JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Most people around the city know Brandon Allen as the man who runs the youth sports programs involving 8,000 boys and girls out of Newtown Recreation, but he has a special reputation when it comes to lacrosse.
In addition to lacrosse, Newtown Recreation manages the programs for soccer, baseball, flag football, tennis and basketball. But its most phenomenal success has been the growth of lacrosse in Johns Creek.
That reputation was cemented Jan. 27 when the Georgia Chapter – U.S. Lacrosse made Allen the 2013 Program Administrator of the Year at its Lacrosse Foundation Awards Dinner.
In the spring of 2003, thoughts of such an award were quite far off. Allen was able to field in its inaugural season only four coed lacrosse teams with players ages 7 to 9. They had to be coed teams or they would not have had enough players on the teams.
Today, Newtown oversees the largest league in the state.
“It was awarded to me, but it is truly an award for our program and our staff recognizing the good work that we do,” Allen said. “It’s one thing to say we have the largest league in Georgia. But we take more pride in the fact that we’re retaining the kids and keeping them interested as well growing the program with new kids.”
What is important is to instill that love of the game and the importance of sportsmanship.
“We have watched kids come up through the program, and now they’re playing in college,” he said. “This past fall, we had 117 teams. It’s exploded.”
Teams start at 5 years old to 18 years, and have about equal participation by boys and girls playing a spring and fall season.
Why the surge in popularity? Allen says he thinks it is a combination of things. First, it is a faster-paced game. There is not any “standing around” like in baseball. It’s also a high-scoring game, unlike soccer.
“When you’re popping scores from 17 to 20 points, that’s exciting, he said. “Girls don’t have a football option, and here’s a chance to play a physical game that uses your hands as well as your feet. So it is a great alternative for the girls who like a lot of action.”
A lot of the interest in the sport he attributes to many Northeastern families who have moved to Johns Creek and had a background in lacrosse where they grew up.
“And we are fortunate to live in an area where we have young, active families. Even moms and dads who don’t know the sport, want to just pick up a stick and learn themselves,” Allen said.
And once kids see the game played, they get the itch also.
“It’s as much putting on the pads and the uniform for the little ones. They’re just starting out, and dressing up and looking like a little super hero is as much excitement as playing,” he said.
Then it is up to Allen and his staff to keep them playing. The numbers tell the story.