and supporting the creation of feeder programs at local middle schools, but the foundation has been built. The growth of the game across the region is tangible, and Davis has been among the catalysts.

“The sport is exploding down here,” he said. “We just need people who are willing to volunteer their time.” 

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