POSTED ON MAY 5, 2010:
Playing the Field
Old sport moves into new territory
Meeting the Criteria. Too short, tall, big or small? Nope. If you are not 6’4” and able to bench press 300 pounds, forget about a career in football or that elusive college scholarship. In lacrosse, you can still compete at the highest level.
Interesting that basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith. You would think Canadians would be a little better at basketball than they are. With the exception of Steve Nash, name a Canadian basketball player?
The same could be said for lacrosse. Lacrosse originated with the Native Americans. Of course, Native Americans are not synonymous with Oklahoma, but one would think the strong roots in Native American culture would correspond to strong lacrosse ties in Green Country.
Not so much. In fact, lacrosse is just taking root in Oklahoma. Tulsa's youth lacrosse program started five years ago with one kid wanting to learn the game.
Now, there are more than 250 kids participating in the Tulsa youth lacrosse system.
"I have two children playing," said Elliot and Cameron's mother Lee Taylor. "They both absolutely have a blast playing lacrosse. Elliot loves the physical contact, while Cameron likes controlling the ball and running down field. They both love the continuous fast pace of the game. The sport has improved their hand-eye coordination. Lacrosse is a unique sport compared to the other sports we have played."
Let's discuss lacrosse's popularity outside of Oklahoma. There are 61 NCAA Division I men's lacrosse teams. There are 120 NCAA Division I football teams. While football is played across the country, the lacrosse hotbed is in the North and East for now.
Contrary to unpopular belief, lacrosse is a sport for everyone. Kids and adults can jump right in without having ESPN shovel mass quantities of lacrosse highlights down their throat.
"It's kind of like soccer, basketball and football," said coach, board member and lacrosse advocate, Collin Sharp. "You do a little hitting. You run. It's a good sport for kids of all sizes."
Too short, tall, big or small? Nope. If you are not 6'4" and able to bench press 300 pounds, forget about a career in football or that elusive college scholarship. In lacrosse, you can still compete at the highest level.
The Tulsa Youth Lacrosse Association attracts new members through two avenues.
The first is the oldest form of advertising. Good old fashioned word of mouth. Kids and adults enjoy the experience and encourage friends to join the fun.
"Lacrosse is my favorite sport because it is a physical game and I get to play with my friends," said seventh grader Joe Crabtree. Crabtree plays for the Midtown Wolfpack. "I moved from Connecticut, so I am glad I can still play lacrosse."
The other resource used to recruit new players is the wildly popular youth clinics.
The Sunday clinics are held at Monte Cassino, 2206 S. Lewis Ave. "We have stations. They learn how to cradle and how to shoot," Sharp said. Seventy elementary-aged girls and boys partake on any given Sunday. It resembles a youth basketball clinic teaching fundamentals.
On May 15, the TYLA holds the final middle school tournament of the season. The teams are split into two divisions. A fifth and sixth grade division as well as a seventh and eighth grade division. Two Tulsa-based teams, South Tulsa Storm and Midtown Wolfpack, are joined in the league by a team from the Potawatomi nation as well as one from Northwest Arkansas.
There are now three high school teams as well. The Tulsa Bulldogs were joined this season by an Owasso varsity team as well as one from Holland Hall.
Finding excited kids to take up the fast-paced sport is the easy part. The TYLA faces more difficult challenges down the road.
There are currently 14 members on the Tulsa Youth Lacrosse Association's board. Scott Lambert is the president and Peter Frank is the chairmen.
The board meets a couple times a year. Their objectives are simple. They want to streamline all processes such as signing up and making payments. Another priority is finding coaches and referees. Securing a permanent home field would be a bonus at this point.
"Everyone realizes we have to have coaches and refs to grow. That's our main focus, getting refs and coaches," Sharp said.
They plan to hold several ref clinics in the near future. Referees can earn $50-$80 per game depending on the level. Finding referees is proving to be the most difficult challenge. Kind of hard to play a game without qualified officials.
Getting a parent involved in coaching is also proving to be tricky. Most parents jump at the chance to coach tee ball or flag football. Toss them a basketball and a hoop, and every dad thinks he's the next Red Auerbach. Ask the same father to coach a lacrosse team, and watch him tremble in fear.
"Elementary and middle school is pretty easy. Tell them their position and what lines they cannot cross. It's catch the ball and shoot," Sharp said.
He said once the high school level is reached, a little more strategy and discipline is needed.
"In middle school, they kind of run around. Anyone who has been a coach would have no problem coaching a lacrosse team," he said.
Most practices take place at Memorial High School. "We play games wherever we can find a field. That's our biggest problem right now. We have to compete with soccer and other spring and early summer sports.
"We can usually play on a football field. It's 120 by 60 yards. It's about the size of a soccer field. Trying to find a field is the biggest problem we have right now. That and finding enough refs," Sharp said.
Registration is open now through November for next season (January-May). Interested in learning more about upcoming youth clinics or referee clinics? Visit tulsalacrosse.com for details.
Help build a sport.
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