Buffalo Youth Lacrosse (BYL) is a sports organization that has been steadily growing since its inception over a decade ago. Spearheaded by lacrosse coach/enthusiast Chris Mathias (lead image), BYL has been helping to encourage young people to take up the game as a way to get healthy, develop the social skills that come with team sports, and promote the game of lacrosse in Buffalo. There was a time when only a few Buffalo schools had access to lacrosse privileges, but the game has now become a popular sport in the region, thanks in part to the popularity of the Buffalo Bandits. Now Chris is ensuring that more young people have access to lacrosse, since he has seen the positive effect that the game has had on so many players.
“We are a city-based lacrosse program with kids from every town in WNY participating,” Chris explains. “We are all about learning the game and having fun. We allow kids to play regardless of ability to pay in full (financial aid is always available) – we want kids being active and participating in sports, without socio-economic barriers. We pride ourselves on our excellent coaching staff and value diversity – that is exemplified in our coaching ranks.”
Throughout the country, doors to sports that were once considered “elitist” are now being opened thanks to coaches and athletes that want to knock down barriers for those who might not have access to facilities or equipment. This year Chris made sure that the doors stayed open in Buffalo, by supporting youth lacrosse activities at Canalside and various other kid-friendly areas of the city. He also organizes a box lacrosse league at RiverWorks (see below), which has proved to be very successful. Chris has the game of lacrosse in his blood, and he’s on a mission to share his passion for the sport with as many people as possible.
As for the foundations of the organization, Chris shares, “BYL was started about 11 years ago when I walked on a snowy field in April with 22 kids and said what the heck have I done”? Now we are a powerhouse in the Summer Youth Lacrosse league. We have upwards of 300 boys and girls participating in year round programs – tournament teams too. It’s because I work closely with Buffalo Public schools – we have been asked to help develop the lacrosse program for public schools. We will be creating Modified, JV and Varsity programs that will compete with all the schools in WNY. BYL will attempt to fund as much of the BPS lacrosse program as it can, as school budgets are strained. Our goal is to provide academic support, recruiting support for those looking to play after high school, and help our Lax kids any way we can on and off the field. In order to retain and grow the lax program, it’s crucial that we gain additional support for the program. With financial support, I am hoping to get refugee children involved in lacrosse program through the International Institute, where I also work.”
As I have said, numerous times, it only takes one individual who is passionate about something to get the wheels turning in Buffalo. For years Chris has been beating the lacrosse drum in Buffalo, and now we are seeing those efforts paying off. Just as we have witnesses the sport of soccer flourish in recent years, so too will lacrosse make its mark, as more young kids get access to fields, sticks and equipment. But that’s only the start. Already Chris is looking at other sports programs in the city, that are also leveling the playing fields for young people to participate. Stay tuned to hear about more of these initiatives, that are following similar paths of BYL.