Lacrosse Reference was created for a simple reason: there was no other comprehensive lacrosse analytics site out there. Period, end of story.
It’s been a slow burn though. Kyle and I were watching the final four in 2015 together with some friends in Chicago when we had the thought: “They keep talking about Notre Dame’s slides being so great; are they really?” And we set off to look it up at the most popular lacrosse analytics website. Obviously, we were sorely disappointed in that the closest we could get was the NCAA’s defensive goals allowed stat pages. Within minutes, I’d registered lacrossereference.com with GoDaddy.
The problem with getting excited about lacrosse analytics on the same day that your favorite team is eliminated from the tournament is that the excitement and motivation that moved you to register the domain name dissipates extremely quickly. With no lacrosse on TV and no team to root for, the concept was more or less forgotten.
Until final four 2016 that is, when the yearly conversation, “we should really start that lacrosse analytics website,” reared its head like an ephemeral, non-rodent Punxatawny Phil. But this time, we already had the domain name, so the only logical next step was to actually go ahead and host the thing. And we did. We even went so far as to get a wordpress site up and running with some bogus placeholder articles. And then nothing.
The truth of it is that Kyle and I were both in consulting, my wife and I had just had a baby, and we just never had the push needed to make this a reality. The only thing that would really push us to get our butts in gear was people checking out the site; if we could get a community built up, then we’d have no choice but to keep going. Or, no one would care, and we could stop (but by reading this, you’ve disproved this theory, so thanks). To see if there was a community waiting to coalesce, we had to get something out, and to give it the best chance, it couldn’t be one article posted 3 days after the finals. Wouldn’t work. So here you have it, LacrosseReference.com!
So with our origin story out of the way, what should you expect to see in the pages of LacrosseReference?
First, I can promise you that we will have some interesting analyses of the game we love. We’ve built up a pretty nifty database of all the plays recorded across 6 years of NCAA games. That will allow us to look at things like the estimated value of a specific type of play, the effect of time and score on eventual win odds, and hopefully other cool things over time. From what I can tell, this level of time/play/score analytics has not been done at scale before.
Second, I’d like to spend some time exploring how analytics could (or should) affect lacrosse. The sport is in a unique position in the U.S., with a fast growing youth population, an entertaining style of play, and large potential fan base. Whether you agree that football is trending down, it’s hard to argue that lacrosse is trending up. Analytics could be part of the growth, especially if you think about how the other major sports have used statistics to make their sports more accessible. They are part of the entertainment, which helps drive eyeballs, which brings more money into the sport. If we can add one iota of momentum to the growth of lacrosse, this will have been worth it.
And in the summer of 2020, after the pandemic-shortened ’20 season, we launched LacrosseReference PRO, the companion subscription site to the public site you are on right now. I hope you’ll check it out too.