Telluride a Lacrosse Town in a Winter-Sports Haven

Telluride, a former mining town deep in the Rocky Mountains, has grown a lacrosse program despite conditions not normally synonymous with the game.

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Tucked deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at 8,750 feet lies a former mining town called Telluride. Known for its world-class skiing, bluegrass music and beautiful natural surroundings, the town is seen as a must stop for winter-sport aficionados and nature connoisseurs alike. U.S. News & World Report ranked Telluride No. 1 on its list of “Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA.”

With just under 3,000 residents and an average of 300 inches of snowfall annually, the conditions aren’t synonymous for growing lacrosse. And with the town located more than six hours from Denver, numerous logistical challenges exist for traveling to games and developing the sport far away from the biggest leagues in the state.

But that hasn’t deterred Telluride Lacrosse from fostering a passionate community of its own.

The Telluride Youth Lacrosse Association (TYLA) is a non-profit organization providing the opportunity for boys and girls of all levels of ability to experience instructional and competitive lacrosse in a safe and fun environment while promoting key values of the sport. Founded in 2004 by East Coast transplants in a small ski town with young athletes and no lacrosse to play, this community-based US Lacrosse-member association has been leveraging US Lacrosse programs and initiatives since its inception to attract new athletes to the sport and grow the game.

Telluridians welcomed lacrosse with open arms. It was the perfect spring sport for the town’s “rugged, mountain athletes,” TYLA boys’ lacrosse coordinator Marc Silbergeld said.

In the early stages, they used hockey helmets and hand-me-down sticks.

In 2014, the TYLA was awarded a US Lacrosse First Stick Program grant so it could provide access to the sport.

“In our town, there isn’t a sports equipment store athletes can go and pick up lacrosse equipment at — the closest is a few hours away,” Silbergeld said. “The First Stick grant really helped us take our program and the sport to an entirely different level by making this equipment available. Our trajectory has been up ever since.”

TYLA has also made it a priority to instill the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model and leverage US Lacrosse resources like the Mobile Coach app to ensure its athletes are learning the proper skills and rules at the appropriate age levels.

“Prior to joining TYLA, I had never coached a lacrosse team, so I’m a regular user of the videos on the coaching app and the rule book,” girls’ lacrosse coordinator Lindsey Welch said. “We are constantly introducing new kids to the game at a variety of age groups. These resources have helped us to properly structure practices and provide technical instruction, helping our athletes to properly grow at their respective age groups.”

Silbergeld can see the benefits of US Lacrosse on the field.

“These tools have helped us build a sound structure and technique to our program,” he said.

Telluride High School now offers varsity boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams. There’s also a club program in the area, with 170 boys and girls grades K-8 competing.

Beside this surge in participation, TYLA-fed programs have started to become a force to be reckoned with statewide. Just last year, the Telluride boys’ varsity team qualified for the CHSAA playoffs for the first time ever.

The TYLA isn’t slowing down, either. Organizers are researching opportunities for another First Stick grant for its girls’ lacrosse program and are interested in hosting a US Lacrosse TryLax clinic to continue opening opportunities for new athletes to try the sport.

Because these rugged, mountain athletes might just represent the future of lacrosse.

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