Texas Lacrosse Players Learn It's Never Too Early to Start Giving Back

This article appears in the May/June edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

When Courtney Flanagan took over the Texas Chapter of USA Lacrosse last year, she held true to one value at the core of  her engagement with the sport — service.

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you,” she said, citing a version of the anonymous quote that has become synonymous in teambuilding and management.

Flanagan prioritized giving young lacrosse players in Texas the opportunity to participate in community service and volunteer work. Last November, she started the Texas Junior Board Program, open to players age 14 through high school. The program offers USA Lacrosse members service hours for their time participating in various lacrosse camps, clinics and events.

When Flanagan started the program, she was looking for applicants who fit a specific mold. “Kids who are very confident players and really ambitious in their goals with their own lacrosse careers, but also excited to give back and help the next generation of players in the state,” she said.

Since the Junior Board Program’s opening, Flanagan has found 52 volunteers. They represent 22 different high school programs and all major regions of the state.

“A lot of these kids have service requirements,” Flanagan said. “We can help them earn those hours and at the same time have those hours contribute to developing lacrosse programs here.”

For Jack Kreter, a Junior Board member from Frisco, one of the most memorable opportunities was volunteering at a clinic led by the Thompson brothers. Branded as the Medicine Retreat, the clinic focused on technical skill development as well as teaching those who attend about the culture, history and origins of lacrosse. 

Kreter’s job was to sell T-shirts, in which all of the proceeds would go to the 4 the Future Foundation — a foundation started by the Thompson brothers with the goal of encouraging the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle while promoting a call for generational leadership. While Kreter enjoyed selling the tees, the most rewarding part of the experience was being able to watch the Thompson brothers engage with the youngsters.

“We got to see Lyle, Miles and their brothers teach all of the little kids,” Kreter said. “We got to see how professionals teach kids and learn from that.”

While community service and volunteerism are at the core of the Junior Board Program, there’s also a secondary focus on leadership and personal development. Kreter attended a lunch-and-learn opportunity with Charles McKinney, the founder and chairman of the Mark Cuban Heroes Center. “We learned about sports marketing, which is something I would like to major in at college,” he said.  

All of the opportunities offered through the Junior Board Program, however, have the same goal: teaching members how to be better leaders through service. Flanagan said the two qualities—leadership and service — are inextricably linked. “The gift of service learning is discovering the joy of impacting someone’s life in a positive way as a teacher or a leader,” she said. 

Lacrosse provides a pathway to participate in service learning.

“Using their passion for lacrosse is a way to tap into learning opportunities where they can access that gift of impacting people in a positive way,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan hopes the Junior Board members themselves will be as positively influenced by these experiences as the kids they teach.

“In service there is a greater gift … seeing your impact amplified across people who learn from you and seeing the value of your contributions amplified through other people,” she said. “Hopefully that’s what these kids will learn. It’s never too early to start giving back.”

Next up, the Junior Board members will volunteer at a USA Lacrosse TryLax clinic in June. TryLax is an introductory event for kids who have never played lacrosse before — a low-cost launch point for newcomers to experiment with the sport before deciding to register with their local league. 

Because of the generous support of the Junior Board members and their families, 100 boys and girls age 6-14 will experience the sport for free.  

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