Snipers Lacrosse, formerly LearnLax Academy, was founded in 2003 by former Lehigh standout Tony Lowe. While at Lehigh, he led all of Division I in goals scored in 2003 after finishing eighth in the country in goals scored in 2002. Additionally, he was voted athlete of the year at Lehigh in 2002 and 2003. Upon graduation, he founded LearnLax Academy to teach youth lacrosse players the fundamentals and skills necessary to maximize their potential. What began as Private Lacrosse Lessons, soon expanded to Clinics, Camps and the formation of the Florida Snipers, Florida’s premier competitive lacrosse program. Snipers Lacrosse now stands as the fastest growing company in lacrosse’s southeast region and our system is taught to over 1,500 players from 12 states. Our focus is teaching players of similar age and skill level, in small groups, in order to provide the one-on-one training that is difficult to obtain in a regular, team practice setting.
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The Florida Snipers were formed in the fall of 2009 by private lacrosse instructor and Delray Beach resident, Tony Lowe. Coach Tony, as his players affectionately call him, began offering private lacrosse lessons in South Florida in 2004. After volunteering with the local recreational program, the Delray Riptide, in 2008, its inaugural season, Tony coached the summer season with a now disbanded competitive program.
Tony surveyed the landscape of South Florida competitive lacrosse programs and noticed that the majority were disorganized and poorly run. The directors of these programs tended to be local high school coaches with impressive resumes, yet, seemed to pay little attention to the players’ development. Although the directors acted as figureheads for the programs — showing up at the tryouts and giving a speech — they would often leave the youth teams in the hands of a player’s father or less qualified coach, while devoting themselves to high school varsity players. Youth parents have expressed feeling misled by this, as they were under the impression they were paying for the expertise of the program director.
Another issue that Tony observed was the exclusive participation of teams in statewide-only tournaments run by the directors themselves. The result was expensive travel around the state with the teams paying to play the same opponents again and again. This is a disservice to not only the players, who were gaining no challenging lacrosse experience out of the state, but to the parents who were footing the bill for travel. The directors holding these tournaments seemed to be the only beneficiaries.
Coach Tony decided he could do better and set out to create Florida’s premier competitive lacrosse program. His philosophy is simple: “We believe that participating on a competitive team with an established coaching staff will provide student athletes with far more than just advanced lacrosse skills; we focus on teaching lacrosse while also developing lifetime skills such as leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship.”
Tony identified what he considered to be flaws in other programs and set out to create a better system. He decided that four coaches would work with each of the Snipers’ three teams: Under 11, Under 13, and Under 15 years of age. This allows the entire program to have one clear vision of what was expected of them and fosters continuity from year to year.
From the name to the colors to the equipment worn by its players, each decision was carefully made to distinguish the Snipers from its competition. Tony chose the name Florida Snipers because when throwing a lacrosse ball, you point the bottom of your stick at your target, similar to a hunter targeting his prey through a scope. With that, the Snipers adopted the scope logo. Seeing that seemingly every other program used the color blue, the Snipers decided on the colors orange and black.
Tony’s vision also included team helmets. Most programs have players with many different colors and styles of helmets, but one team from northern Florida had matching helmets catching Tony’s eye as the uniformity made them look like a cohesive unit. Not wanting to put the financial burden on the parents, the program decided to fundraise for 60 helmets. A lacrosse helmet typically cost nearly $200, so raising enough money for 60 was a lofty goal for a program that had not yet played its first game. Players and team parents held car washes and sold coupon books and Snipers-branded apparel. 10 days before the team’s first game, each of the 60 players was outfitted with a brand new custom Snipers helmet.
The helmets became more than just a piece of equipment to the team. The sacrifice each player made selling coupon books and washing cars brought the team together and taught each player more about life and friendship than they could have ever learned on the lacrosse field. This experience made one of Coach Tony’s philosophies easier to teach:
“I’m big on attention to detail, personal responsibility and earning everything we get from maximum effort. I wasn’t born a great lacrosse player. I was never big, strong or fast. I earned everything through hard work.”
With his playing days behind him, Tony established LearnLax Academy in 2003 to teach youth lacrosse players the fundamentals and skills necessary to maximize their potential. This would lead him to form the Florida Snipers and the rest is history.
“It’s not work if you do what you love. The lacrosse stick has opened a lot of doors for me. It helped me get into and earn a degree from Lehigh University and to make friends when I moved to Florida. It now helps me make a living and pass on my knowledge to a new generation of players.”
The team has had success on the field both in and out of the state of Florida. After coming close in its first tournament in May 2010, the Snipers won the Under 11 and Under 13 Divisions at the Martin County Shootout in Stuart, FL. Two weeks later in Rock Hill, SC the Under 11 and Under 13 teams bested teams from 6 different states to capture the Catawba Classic title.
Ready to Join the Snipers?
If you are a parent of a South Florida lacrosse player interested in having your son play for the Florida Snipers, tryouts for its 2011 season will be held on Sunday, February 27th at the Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach, FL. Visit this link for more information and to register for the Snipers.