Jim Scherr, former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, became the Federation of International Lacrosse’s first CEO in May. As he settled into the role, he oversaw the Women’s World Cup in Surrey, England, and women’s lacrosse’s debut at the International World Games in Poland. With experience keeping wrestling in the Olympics, he’s undertaking the goal of getting lacrosse back in.
The first thing I’m working on with the board is to take their strategic plan, which is a pretty good start, and create an operational business plan that helps the international federation do a number of things. I divide it into two parts: the first is to develop the federation and the sport internationally as much as possible. The second is to position the federation and the sport — which is something that’s both process-driven and politically-driven — to have lacrosse returned to the Olympic program.
With the FIL leadership, there’s a strong desire to continue to improve the product on the field of play and make the game more exciting. I think a number of things were brought up by the international folks [at the Women’s World Cup and subsequent International World Games in Poland] who’d had very limited exposure to lacrosse or were even seeing it for the first time. A bit of it was the speed of the game; it moves pretty quickly, but a shot clock was discussed. That’s been tried in the sport and something I think will be under consideration. Size of the pitch and the number of players on the pitch — the game went from 12 to 10 a side from the World Cup to the World Games, and I think that was well received. Length of the game, running clock, the draw and whether or not to restart after every goal — those were all factors that the international community brought up and I think lacrosse has already been looking at.
The process [of sports being included in the Olympic program] has changed and evolved at the IOC and will probably continue to evolve over the foreseeable future, and certainly over the next couple of years. They previously had a concept where they had core sports and then they had a bullpen of provisional sports, and the IOC itself would decide which sports would come on the program and which would go off. They’ve since changed that to the concept of 310 events, 10,500 athletes — not just limited to core sports.
Given that concept, they’ve allowed the organizing committee to conduct the process and select sports that are relevant to youth and popular in that country, and make sense for sport legacy and staging those sports in that city for the Olympic games. Tokyo was the first city that conducted that process and they selected twelve sports for inclusion in 2020 and they started in 2015, culminated in 2016. If you’re looking at that timeline for 2024, the games that’ll be held in Paris, then that’s 2020 — and that’s pretty quick given where we’re at today, but not ruling it out by any means. But L.A. in 2028 would be a much more realistic possibility. We’ll see that process evolve over time. But I’d think given the availability venues in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, the popularity of sport, collegiate and youth in L.A. and across young people in the U.S., gives the sport a strong argument in the U.S. market and I think makes it an ideal sport for inclusion in the 2028 program. But there are certainly a lot of steps between then and now.
The U.S. and Canada will certainly benefit from [lacrosse’s Olympic inclusion], but for the rest of the world, it’ll be a sea-level change. It turns three spigots on for national federations around the world. The first is from their national Olympic committees, which a lot of times is governmental funded and sometimes has their own funding sources as well that augments that. The second is development funds that are for elite athlete support through their national governments, whether it’s a sport ministry or governmental agency — lacrosse athletes would then have increased eligibility for those funds. And then third, whenever you come into the Olympic realm, and you’re looking to put together a team and gather funds — either commercially or through private donations — generally much more traction is gained when there’s an Olympic opportunity at the end of the run.
Contributed by IL