River City Lacrosse Lets Kids Represent Towns in Chicago Suburbs

This article appears in the May/June edition part of a series on community-based lacrosse leagues that are thriving despite the growing trend toward privatization in youth sports. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription.

The River City region in the Chicago suburbs is not a burgeoning lacrosse giant. Not yet, at least.

But it’s where Mike Black learned the game at a young age — and where he and others are hoping to continue the upward trajectory of the sport in Illinois. 

Black, the St. Charles native, is doing his part to kickstart the process and give children an opportunity to play lacrosse without having to sacrifice significant time or money. He founded River City Lacrosse, a community lacrosse organization encompassing his hometown in addition to Batavia and Geneva, in 2009.

River City Lacrosse started with 150 kids in the Tri-City area of Illinois and has seen steady growth since, now featuring nearly 300 kids across multiple age groups. It’s a program that Black, a former Minnesota State club player, is happy to lead.

“I always wanted to make sure that my hometown had a good program in place,” he said. “When I started River City, I knew I just wanted to stay in our community. I saw immediately the benefits of kids playing in their communities and representing their towns, but also getting to know each other and playing with each other as future high school teammates.”

That’s what the program is all about to Black. He developed friendships through the game of lacrosse and with River City, and he hopes to foster those same relationships for children in the area.

“We just wanted to introduce the sport and get kids playing together at an early age with their future high school teammates,” he said.

Black grew up a hockey player, but saw lacrosse on a team trip to New York. He and his friends pleaded with their parents to find a way to play lacrosse in the Tri-City area. Lacrosse America offered a camp for Black and his friends to learn about the game.

From that point on, it was a lifetime passion. He later worked for Lacrosse America after college, before deciding to create his own community lacrosse organization.

Now 10 years later, River City is in the midst of another spring season, which runs through early June. The organization operates lacrosse programming throughout the year and offers more competitive Blue and Grey 10U teams.

Black credited the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model and US Lacrosse’s TryLax clinics for helping his program spark interest in children around St. Charles. 

The job is not done, but Black and River City has given children an accessible outlet for lacrosse in the Chicago suburbs.

“Our goal is to keep growing the culture and the sport and keeping it a primary sport for kids in the area,” he said. “If we do that, educating the kids and the parents, lacrosse will take a stronger foothold in the area.”

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