Bexley High School lacrosse coaches and players want the sport to become a school-recognized club sport, but a tight budget could prevent them from reaching their goal.
About two dozen coaches, athletes and parents gathered at the Bexley Board of Education meeting Nov. 17 to request that the Bexley Girls Lacrosse team be instated as a school-recognized club sport starting in the spring 2009 season.
Currently, the program is community-based, meaning it is funded through supporters and does not use any school resources like transportation or funding.
Bexley is one of 17 club teams in the state and one of three non-school recognized club teams in central Ohio; Big Walnut, which will play for the first time this spring, and Pickerington are the other two.
Drew Bergman, co-president of the Bexley Girls Lacrosse Club, told board members that the club is requesting school recognition of girls’ lacrosse, scheduling of buses for away games and use of the school athletic trainer.
He said the current request has been prompted in part by changes to the Ohio Schoolgirls’ Lacrosse Association, the governing body of girls’ lacrosse in Ohio.
This year, the member school principals and athletic directors voted to take control of the OSLA. This change was made to benefit the student athletes of the 70 school-supported/recognized teams in Ohio, 21 of which are in central Ohio, he said.
While the OSLA has made a place for the 17 statewide club teams in the upcoming season, it is working toward moving club teams from club to school-recognized status and left non-school recognized club teams unrepresented throughout these changes, Bergman said.
While the changes by the OSLA were made to benefit the growth and permanence of girls’ lacrosse, Bergman said they could leave non-school recognized club teams like Bexley without a competitive schedule.
"We are now in a division of three teams – that’s in Central Ohio," he said. "It puts us at a disadvantage as far as scheduling. … The program is in fact in jeopardy."
The idea of changing the girls’ lacrosse team to a school-recognized club sport is not a new idea to the district.
In May of last year, board member Steven Grossman asked the board to begin discussing the addition of lacrosse. While the matter has been discussed within the district’s athletic board, Nov. 17 was the first time the board had formally discussed a report submitted to the board by Bexley High School principal Dr. John Kellogg, who also serves as chair of the athletic board.
In the report, Kellogg outlined some of the pros and cons the district could face if the sport becomes school-recognized.
While the lacrosse club has offered to pick up much of the costs, Kellogg said the athletic department would still have to pick up some responsibilities, including providing an athletic trainer, providing the transportation to the eight away games each season and the hiring of coaches or supervisors, as well as conducting their background checks.
While the community would provide the funding for the program, Kellogg said the funds would run through the school’s books.
These extra responsibilities, Kellogg said, could stretch the athletic department too thin.
Bergman said while the team acknowledges that some administrative demands would be increased on the athletic department, he noted the sport is played in the spring when there are approximately half as many sports and athletes as in the fall season.
At a time when several school districts are tightening their belts, cost of adding the program is another concern.
"It’s unfortunate for the times because I’d like to see lacrosse see some recognition from the district," board member Andrew Sutter said. "But I also recognize we have fiscal constraints."
Bergman said although under the proposal the team would become a club sport, it would still be funded through the community – paying for coaches, game officials, equipment, uniforms, transportation and league dues. Currently, team members are driving themselves to away games.
"The health and safety issues that can be gained through use of the athletic trainer and use of buses is huge, in my opinion," girls’ lacrosse head coach Gillian Thomson said.
Another concern raised in the meeting stemmed from the projected decrease in enrollment Bexley is expected to face in the next few years.
Board president Diane Peterson said the district is projected to lose a few hundred students in the next five years, prompting a discussion on whether that argues against adding another sport.
But Kellogg said lacrosse has been offered at the school for 10 years this spring and adding lacrosse shouldn’t drain numbers from other sports.
Senior Devin Beaumier, one of the team’s three captains, said by making lacrosse a school-recognized sport, it will have positive effects on the players.
"It will drive the team to work harder and compete harder," she told board members.
Beaumier also pointed out that it is more difficult for players to get recognized and offered scholarships by colleges when the sport isn’t school-recognized.
During the next few months, board members said they will continue to look at the pros and cons of adding the program and will sit down with new Athletic Director Molly Feesler to discuss the matter.
In other news, Board president Diane Peterson announced that the district still plans to continue its promise of staying off the ballot for five years.
The district is working toward 2010 when the administration will look at a potential levy for the spring of that year, she said.
The district is in the process of forming a committee that will look into the possibility of a levy and setting financial goals, and is encouraging anyone who would like to be a part of this group to contact the superintendent’s office.