Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

The Power of Sport: Bringing Lacrosse To The Inner-City!


OWLS (Outreach With Lacrosse & Schools)

Who is the person? What is there background?

Sam Angelotta is the founder and Program Director at OWLS LACROSSE. Originally from Hudson, Ohio, Angelotta started playing lacrosse at an early age. He played for state powerhouse Hudson High School and was point leader at Indiana University.

Following graduation, Angelotta went on to coach, teach, and play lacrosse in Manchester, England. As a Local Development Officer for the English Lacrosse Association he helped organize and develop programs throughout the city of Manchester. After the completion of the program, he moved back to the United States and earned his Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University. During this period of research and field work in Chicago schools he established the OWLS organization. This non-profit organization is designed to introduce sustainable lacrosse programs in Chicago’s under-served schools and communities while developing student-athletes on and off the field.

Date officially launched?

April 2011

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

THE POWER OF SPORT: BRINGING LACROSSE TO THE INNER-CITY!Entering my second year of my master’s program in elementary education I realized there was a glaring need for quality after school programs in the inner city. Many children in the city have nowhere to go after school and if they aren’t on the street, they are often found in poorly managed after school programs. Additionally I saw the need for programs that promoted physical activity and healthy lifestyles. In CPS for example, elementary students have only 40 minutes per/week of physical education on average, meanwhile the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 60 minutes per day. I noticed that this reflected a nationwide epidemic of children that were either overweight or obese, which currently stands at around 33%. While there are quality after school programs for academics, many researchers suggest that this approach may be overload for children and physical activity/play can be equally important. I felt that a structured sport’s enrichment program would be a great way for children to get physically active and be part of an exciting team sport. So I thought that with my previous experiences of developing lacrosse programs abroad, I could establish a similar program in Chicago. While lacrosse has been rapidly growing in recent years it has failed to effectively reach urban schools and under-served communities. It is no secret that lacrosse has been typically developed and maintained in affluent suburban communities. However by introducing alternative sports to inner-city kids it allows them to try a brand new sport at the same time as their peers. This means that everyone starts off on the same foot and a kid who typically hasn’t participated in sports will be more likely to get involved. So I began to exploring grant opportunities and business partnerships in Chicago and elsewhere. Through these partnerships we established a number avenues for people to donate equipment and money in order to start our programs. With this in mind the idea of OWLS was born. OWLS stands for Outreach With Lacrosse & Schools.

We do not simply want to start after school teams, and we do not see academics and physical activity as separate entities. At OWLS we stress that “body fuels the mind” and academic progress is emphasized in our program model. OWLS will provide lacrosse enrichment that goes beyond the field and into the classroom. We provide “chalk talk” lectures that will address many issues such as teamwork, leadership, history of lacrosse, and healthy lifestyle choices. Oftentimes these sessions will occur before or after practices/lacrosse activities so that students can apply their newly acquired knowledge.

Furthermore there is a need for quality coaching in under-served communities. We have found that the lacrosse community is very supportive and charitable and through OWLS Outreach we have developed a vast network of volunteer coaches. Additionally, through coaching education we are able to develop coaches within the communities we work in regardless of their lacrosse knowledge. These characteristics of our program are key in developing sustainable lacrosse models in the inner-city.

In the Spring of 2011 OWLS successfully launched after-school lacrosse programs for boys and girls at St. Malachy School on Chicago’s Near West Side. In the past half year we have raised over 10,000 dollars in equipment and monetary donations. We are currently expanding our programs into Physical Education classes and after-school programs into other city schools and community centers.

What is the cost per person that is being helped? Are you working on decreasing that cost by being more efficient?

THE POWER OF SPORT: BRINGING LACROSSE TO THE INNER-CITY! Lacrosse is typically an expensive sport however through creative fund-raising techniques and equipment drives we have significantly reduced cost for our program participants. We offer financing options for our players and will never turn them down if they aren’t able to pay. Since we provide equipment to players they simply pay for insurance coverage, a small program fee (with payment plan options), and optional equipment rental. The most a player would be charged is around $75 total and $25 at the low end. We also have had an outpouring of support from the greater lacrosse community and have plenty of free opportunities. Last year we were able to bring our pilot program to the Peak 21 Lacrosse Tournament ($800 entrance fee) for free.

YouTube – Here is a link to our youtube channel:


What is the one thing that you did right?

Developing partnerships with similar organizations such as US Lacrosse and World Sport Chicago. At first I wanted to do everything myself including doing our own equipment drives and fund-raisers. I quickly realized that developing partnerships is key to making these type of ventures effectively grow. Within months of reaching out to US Lacrosse and World Sport Chicago we were able to fund-raise thousands of dollars in equipment and monetary donations. I was able to gain insight from individuals who have had decades of experience and some of these individuals now sit on our board of directors. When you realize that it is not about you but about delivering a quality product, you will be in a much better position.

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

There is nothing wrong with starting small and aiming for quality and not quantity at first. Many social entrepreneurs are visionaries who have lofty goals of helping everyone at once however you must first develop a strong support system and prove that your model works. At OWLS we started by introducing a program at one school and now that support is growing and we will enter two schools and a community center this year. By concentrating our efforts we will achieve our goal of creating sustainable programs while still growing each year. As that support system gets stronger you will find that your venture can grow exponentially each year.

What book(s) have you read that others should read?

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol

This book examines the appalling state of under-served schools and the disparity in funding between inner-city schools and more affluent communities.

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