Toronto fans may have acted unimpressed, but even they would have to admit to the unmitigated beauty, and ridiculousness, of Miles Thompson’s no-look goal in which he whipped the ball behind his back and past a stunned goaltender.
Thompson plays indoor lacrosse for the Georgia Swarm, a National Lacrosse League franchise that moved from St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Atlanta area before the start of last season. Luckily for Swarm fans, not all of their team’s impossibly incredible goals last season were scored on the road.
The Swarm’s Joel White dodged, darted, sprinted and plowed his way through seemingly the entire New England roster to score an end-to-end shorthanded goal that also cracked ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day.
While the Swarm were regulars on the highlight reels, the Saskatchewan Rush, another NLL franchise, have made it a habit of hoisting trophies. After relocating from Edmonton before the start of the season, the Rush won their second straight league title with a three-game sweep of the Buffalo Bandits.
The Rush may own league bragging rights, but it was the Swarm who reached the top in rankings of the best lacrosse sites on the SportsEngine platform. We graded more than a dozen of the top lacrosse sites on the platform, assigning points in categories such as Design, Navigation, Content, Schedules and Results, History, Photos, Videos and more. We also assigned points to sites that made the best use of the Sport Ngin platform, incorporating League, Registration, Dibs, Verify and other products. For the first time, we also assigned 10 bonus points to mobile responsive sites.
Pro franchises, with their multitude of resources, understandably set the standard in our rankings. Club and youth sites also made strong impressions, and Minneapolis Lacrosse, New Jersey-based Blue Star Lacrosse and Charlotte-based StickWithUs.org rounded out our top five. All three combined outstanding design with an incredible depth of content.
Location: Duluth, Georgia
Webmaster: Matt Ritzer, Alec Schimke
The Swarm, a National Lacrosse League franchise, relocated from Minnesota to Georgia before the 2016 season. They play in The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia, about 25 minutes northeast of Atlanta. One of nine NLL teams, the Swarm went 8-10 last season and reached the playoffs, losing in the East Division semifinals to New England.
Simple, clean, elegant – there’s no shortage of adjectives available to describe the Swarm’s gorgeous design. The site’s home page benefits immensely from a variety of custom graphics, but all of the design elements work together well in what is a clear hierarchy. There's an abundance of content, including a
seemingly unending supply of team news.
The top navigation benefits from easy-to-understand labels and just the right amount of white space between categories. The aforementioned graphics, which serve as call-outs to special promotions and other high-priority content, are sprinkled deftly throughout the home page.
A simple click or flyover of Team in the top navigation and then Team History in the sub navigation brings viewers to a page filled with tables showing the franchise’s year-by-year results dating to the 2015 season. The 2017 schedule is easy to find as are the opportunities to buy tickets.
Sitebuilder, Registration. The Swarm use a popup splash page to showcase their Ultimate Fan Experience promotion. While the news slideshow and footer are among the custom designed page elements, much of the design is of the standard, off-the-shelf variety.
The Swarm roster includes brothers Miles, Jerome and Lyle Thompson. Miles, 25, was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NLL Draft after he tied an NCAA Division I record for most goals in a season with 82. Lyle was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NLL draft and was named to the league’s All-Rookie team this year after scoring 27 goals and adding 33 assists in 18 regular season games. A fourth brother, Jeremy, stars for the Saskatchewan Rush.
The Lax 101 page in the Fans section offers 10 lacrosse “facts” in a fun photo gallery format. There’s also a 93-second promotional video that includes quick-hitting comments from players and fans as well as game highlights.
Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Webmaster: Brittni Lewis
Like the Swarm, the Rush is one of nine National Lacrosse League franchises. The Rush moved from Edmonton to Saskatoon in the summer of 2015, and they won their second consecutive league title in June. The Rush, who play in the SaskTel Centre, averaged 11,737 fans per home game last season, third most in the league. The Swarm has posted a combined 51-19 record over the past four regular seasons.
All the custom graphics look great, and they are used deftly to drive viewers into key content within the site. The Rush have struck an excellent mix of photos, videos, social media widgets and advertising on their home page without making all that content overwhelming. There is some unexpected deep inside the site, too, such as the Rush DJ page that provides the play lists (DJ Anchor of Armed With
Harmony plays everything from AC/DC
to Zombie Nation) from every home game.
