A: We're non-profit, so it's a challenge. We need resources to fuel our mission. We need to generate a lot more dollars from philanthropic sources than we currently do. Of our $15 million annual budget, more than $10 million comes from membership, and about $1.25 million from philanthropic support. So we've got a lot of room to grow, in that regard.

Q: At many levels for different sports, they have trouble finding officials. What is the state of officiating in lacrosse, and what are you doing to get new referees interested?

A: Volume is an issue. It's not an urgent crisis, but a very important need. There aren't enough officials to meet the demand, and those who are out there in the high-growth areas don't always have the experience to step out on the field and officiate a high school game, where 16- and 17-year-olds are running into each other.

We try to reach out to intercollegiate players, most of whom don't play after their college years. Officiating is an opportunity for them to stay involved in the game. And we've worked with Referee magazine to appeal to officials in other sports to make the crossover to lacrosse. We've had some good success with basketball referees because of similarities between the sports.

It's all about making officials aware that lacrosse is growing in their region, and that there are valuable educational resources available to make it as easy as possible for them to give refereeing a try.

Q: Every time a lacrosse player does something wrong off the field, it's magnified 150 times because of incidents over the years. What have you done to change the perception that lacrosse is just a sport for spoiled rich kids?

A: Every perception is based in reality. Is there a strong tradition of lacrosse at private schools? Certainly. Because a lot of private schools are expensive to attend, is there an association with a certain economic strata? Absolutely. There's fuel to perpetuate that stereotype. But kids of every socio-economic strata make catastrophic mistakes every day.

New York has more high school lacrosse programs than any state, and they are 95 percent public schools. But you don't hear that when a kid makes a dumb mistake in lacrosse — you look for the kid of private school breeding and upper economic status. It's unfair, but it's life.

The real key [to changing that perception] is growth. We want to grow this game and diversify it so that every kid of every race and ethnicity in every zip code has an opportunity to play. Will that remove the catastrophic consequences associated with people in our sport? Absolutely not. Things will happen and kids will make horrible mistakes in judgment, whether it's having a party and deciding to call up some strippers, or a kid who evidently had serious mental illness issues that allegedly resulted in a death. Are these endemic to lacrosse? No. That's the nature of life, sadly.

Q: What special events are planned for the convention, and why should people attend?

A: For kids, Fan Fest is a cool launch of the lacrosse season. There's a huge trade show with all of the latest gear and gadgetry that the sport has to offer. And both the women's national team and the Chesapeake Bayhawks, of Major League Lacrosse, will scrimmage, conduct exhibitions and sign autographs.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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