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Greater Cleveland Lacrosse LLC started in 1999 when lacrosse in Northeast Ohio was still in its infancy. David Blue (then Head Coach at Hudson High School), Craig Gallagher (then Head Coach at Shaker Heights High School), and Bill Robinson (long-time lacrosse enthusiast), established the company with the simple mission of “Promoting America’s first sport in Northeastern Ohio”.
Summer League (1999-currently)
With the establishment of the Greater Cleveland High School Lacrosse League (GCHSLL) in the spring of 1999, the sport started to get more organized, and the level of play needed to be increased. Seeing a need to move from the free-standing summer programs of pickup games on the east side or west side of Cleveland, a more formalized model was needed to develop the high school and college age players back for the summer. The GCL Summer League first played in 1999 at the fields in Hudson behind historic Lavelli Stadium. Two days a week for four weeks in late June and early July saw over 80 players show up and participate in the first summer. Local coaches from Hudson, Shaker Heights, Hawken School, Mentor, Walsh Jesuit, and Kent Roosevelt came together to help assist and manage the program. Under the guidance and leadership of Blue, Gallagher, and Robinson, the Summer League became a rousing success. By the following summer, the program expanded to established teams and over 100 players participated in the program. Adding more fields and more players required an expanded presence in 2001. A split high school and college division were added and soon, players from all over Northeast Ohio came to Hudson on Tuesday evenings to play the game they loved. By 2003, the Summer League had blossomed to over 200 players and a Middle School and Girls/Women’s division were added to expand to different age and gender groups. Over the years, the numbers of players have grown, shrunk, re-grown, and changed to accommodate the ever-changing nature of the sport. One thing has stayed the same, the passion and love of the game that started off the summer of 1999 is still being shown as we prepare for Summer League XX in June of 2018.
Indoor League (2000-currently)
With the success of Summer League building for the players during the summer months, the need for off-season development in the winter soon became evident. In the Winter of 2000, the first Indoor League at the Cleveland Metroplex took place. High School players were split up into four teams and played each other for the Indoor League championship. As year two started up, the need for more hours and teams increased. Two more teams were added to the high school league and thought in establishing a middle school division was put together. By the winter of 2003, an 8-team high school league and a middle school division had been established. The growth of the sport demanded more playing time, so in 2004, the shift from Warrensville Heights to the NC Soccer Club in Hudson became necessary. The high school division now expanded to 12 teams, the middle school division had 4 teams, and a new high school girls division was added. More coaches were seeing the trend towards off season work with their players and wanted to get their programs represented. At the pinnacle of the indoor program, 18 high school boys teams, 6 middle school boys teams, 12 high school girl’s teams, and an open session for men to play box lacrosse were part of the indoor program. After the 2012 winter season, a switch from indoor field lacrosse with boards in play to a more official box style of play, complete with padded goalies, cross-checking, and moving picks began to increase the level of expertise of the players. Currently, the Winter Box League for the boys and the Indoor League for the girls are the most competitive programs in the area.
Spring Shootout (2000-2011)
As part of the development of the high school lacrosse program, the Annual Spring Shootout at Kent State University’s Field House became a mid-March tradition for high school teams to participate in. On the 3rdSaturday in March, boy’s teams from Hudson, Walsh Jesuit, Wooster, Kent Roosevelt, Shaker Heights, Hoover, Jackson, Medina, St. Ignatius, Mentor, and invited outside the area teams from North Allegheny (PA) and Brother Rice (MI) participated in 2-3 scrimmages per school to prepare for their seasons. The Shootout developed into one of the more competitive preview days around because of the ability to play quality programs in a controlled indoor environment. As the event grew, the Shootout picked up a charitable aspect of it as well. In 2007, The Wounded Warrior Project became a recipient of proceeds from the event. The grass roots efforts of spectators donating $5 at the door to view the teams playing was able to give the WWP a donation of over a $1000.00 each spring. The last Shootout in 2011 was the most memorable due to the head to head battle between Hudson and Medina high schools. The two teams battled it out in the Shootout in early March and then went head to head in the playoffs at the end of the season in the OHSLA Semi-finals. With venue management changes, the growth of the sport, and coaching changes, the 2011 Shootout would be the last of the 12-year event.
All-Stars, Select Teams, and the Blue Demons (1999-2013)
In the fall of 1999, John Madden of Wooster High School and David Blue of Hudson High School were approached by Warrior Lacrosse to bring a select group of players from Northeast Ohio to Michigan to participate in an event against other Midwest area programs. Players from Wooster, Hudson, Shaker Heights, and Western Reserve Academy attended the event, and played in a 7 on 7 tournament. Building off the success of the travel team experience, the GCL All-Stars traveled to Notre Dame the following two seasons, and thus created a brand of lacrosse for quality players to showcase their abilities. By 2003, the GCL Select Teams focused on the Fall Ball event in Baltimore, Maryland and the MVP Tournament in New Jersey. These events became crucial proving grounds for players from Cleveland to showcase their skills against the best the East Coast teams could offer. College coaches soon came searching for players from Northeast Ohio. In the Fall of 2006, the GCL teams traveled to the Turkeyshoot in Ithaca, New York to prove themselves against the best from Upstate New York, the Native American teams, and Canadian squads from Ontario. In an effort to give a more comprehensive recruiting experience, the GCL Blue Demons took to the field in the summer of 2007 and competed in the Summer Sizzle Tournament in Baltimore. By 2010, four teams (transported in 2 charter buses), were representing the Northeast Ohio area, and proved to the college recruiters that they needed to start pursuing talent from the area. In the summer of 2013, travel teams from Greater Cleveland Lacrosse participated in events in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Maryland.