By Christine Bryant
Now recognized as one of the fastest growing sports in America, lacrosse is expanding in Grove City in an effort to get more youth involved.
Currently in the first year of offering lacrosse, the Grove City Kids Association is working to increase awareness about the sport that combines basketball, soccer and hockey.
Jason Wright, the lacrosse commissioner and board member for the GCKA, says the Grove City Lacrosse Club approached the organization with an opportunity to help grow lacrosse in youth programs.
“The club has been in existence for almost seven years,” Wright said. “Together, we felt that with GCKA’s existing database of kids within this age group, we were uniquely positioned to help grow the sport. After all, we already work with kids in this age group for softball, soccer, football and cheerleading.”
The GCKA features two divisions of play for youth in the area. The first, the Junior division, is made up of kids in 3rd and 4th grades. The Senior division is made up of youth in grades 5 and 6.
“This year we have one team in each division where the kids play coed,” Wright said. “In the future we would love to have both a boys and a girls team in each division.”
As a parent of a child who recently picked up lacrosse, Wright says he has seen firsthand how the sport helps develop kids.
“They not only get exercise, which I think all kids need, but they also learn about leadership and teamwork,” he said. “This is a sport that is very difficult for one person to dominate.”
The rules in the youth game center on teaching the fundamentals of the game, as well as require the kids to pass the ball once over midfield in order to become “hot” or be able to take a shot.
“This forces the kids to communicate and work to get open so that they can make that pass before heading to the goal,” Wright said. “The kids also have to communicate on defense, talking about when someone is hot and when someone is cutting so the other defenders know to look out for them.”
The sport also brings together all of the things he says his son loves in sports.
“It brought the fast-paced thinking that is required when playing defense in basketball and combined that with a little hitting like football,” Wright said. “Add in some insane speed with kids running up and down the field with precision passing like you were going to throw a kid out in baseball, and you have a sport that just about anyone can pick up in just a few minutes and find some aspect of the game that they just love.”
Players at this level practice three to four times a week for about 60 to 90 minutes, Wright said. Games are held on Sunday and are in a round-robin format.
“Teams are made up of participants in the Central Ohio Youth Lacrosse League, which features teams from Gahanna, Hilliard, New Albany, Granville, Jonathan Alder and Bexley, amongst others,” Wright said.
Not only is the game fast-paced for the players, it’s exciting to watch for spectators, he says.
“Unlike some sports that move at a slower pace, something is always going on in lacrosse,” Wright said. “If you look away for a minute, you might just miss something.”
While playing lacrosse can be costly because of the equipment required to play the sport, Wright says they are looking at ways to reduce the costs for families.
“Grove City Lacrosse was able to come in and offer kids loaner elbow pads, gloves, sticks and rental helmets to keep the cost down for the youth program,” Wright said.
As the program grows, Wright says the GCKA plans to look into grants from USA Lacrosse and other means of funding the lacrosse program such as donations or sponsorships.