For kids of all ages, the opportunity to participate in sports seems like it is growing exponentially. Soccer, football, baseball, gymnastics, dance, martial arts, swimming, volleyball, wrestling and more provide abundant choices from which to choose. But one sport that seems to be growing in popularity more than ever is lacrosse.
Stephanie Aitken is the board president for the Sandpoint Lacrosse Club and said her kids were attracted to the sport due to the pace of the game and the love of the lacrosse community. “It is a sport that works well with other sports such as soccer, football and track,” said Aitken. “Kids are able to use the skills they have learned in those sports and transfer them over to lacrosse.”
Board member Brent Leedle said that lacrosse also gives the kids an opportunity to play an exciting sport that involves a lot of running and scoring.
“Until the high school level, all the kids have the opportunity to score. The positions are rotated. Usually, every child on the team gets at least one goal a season,” explained Leedle. “There is also some contact involved, which most kids really enjoy. It’s not the violent collisions of football as there are strict rules of when and how contact is made, but it’s also not the complete non-contact as in soccer.” While the girls’ teams do not have contact other than stick to stick, Leedle said the sport is perfect for adolescent boys.
Lacrosse is a sport that has been around for well over a century, but is relatively new to Sandpoint. According to coach and board member Ken Hutchings, Syracuse University has had a team for over 100 years. “(For some) Native Americans, it is a tradition that when a child is born they are given a lacrosse stick, and when they die they are buried with it,” said Hutchings of the traditions and history associated with the sport.
Aitken said since her son started playing five years ago, she has seen the local club continue to grow. “It is one of the fastest growing sports in the Northwest,” said Aitken. “Last year we hosted our first ever two-day jamboree in Sandpoint, and we had over 25 teams come and join the tournament. We had teams come from Canada, Montana, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.”
In Sandpoint, the youngest team is comprised of third and fourth grade students, and there are teams all the way through high school. “There is also now a high school girls’ team and a team of younger girls,” said Leedle of the latest expansion.
Because lacrosse is not a sanctioned sport by the Idaho High School Activities Association, it cannot be supported by the high school itself. It is, however, considered a club at Sandpoint High School and Leedle said that Activities Director Kris Knowles is very supportive of the club. That being said, with lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the country, those involved hope it is just a matter of time before things change.
“Washington is close to making it a sanctioned sport at the high school level, and it’s just a matter of time before Idaho follows suit,” said Leedle who adds that in Boise it has become extremely popular even at the college level where Boise State University has a team.
Just because it is not a high school sanctioned sport in Sandpoint, the opportunity to play at the college level does exist. Sandpoint High School graduate Carson Paull is a junior at Capital University and is a member of their lacrosse team. He started playing lacrosse when he was 13.
“I was playing baseball before lacrosse and saw the middle school lacrosse team practicing and thought it looked like a lot of fun,” said Paull, adding that it was the pace of the sport and the fact that it was so different from other sports that enticed him to try it.
Paull said the club guided him by helping him to figure out what lacrosse camps to attend, but other than that he was on his own to contact schools in the hope of being recruited. His efforts were successful, and he has thoroughly enjoyed playing at the collegiate level.
He encourages young people to go out and try the sport. From his experience, it has not only given him some great memories, but has taught him important life lessons as well.
“Lacrosse has taught me how to deal with adversity and helped me figure out how to not only be a part of a team, but also how to help lead and set a good example in all aspects in life,” shared Paull.
“It has also taught me countless lessons on discipline and being there for your teammates no matter what.”
Hutchings agrees. “Lacrosse builds teamwork and good sportsmanship. Lacrosse teaches you to get up and keep going, even after you’ve been knocked down,” he said. “I am all about being a team and working together as a whole to achieve greatness, while also creating opportunities for individuals who excel to potentially receive scholarships.”
The cost to play lacrosse in Sandpoint ranges from $100 to $150 depending upon the age and gender of the team. The boys’ high school cost is $225 and includes a jersey and shorts. Younger players also receive a jersey with their registration fee. Equipment is available to rent for a fee of $50 and a $100 deposit is required. But cost should not be a deterrent for any player.
“We also have scholarships available, and it is our intention that any kid who wants to play will be allowed to do so. We never turn anybody away and will find a way to get him or her on the field. I really mean this. We will always find a way for anybody who wants to play to do so,” said Leedle.
Hutchings, who served as the assistant coach for the seventh and eighth grade team last year, will be the head coach of the high school team this year. He is excited by the fact that there are already 25 kids signed up.
Hutchings played both football and lacrosse in college, but lacrosse is by far his favorite and he is looking forward to seeing it grow in Sandpoint. “It is simply the most fun sport out there; it is fast and competitive. The games are wicked exciting to watch. As the players in Sandpoint continue to improve, it will just become more and more fun to watch. The kids are learning so many fun plays and cool shots! I am really excited for this year,” said Hutchings.
High school practice starts Thursday, February 23 at Northside Elementary, Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 5:30. Practices will move outside to Great Northern Field as soon as the weather permits.
And if you find you like the sport and want to continue beyond the high school years, Hutchings is committed to helping out with that.
“I have personal relationships with several college head coaches, including at Cornell, and have already spoken to them about recruiting,” said Hutchings. “I will be explaining the process in detail to my players and parents as the opportunity arises.”