By Linda Dillman
Three years ago, a kitchen table conversation among a small group of interested parents sowed the seeds for what would become the Canal Winchester Lacrosse Association.
From those humble beginnings in 2017, a program evolved with about a dozen players to nearly 100 today in what association President Victor Paini calls the nation’s oldest and fastest growing sport.
According to Paini, the association grew out of the city’s joint recreation district lacrosse program, started in 2015 for players in first through sixth grade. However, Paini said the CWJRD status limits certain activities, such as fundraising.
“As a 501c3, the CWLA is free of this restriction and has been able to grow the game through partnerships with local businesses and the national governing body, US Lacrosse,” said Joe Malone, association vice president and assistant boys middle school coach. “We’ve been able to find and pay qualified coaches, secure new equipment to loan to players free of charge and provide opportunities to experience lacrosse on the next level.”
Paini said the CWLA was established to run middle and high school teams, and has dedicated an equal amount of time to developing the sport and growing interest at all ages.
In fall 2019, the association offered a 10-week lacrosse program for approximately 35 players; sent three teams to Canton in mid-November to participate in one of the region’s largest fall lacrosse tournaments, where the middle school team finished in second place; and held two Try Lax events for the community.
“Skills from lacrosse only make you better at other sports as well,” said Malone. “When Jim Naismith was developing the framework of basketball, he drew from his experience of playing lacrosse in college. Everyone knows Cleveland Browns’ legend Jim Brown. He was a more prolific lacrosse player at Syracuse than he was at football and is the only person in the both the Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Football Hall of Fame.”
Later this year, Paini expects interest in the sport to jump significantly with the introduction of CWLA’s youth girls’ lacrosse program and a girls’ high school team.
During a Jan. 13 Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting, Paini and Canal Winchester Middle School Athletic Director Brent Palsgrove sought board approval to make lacrosse an officially recognized middle school sport. The board is expected to take action on the request at its Feb.18 meeting.
“Our hope is the high school program will be elevated to an official club sport as well,” said Paini, who is the CWJRD’s Lacrosse commissioner and an assistant boy’s middle school coach. “We see our relationship with CWLA, CWJRD and the school system as one of partnership, not competition. The goal is to create a partnership that will help make lacrosse better in the city and available to more players.”
Paini said the association is thankful for the support and partnership from CWJRD and the school system and added both athletic directors are supportive of the CWLA’s mission of growing the game of lacrosse and creating new athletic opportunities for Canal Winchester.
“I’m truly excited about the future of our program and can’t wait to see where these athletes take us,” said Paini. “The mission of CWLA has always been to see lacrosse become a varsity level sport for both boys and girls teams.”
Registration for CWLA programming is open until Jan. 31. Players can register at cwlacrosse.com. For further information, visit www.cwlacrosse.com or email the association at firstname.lastname@example.org.