Following another successful installment of the Lake Placid Summit Classic, event co-founder and now Principal & Strategic Advisor, George Leveille recently took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax on a variety of lacrosse related topics.
From its beginnings in 1990 with seven participating teams, the Lake Placid Summit Classic has grown into one of the largest, and most beloved tournaments in the country. What makes the Lake Placid Summit Classic (LPSC) a favorite of lacrosse players, families, and fans?
GL: There are a combination of factors that have contributed to the event’s popularity; first and foremost, it’s the people and the relationships that so many lacrosse players and their families have with one another; when the event morphed into a family event by the late 90’s, the event was here to stay; secondly, the location, Lake Placid, speaks for itself with natural beauty and a variety of outdoor activities that support family participation and many of our participants have developed their own personal relationship with Lake Placid and the Adirondacks.
What were the biggest challenges you had to face as the LPSC grew over the years?
GL: The biggest challenge has been trying to manage the impact that a large event like ours has on a small community like Lake Placid and its neighboring communities; whenever you bring crowds of this size to a small market there will naturally be conflicts with local residents and unfortunately, there are always a few bad apples in the group. We have been proactive in promoting respect and appropriate behavior among our participants including the establishment of the Summit Lacrosse Society which promotes camaraderie, competition and respect as the three pillars of our Lake Placid events. The vast majority of our guests are responsible and welcome visitors to the area. While the event was in its formative years, fields were a major challenge but the community, especially the Town of North Elba and the Lake Placid Central School District stepped up and have provided us with a magnificent group of fields all located within a short distance of each other.
With the growth of the LPSC and the addition of other Summit Lacrosse Ventures events, how has your role with the event and organization changed over the years?
GL: When Mike DeRossi and I began the event and for its first 25 years, I was gainfully employed outside of lacrosse. I spent a lot of long nights and weekends managing the event with the assistance of an amazing group of independent contractors, many of whom are still with us today. I was fortunate enough to be able to retire from my career in the mid-2000’s and recognized the opportunity and potential to grow the business. I reconnected with Ashley Gersuk, an Albany Academy grad who went on to be a 4 year captain at Northwestern, culminating in a national championship her senior year. Ashley was operating a lacrosse camp business in the Midwest and we decided in 2012 to develop an invitational girls lacrosse camp at Northwood School in Lake Placid, the Northstar Invitational. I was very impressed with Ashley’s capability and I saw her potential to effectively lead a combined organization. In 2015, we formally launched Summit Lacrosse Ventures, LLC and combined our businesses, and we now operate more than 12 events nationwide. With Ashley and my son Kevin, who joined us full-time as our Brand Manager in 2016, leading the day to day affairs of the company, I am now more focused on strategic planning and community relations.
Lacrosse organizations, coaches, and players now have many tournament options to choose from. What factors should lacrosse consumers consider when selecting a tournament to participate in?
GL: To us, it has always been about the value proposition, which can be measured in different ways. It is not inexpensive to attend mature events in major destinations for obvious reasons and we understand that so it is our goal to provide an experience where the vast majority of the participants come away with a sense that costs and benefits were more than reasonable. Specific factors that should be considered, among other things, are: the quality of the playing fields, officials, athletic training and field staff managing the competition; the timing and frequency of games; the level of competitiveness; the availability and cost of accommodations and off-field services; the competency of the event in managing inclement weather and other emergency situations; and; the ability of the organizer to effectively communicate and provide timely information.
Tell us a little about your involvement with US Lacrosse over the years, and what you see the role of the organization to be.
GL: I am a believer in the national governing body model and have been a supporter of US Lacrosse since it’s early days as the Lacrosse Foundation. I have participated in the Adirondack Chapter of US Lacrosse over the years and served on the Board of US Lacrosse a few years back. US Lacrosse and the Chapter should be there to support the responsible growth of the sport and to provide best practices, consistent rules of participation, training and innovation in taking the game forward and adapting to influences that can change the game for the better.
As a parent of two former elite Division I lacrosse players (Kevin at UMass, and Mike at Syracuse), what are your thoughts on the recent revision to NCCA rules which now prohibits any contact between prospective student athletes (PSAs), or relatives/guardians, and college coaches until September 1st of the athlete’s Junior Year in High School?
GL: This was a refreshing moment to see both the men’s and women’s college coach associations recommending the recruiting changes adopted earlier this year. Early recruiting was pushing the sport in the wrong direction and frankly, helping to thwart growth and participation. Youth lacrosse (up to 8th grade) should be all about fun and participation. As a student athlete enters high school, they can make a decision about how seriously they want to pursue a college careerand they have two solid years to show their potential. I believe this will lead to increased numbers of youth players (no need to cut 5th graders any more) as well as better trained and prepared student athletes. We encourage student athletes and their families to take control of the process by focusing on the educational aspects of the journey and by promoting understanding the realities of scholarships, which is that there are very limited scholarship dollars available.
Tell us about your involvement with the CityLax program, and the effort to launch CityLax Albany.
GL: I am happy to be involved with the CityLax initiative which began in more than 10 years ago in New York City. CityLax has been supporting more than 50 NYC public school lacrosse programs and has achieved extraordinary success in improving graduation rates in NYC; in fact, 434 of the 437 (@99%) high school lacrosse players eligible to graduate in 2017 did so compared to a district wide graduation rate of 70%. In Albany, the graduation rate is below 60% so there is a clear opportunity through the district’s lacrosse program to raise the bar. That’s the essence of the program, utilizing a student athlete’s interest in the sport to help them succeed in school and in overcoming the real-life obstacles many inner-city residents face every day. Through a great partnership with the City of Albany, the City School District of Albany, the Albany Police Athletic League, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, US Lacrosse (and the ADK Chapter), and a core group of dedicated volunteers, we are now poised to launch CityLax NYS Albany to assist in making the sport more accessible to communities throughout the Capital Region. The Albany Region is the first “Communities Program” undertaken by US Lacrosse and is being developed as a model for other communities to follow. Scott Marr at UAlbany and many other area coaches are actively supporting this effort and the more individuals and organizations that get involved, the better the prospects for using the sport to change the life trajectory for area boys and girls that face daily challenges to a successful life.
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