Curtis Dickson is trying to sell lacrosse to people, and his up-close view of Paul Rabil doing it better than anybody else should be advantageous.
If you’re a fan of the sport, you know of Dickson. The 32-year-old right handed sniper from Port Coquitlam has piled up goals in the box game with the likes of the Maple Ridge Burrards and the Calgary Roughnecks, and in the field game with the Chaos Lacrosse Club, with such high-flying flash and panache that he’s been dubbed Superman in lacrosse circles.
If you’re a fan of the sport, or have spent any time on various social-media platforms, you know of Rabil. The 35-year-old right-hander from Montgomery Village, Md., played against Dickson and the Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League with the old Washington Stealth, the team that’s since moved west and become the Vancouver Warriors. He plays against Dickson and Chaos now in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) with Atlas.
It’s Rabil’s on-camera demeanour and ability to promote that are his calling cards, though. They’ve helped him amass over 90,000 followers on Twitter and another 380,000 on Instagram to go with 216,000 subscribers on YouTube. All that led to him being one of the founders of the PLL, a field loop set up originally in 2018 with the idea of having its games played in a barnstorming tour of the U.S. every season, which explains why the clubs aren’t connected to any one city.
Rabil got enough money people together and raised enough interest that the league has a media-rights deal with NBC Sports, which includes a handful of games being broadcast on network TV while others wind-up showing on their streaming services.
The PLL also earned accolades last summer when it put together a 16-day tournament in a bubble in Utah without a single positive COVID-19 test result.
Dickson has banded together with his Roughnecks’ teammates Dane Dobbie and Tyler Pace to start the Rivals Lacrosse League, a youth field loop with four divisions (Under-11, Under-13, Under-15 and Under-19). They’re taking registrations on their website currently and their start date is tied to when COVID-19 restrictions in B.C. begin to lift.
If Dickson, Dobbie and Pace need ideas on how to promote, they don’t have look too far.
“The biggest thing we have learned from Paul is the importance of social media in selling your product,” explained Dickson, who wound up fifth in scoring in Utah, with 18 points, including 12 goals, in seven games, and plans to play in the PLL again this season as long as cross-border travel isn’t limited.
“It rules the world these days and if you don’t have a strong social-media presence you won’t go far. We’ve really been focusing on that.”
Rivals is pledging four teams of 20 players per division, and a post on their Instagram on Friday listed a few spots remaining in each group. They’ve commissioned a company to film all the games, in a bid to create highlight tapes for the players that they can utilize pursuing university scholarships.
Timelines are tied to sports being allowed to open up. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s current orders, which forbid games between rival teams and any travel for sport, are in place until Feb. 5, although they could be extended past that date depending on COVID-19 numbers.
Dickson says that his group doesn’t want to “step on any toes,” with traditional minor lacrosse, which begins its box season usually in March. He says that they’re willing to pivot. Field lacrosse is traditionally a fall sport, so there are windows that could work.
“We all grew up playing minor lacrosse. We know how important it is,” Dickson said.
Some of the best lacrosse players in the world are from this province. Some of the best games ever have been played here. The sport doesn’t always garner that kind of attention, though. The game doesn’t suffer from a poor image. It suffers from a lack of one. People don’t know enough about it. Stakeholders banding together and working even more to sell might be the answer.
Getting a Dickson as a part of that unified front couldn’t hurt. He’s YouTube-friendly, with his knack for highlight-reel goals. He’s also Twitter-friendly. He’s always shown a willingness to speak his mind, most notably announcing on Twitter that he would skip the2022 World Games in Birmingham, Ala., if the Iroquois Nationals weren’t permitted to compete at the event. The Iroquois Nations were later included.
He sounds excited about this latest endeavour. That’s a plus. We’ll see where it goes.
“We’ve all been coaching in some capacity and the idea for this has been in the back of all our minds for awhile,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of time to talk about it (with the pandemic).”