Gaining popularity slowly but surely |

Gaining popularity slowly but surely

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunRyan Cowie, 11, loads up for a shot at the goal last Wednesday at River View Sports Park in Truckee.

Youth membership in the sport of lacrosse, according to, has doubled since 1999, making it one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States.

And Truckee is no exception, thanks to Paul Cowie.

In fact, the co-ed league he organized two years ago exceeds that growth rate, with 12 original participants in 2003, 25 last year and close to 40 this year.

“What’s really cool about this sport is it sells itself,” Cowie said before the squad’s weekly practice on Wednesday. “You get these kids out here and give them five minutes with lacrosse sticks playing catch and they’re hooked.”

Cowie has been hooked since he was a child in Syracuse, N.Y., where he played competitively in junior high and high school.

“Lacrosse has always been near and dear to me,” Cowie said. “Where I grew up, lacrosse is as big as any other sport.”

Although out West the sport is yet to challenge the popularity of prep sports such as football, baseball and basketball, some young people (age 15 and under) in Truckee have given it a go. One of them is 14-year-old David Shaw, who started playing this year.

“I like the contact,” Shaw said of the sport. “It’s more fun than football because there’s a lot more running around constantly. Football there’s a lot of stops.”

How did Shaw know about the league?

“I saw my friends playing,” he said, “and I thought it would be fun. It looked like fun.”

The lacrosse league in Truckee, made a reality through the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, has also attracted coaches, most of them former players with an itch to pick up their sticks again.

Jon Wilson is an example. Originally from the Bay Area, Wilson played club lacrosse in high school, then for four years at Chico State University.

“It’s cool to get out here and play again,” Wilson said. “I haven’t played in five years, since I graduated (from Chico State).”

Possibly more gratifying than playing again, Wilson said, is watching the children having fun while learning the game.

“Look at these guys,” he said of players tossing a ball around on the field at River View Park. “They’re getting it. They’re finding that love for the game that I found and that all these other coaches here found. It’s cool to see a little sparkle in their eye. It’s an addictive game. Once you play it you’re hooked.”

And there may be no sport more fitting for energetic children. Some of the coaches, however ” as they join in on games to maintain a flow ” found that their youthful stamina did not keep pace with the speed of aging.

“You do have to run,” Cowie said. “You’ll see some of these coaches out here after about five minutes just dying. But these kids are up-and-down, up-and-down, and they love it.”

Cowie’s sons, Ryan, 12, and Kevin, 14, grew up playing lacrosse. The goal that sits on front lawn of the Cowie house serves as evidence.

“My kids will pick up (lacrosse) sticks like they would a baseball and come out and play, and they just love it,” he said.

Ryan, a sixth grader who also plays soccer in school and did play baseball until this year, explained what he like about lacrosse.

“I just like playing the whole time because you get to run and play with your friends, and that’s really fun,” he said.

Schooling opponents and scoring goals, which is Ryan’s primary assignment at the “crease attack” position (middle forward), is the most fun.

“The best part is when you score, especially against my dad,” he said.

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