Beware: Children crosse-ing
If you ask Paul Cowie what he likes most about lacrosse, his response is quick much like the game itself.Its fast, he says as excitement spreads across his face. It sells itself. Sometimes you see some of these baseball kids stand in the outfield for hours before someone hits them the ball. In lacrosse, you are working back and forth all the time.Cowie is a former junior high and high school lacrosse player and the organizer of the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District youth lacrosse co-ed league, now in its second year of existence.The appeal and selling point of the sport is its accelerated pace, and its popularity among youth athletes is also growing rapidly it is the fastest growing youth sport in California, and Cowie sees the potential for growth in Truckee.Kids that have tried this sport absolutely fall in love with it, he said.And the numbers prove it. The Truckee recreation league has tripled in participation from 12 to 36 in two years. The numbers arent exactly eye-popping, but the growth is significant, and its a microcosm of a trend around California that may have finally broke through the small mountain town of Truckee.Bigger growth ratios are popping up in cities around California. In five years, one of Cowies friends has witnessed a rise of 30 to 500 participants in Danville, Calif., which has depleted the youth baseball programs there, Cowie said, even to the extent of eliminating girls softball.Lacrosses popularity in the United States formed and matured in the northeast, so it is not surprising as its sphere of influence moves westward that the growth has become a nationwide phenomenon. According to http://www.lacrosse.org, lacrosse is one of the fastest growing team sports in the country. Youth membership (ages 15 and under) in US Lacrosse (the national governing body of mens and womens lacrosse) has doubled since 1999 to over 60,000. The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that in 2001 better than 74,000 students played high school lacrosse.The sport is growing in the college ranks as well, and Cowie recently saw it firsthand, which influenced him to start the league. On a tour of universities and colleges around California with his daughter Katie, Cowie noticed that most schools had both a mens and womens lacrosse team.We figured if these kids do nothing but learn the sport (in Truckee), he said, then when they go to (college) in California theyll be able to try out for the teams.Along with four assistants, Cowie instructed a once-a-week practice on Wednesday nights at River View Park for the last nine weeks through TDRPD for a reasonable cost of $40. Considering the recreation department provides all equipment, the league was a bargain.June 16 marked the last official practice, but Cowie and his crew are not done for the summer. Next week, Cowie will lead a week-long camp on Monday through Friday (June 21-25) from 1 to 4 p.m. for the cost of $55 a child. Cowie said 25 children have already signed up, and he will accept children who sign up late.Cowie has taken an active role in spreading the word. In a recent demonstration for two Truckee Elementary School physical education classes, Cowie realized how attractive the sport can be to a kid that is uncomfortable with traditional sports like baseball, football and basketball.They were able to pick up the stick and catch and run and throw; and run up and down the field, he said. They were saying, Hey, this is cool. I want to do this.Cowies sons, Ryan and Kevin, were introduced to the sport by their father, and they are realizing the increased interest in the sport amongst their peers.My dad, my brother and I played around the yard for two years, said 11-year-old Ryan. A lot of my friends at school are in this (league).
Based on an agreement with the recreation department that is meant to limit injuries to players for insurance reasons, Cowie has not allowed full contact yet.For now, Cowie and his assistants are occupied simply with teaching the fundamentals and introducing the sport. The children are slowly being introduced to game situations through scrimmages, but drillwork takes up the better part of practice.You have to get the passing and catching down, and the rest of the sport will come, Cowie said.Assistant coach Doc Holoday said the children are developing good stick skills, which will help them down the road, but learning to catch and throw on the run are the keys to enhancing skills in game situations.But blending beginners and more seasoned players has created a natural disparity in ability level, and Cowie plans to address this next year.Cowie is hoping to practice on two fields in 2005 to accommodate the different age groups and skill levels of players. Separation will also lead to less injury when contact becomes a bigger part of the league.
What makes the league more legitimate is that the coaches have all played the sport competitively at the college level or higher, like Holoday, who played at upstate New Yorks Albany State University and also played in a semi-pro league. When Holoday talks about his playing days, his love of the game relates to its action-packed reputation.Lacrosse is the fastest moving sport on two feet, since hockey is not considered on two feet, Holoday said. I liked the fast pace, and I liked the hitting. Theres not a whole lot of standing around.The other coaches have respectable lacrosse rsums as well.Tom Allen played in high school and played college lacrosse at University of California, Santa Barbara in the early 80s, which he said was a powerhouse at the time. He calls working with kids rewarding, and he played a role in starting youth lacrosse programs in Monterey, Calif.Weve gone from five teams to 13 teams in the Monterey area, Allen said. Then I moved up to Truckee about six months ago and met Paul, who has done it all with the help (of the recreation department).Kerry Sheedy, the owner of Truckee Bagel Company, has also been helping Cowie. Sheedy comes from a family rich in lacrosse experience. Sheedys father played at Princeton University, his brother played at The Johns Hopkins University (seven-time national Division I champions), and Sheedy played at California State University, Humboldt.Noelle Nixon, the only womens coach, played at Ohio State University for two years. In a co-ed league, Cowie said Nixons involvement is important because the female participants have a role model to look up to.Cowie himself grew up in what he calls a hotbed of lacrosse Syracuse, N.Y. the same city whose college team just won the 2004 NCAA Division I lacrosse championship.When we grew up (lacrosse) was as big as baseball or football, Cowie recollects. In my high school, it was bigger than most sports.
Cowie realizes he is competing with baseball, Americas so-called pastime, but he maintains he is not out to wreck its participation level in Truckee, or in any other sports for that matter.My kids still played baseball, soccer and lacrosse all this spring, Cowie said. We make it work. Thats why I tried to find a day (for the league) when there wasnt a lot of baseball going on.Cowies son Ryan said that baseball was his other favorite sport.However, for kids who dont like baseball, Cowie, along with the TDRPD, is creating another spring sport for children in Truckee. In 2004, 36 children have relished that opportunity, and the numbers are sure to grow.With recent budget cuts, Truckee High School wont be adding sports any time soon, but if it decides to add lacrosse in the coming years, Cowie and four other coaches are prepared to lead the squad.We were thinking a club team (for the high school), Cowie said, but thats what we are hoping to be the first high school coaches if it evolves to that point. If it doesnt, were just going to keep doing what were doing.For more information about the youth lacrosse league, call the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District at 582-7720, or Paul Cowie at 582-8898. For more information about lacrosse, visit http://www.lacrosse.org or http://www.e-lacrosse.com. Major League Lacrosse, an outdoor professional league, debuted in 2001 on the East Coast. The National Lacrosse League, an indoor league, also exists, but plays under different rules than field lacrosse.*Youth Participation Boys and Girls 1. Youth and recreational programs playing both field and soft lacrosse are estimated at about 125,000 participants. US Lacrosses 48 regional chapters indicated a total of 82,448 players participating in lacrosse at the youth level. Several areas of the country have youth programs but are not yet represented by a US Lacrosse chapter.2. Over 4,500 programs span the United States.3. Programs range in size from 50 to 15,000 children.4. Players range from 5 to 15 years of age.*Information taken from http://www.lacrosse.org.Lacrosse a definitionThe sport of lacrosse is a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey. Anyone can play lacrosse the big or the small. The game requires and rewards coordination and agility, not brawn. Quickness and speed are two highly prized qualities in lacrosse. An exhilarating sport, lacrosse is fast-paced and full of action. Long sprints up and down the field with abrupt starts and stops, precision passes and dodges are routine in men’s and women’s lacrosse. Lacrosse is played with a stick, the crosse, which must be mastered by the player to throw, catch and scoop the ball.[Excerpt taken from http://www.lacrosse.org]