The top navigation has 10 categories, a few more than we usually advocate, but with so much content within the site, such hefty navigation string is understandable. Plus, we like the way they are labeled – simple, clear and easy to understand. The oversized graphics/photos on the home page are a great way to drive viewers into key content.
The 2017 schedule gets one of those prime top navigation placements. The rest of the statistical data is found through links to the NLL site’s database.
Advertising, Registration, Sitebuilder. Like their NLL rival the Swarm, the Rush use splash pages to highlight current promotions. In this case, that is the sale of 2017 season ticket memberships. Unlike the Swarm, the Rush site has very little customization on what is a standard responsive theme.
The Ownership page offers some insight into the history of the franchise and its move from Edmonton to Saskatoon. Coaches and front office pages are filled with basic information, and several appear to be works in progress.
The Rush used the first overall pick in the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft in September to select Ryan Keenan of Quinnipiac. In an unusual twist, Keenan happens to be the son of Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan.
The back story for Rush mascot Bruiser the Bulldog (Bruiser previously worked at a uranium mine), is told on the Rush Mascot page, which also includes photos of Bruiser riding his decked out four-wheeler and hamming it up with fans.
Location: Princeton, Basking Ridge and Moorestown, New Jersey
Webmaster: Bryan Hopper
Blue Star Lacrosse, based in the north central New Jersey towns of Princeton, Basking Ridge and Moorestown, offers camps, clinics, box lacrosse and travel all-star teams. Among its directors are MV Whitlow, who has amassed 16 state championships as a coach and player. Among Whitlow’s coaching stops was a stint with the New Jersey Pride of Major League Lacrosse.
We were so impressed with the design of the Blue Star site we used it as an example in a Pro Tips article explaining how to swap out banners and backgrounds for specific pages in Sitebuilder. We also featured the combo work of Bryan Hopper (content) and Mary Merlo (design) in a Webmaster of the Week article that highlighted Call to Action page elements and the site’s
college commitments page.
We like that there are a comfortable seven links in the top navigation and, better yet, none of them are duplicated in the Call to Action graphics placed high on the home page. Landing pages, such as the Leagues page, make good use of the Call to Action page element to help direct viewers to the section of their choice (Fall League, Camps, Tesimonials, Recruiting). Those page elements, it should be noted, look
and work great in a mobile environment.
Fall tournament schedules are posted for multiple teams.
Registration, Sitebuilder. Hopper uses the full array of time-saving SportsEngine tools, most notably the code element for everything from social media call-outs to scrolling text. He mirrored the layout container for his custom-made footer and placed it throughout the site.
Hopper is a member of Team Israel National Lacrosse and helped Israel to a fourth place finish in the most recent World Indoor Championships.
The Why Play Box? Page lists, “Five reasons you need to play box lacrosse!” No. 1 on the list is Ohh, Canada, an ode to the country that has developed outstanding field players through its outstanding box lacrosse programs.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Webmaster: Rob Bedeaux
As written in the welcome message on its home page, Minneapolis lacrosse serves boys and girls in kindergarten through the 12th grade – about 300 athletes in all. Minneapolis Youth Lacrosse and both the Minneapolis Public Schools High School boys’ and girls’ lacrosse programs are hosted on the website.
Minneapolis lacrosse boasts the winning trifecta of outstanding design, a healthy supply and variety of content and smart, simple navigation. There’s also a strong social media presence and nice sprinkling of photos and videos throughout the site. Multiple backgrounds are used for different sections, with pint-sized youngsters showcased in the youth portions.
Four Call to Action page elements high on the home page serve as a sub-navigation of sorts, directing viewers to the boys and girls youth and high school portions of the site. The top navigation is limited to a reasonable six categories other than the Home link. Most landing pages include a variety of links to related content within that section.
Team pages are filled out with content (schedules, rosters, results, coach info) for all of the boys’ and girls’ age levels. A home page scoreboard shows upcoming games and the most recent results.
Dibs, Sitebuilder, Registration. Concession stand sign ups is among the most recent volunteer sessions managed through the Dibs system. Templates have been created for news articles, general pages, email messages and team pages, helping give most of that content a standardized look.
