From Hobby to Business: The Journey of a Passion Gone Wild.

ArchLevel Lacrosse is a product of opportunity; opportunity, to create an experience. Prior to coming over to the UK in May of 2009, I had already made contact with some local players in the South of England thanks to that good ol’ Google site (I think they’re really on to something with the whole “internet” thing). I originally came to the UK due to being stationed here with the US Air Force, so as with every assignment I had up to that point, the first thing I did was search out opportunities to get involved with some lacrosse in the local area.

The early days of coaching at the University of Essex
The annual committee camping retreat was one of the first traditions we started at the University of Essex. Building more than a team…building a program.

I was quickly put in contact with a few students down at the University of Essex that were interested in starting up a team (thanks to Steve McDermott; then of the ELA), and found myself starting up a program within just a few months of arriving in country. It was my first taste of lacrosse in England, and looking back on it now, they were some of the best experiences I’ve ever had in the sport. They were also some of the most eye opening and “learning curved” experiences I have had in regards to the differences within the sport between the US, where I grew up playing, and the UK.

Our first Fresher’s Fair taster session at UoE. Such an exciting time!
Board sessions were a common training tool that we as coaches were use to, and used at Essex. We now know that this is a foreign concept for most teams that we visit.

Certain issues started to present themselves in very apparent ways throughout the process of developing the University of Essex lacrosse program back then. Things like limited pitch availability for practices, lack of officials for games, and the glorious English weather that caused more game cancellations that year than not, were all hurdles that needed to be combated along the way. Unaware at the time though, lots of other Universities throughout the country were experiencing the same issues that we were, along with, the even greater challenge of not having any sort of formal coaching whatsoever. This was soon discovered when I accepted the head coaching role for the South England Universities Lacrosse team (men’s).

The very first South England Universities training camp at RAF Lakenheath.

During my first season with the South Universities squad, I was able to coach, and have direct interaction with, multiple players from a wide range of backgrounds and different University teams from all over England and Wales. During this time, I listened to their stories of struggles with productive training sessions, inconsistencies within their individual and team development schemes, and most importantly…the lack of formal coaching from the majority of the players throughout their careers up to that point. This was not only a very surprising discovery, but even more so, an idea provoking one.

South England Universities 2010

After the British National Championships of 2010 (the first BNCs that I attended with the South Universities team), I, along with my coaching “partner in crime” Jesse Sheldon (fellow Air Force transplant and defensive coordinator with me for both Essex University and the South Universities teams), started offering free clinics to University teams around the south of England when we had free time over the weekends. We wanted to share the success and experience that we had gained off of the back of the South Universities journey over the past months with as many teams as we could be involved with (the South Universities team of 2010 involved 3 exhibition games, a full 2 day NCAA style training camp, competition in the Essex Spring tournament, and a win over the Welsh National team at the BNCs as highlights; an unprecedented level of win for that team still to date). Fast forward a couple of months, and not having a single weekend “off” due to traveling all over the country giving free clinics, and the idea that this could turn into something more “real” started brewing. So with all of that success, and the stories and experiences that we had shared with teams and players all through the UK to fuel the idea, the white boards were purchased, the business models were experimented with, and ArchLevel Lacrosse was eventually born. “If we only knew then…what we know now”.

A clinic a Kent University back in the early days.
Breaking into the women’s camps scene.

Since those early days of inception, we’ve gone through multiple models, launched and re-launched numerous projects, and have experienced success and failure on many levels. The first year of developing the sport under the ArchLevel banner saw us deliver camps and clinics within Universities and junior programs,  and even bring one of the sport’s most elite players over from the US to host a 2 week tour through England; STX’s pro athlete Kyle Harrison. It wasn’t all smiles and sunshine though as some of you that have been with us from the start will know. We discovered very quickly that “we weren’t in Kansas anymore”, and that some of the ideas and concepts that we were coming up with and attempting to launch were not the most welcomed/understood of programs for this region. Our ALLPro tours saw trouble when we found that these “elite players” from the US weren’t even known most of the time over here (the Brett Hughes, Johnny Christmas, and Kristen Kjellman tours feel flat due to assuming that the “names would sell themselves”. This was NOT the case unfortunately). Our summer league in 2011, which was intended to be an addition to the annual schedule, fell short in large part to lacrosse being a “winter” sport here in the UK primarily and the labor pains of change were to just too great at the time. Those “flops”, along with an overwhelming urge on my part to basically “launch” every idea that crept up into that brain of mine, made for quite a rollercoaster of success and failure “ebb and flow” for us.

STX’s Pro Kyle Harrison at one of our junior ALLPro camps in Manchester.

With every “failure” however…we learned and adapted. We learned a couple of key concepts that are now the corner stones to all of our developing when it comes to programs. 1. We can’t, and shouldn’t, “do everything”. We founded ArchLevel on the concept of “developing the game by creating the experience”, and that experience wasn’t created by trying to be providers of every new and exciting product that came onto the market, or, hosting 10 contests a day on Facebook. We were about the development of the sport…and that’s what we needed to stick too. 2. A tested product…is a successful product. We quickly got passed the idea that we knew everything, and that everything we did was going to be successful right away, so we started testing our programs within the community and the teams that we had direct access to before launching them as a genuine program for the UK lacrosse community as a whole. This gave us a better understanding of the wants and needs of the community, and helped us work FOR them, instead of against them. Those concepts, along with a stripped down version of our business model, started to form a much cleaner, simpler, and more understandable direction for what ArchLevel Lacrosse was going to be about.

As we approach our two year anniversary of “doing business” in June of this year, and the end of the third year of being involved with the UK lacrosse community as individuals, we find ourselves with a much more “user friendly” direction for what we are about and where we are going. We now concentrate on four main programs; Junior Camps and Clinics, Adult Clinics and University Programs, Travel Teams, and our much anticipated ArchLevel Coaching Development Courses and Certifications; which we’re gearing up to launch this summer in a development partnership with LaxLessons.com. With highlights such as our junior summer camps that will feature some of Team England’s very own players as coaches, and our partnership with the European Lacrosse Championships in Amsterdam in June that will see us bring over the one and only Mike Powell for free development sessions and meet and greets (among other surprises), 2012 is starting to settle into a very exciting year.

Developing the little ones!
Our Obsession. Your Progression.

From the beginning, I came over to the UK as a military man, not knowing what to expect or what the future held for me and the sport. As I sit here now, officially separated from the US Air Force as of no more than 48 hours ago, with plans to run ArchLevel as a full time gig, I can’t help but think of the wonderful community that has made this all possible. The UK and European lacrosse communities are filled with some of the most driven and inspiring people that I have ever met within the game. It’s not about ESPN highlights, Major League contracts, or major corporate endorsement deals over here. It’s simply about the game. And being involved with something like that is an incredibly humbling and genuine thing to be a part of. From the days of it just being me and some friends running around teaching the game to whoever would listen to us, to now having a complete staff and an ever growing pool of remarkable coaches, the desire to give back to the game that has given us so much will always be our guiding light. We thank you all for the past, and welcome with open arms the future that is in front of us. We Obsess…so that You Progress. We are ArchLevel Lacrosse.

Vince Grimes

Founder and Director

ArchLevel Lacrosse Ltd.

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