The landing page for the Pride section includes a story that details the origins of Minneapolis lacrosse and some of the key founding fathers. There’s also a vintage photo of a youth team from a tournament in Duluth, Minnesota.
Eleven players from the 2004 Minneapolis team that reached the finals of the Minnesota Boys’ State Lacrosse Association tournament went on to play at the collegiate level. Two players from those early years of Minneapolis, brothers Aron and Daniel Lipkin, are senior staff members (Aron is a co-founder) at Homegrown Lacrosse, a nonprofit that has been helping develop and grow the game in Minnesota since 2003. Aron Lipkin also serves as the varsity head coach for the Minneapolis high school boys team.
The Social Media page shows the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds of all the organizations hosted by the site. The page also uses the tab element to show a variety of boys and girls highlight videos.
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Webmaster: Mike Desmond
Charlotte-based StickWithUs.org was founded in 2001 and offers leagues, teams and events in the area. The club’s girls program is named the Carolina Cats while the boys is named Team Carolina. G.W. Mix, a former Charlotte resident and former University of Pennsylvania head coach, is credited with laying the
organization's youth lacrosse curriculum
Gorgeous design that looks just as great in both desktop and mobile environments. The home page serves as something of a splash page, giving viewers the option to jump right into the girls or boys sections of the site. Lower on the page, there are five Call to Action links giving viewers more options to find info for the various programs
and tournaments being offered.
On all pages other than the splash/home page, a standard navigation bar stretches across the top. It has links to the boys and girls sections of the site along with a half-dozen more links to clearly labeled sections such as Tournaments, Events, Important Info, Contact and About Us. Again, the navigation works equally well in
both desktop and mobile settings. The tab
element is used as yet another navigation
aid on most of the landing pages.
There’s lots of information associated with the club’s various travel teams, but we didn’t see any team pages or the associated schedule, roster and results information that go with them.
Registration, Sitebuilder. Again, we love the way the template was designed and modified to work on mobile devices. Registration is used heavily, with multiple sessions underway during most periods of the year.
The About Us section is loaded with information about the organization, starting with its mission and history and continuing on to profile founding director Michael Desmond. Coaches for both the boys and girls programs also are profiled.
Team Carolina high school director Tim Price formerly served as the head coach at Quinnipiac, where he held the distinction of being the the youngest Division I lacrosse head coach.
A list showing every player who has suited up for Team Carolina, dating back to 2005, is available in PDF form. It lists the players’ name, high school, year or years he played for the club and where he played in college and in the pro ranks.
Unique in most every way, the design of the site makes an immediate impression (wow!). We love that the name of the club is explained on the Why 2Way Camps page. "We believe that every lacrosse player should master the game '2 Ways', playing offense and defense." 2Way takes advantage of team pages and makes good use of the free mobile app attached to each team.
Cary Grove Youth Lacrosse
Webmaster extraordinaire Mark Clark is a master at using mirroring, registration, manipulating code, creating graphics - a five-tool player to borrow from baseball parlance. He applies all those skills to the Cary Grove Youth Lacrosse site, and the result is an information-loaded site designed to make life as easy as possible
for parents. Clark makes full use of team
pages and league functionality, a rarity
among the lacrosse sites we reviewed.
Centennial Youth Lacrosse
Doug Will and Chantel Scherman make a formidable team, combining to produce mass quantities of content and stunning design elements for the program based in the north Twin Cities suburbs. Centennial Youth Lacrosse makes full use of almost every SportsEngine product, including both Dibs and Verify.
Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association
We love the unique, outstanding design. The site looks great on mobile devices, too. There's an abundance of resources (most notably drill books and clinic videos) that make the site a must-visit for members. The recruiting section also has a great mix of video, links and camps and clinics listings.
New Wave Lacrosse
The site for the Chicago-based organization is nothing short of stunning in its design. It is as much a work of art as it is a portal for news, events and information on everything from club teams to leagues to skills programs. We love the incredible home page video (another work of art) titled "Chances."
Here are more outstanding sites that were in the final judging mix but didn't crack the Top 5.
Wondering why your site didn't make the list? Want to put your site in the Top 5? Contact email@example.com for a free consultation.