Some say that the popularity of a sport goes in cycles. Some take longer than others to get attention, some aren't even played anymore. In the Cleveland area, and all around the country, the country's oldest sport is now the fastest growing sport.
A form of Lacrosse dates back all the way to Native Americans in the late 1600's. It is the nation's oldest sport, and a strong revival of the game is happening all around the country. The state of Ohio, and especially the Cleveland area, has been a part of the Lacrosse boom.
What exactly is Lacrosse?.... Think a cross between soccer and hockey, played on a field with the dimensions similar to a football field. The ball is passed with "sticks" with baskets on the end of them. On either end of the field are goals six feet high by six feet wide. It is similar to soccer as the players run the length of the field carrying the ball in the basket of the Lacrosse stick. It is similar to football as the players wear helmets and shoulder pads. There are 10 players on each side, labeled as three "attack" players, three "midfielders", three "defenders" and one goalie. The players both give and receive a certain level of contact. Yes, Lacrosse is a contact sport. It's a contact sport that many athletes around the Cleveland area and all over the country are turning to as an alternative to football and other sports.
According to the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association, growth in the Midwest in the sport of Lacrosse has grown 381% since 2005
How did Lacrosse evolve in the Cleveland area?.... Like most new sports that have evolved over the years and are now high school sports, the Lacrosse movement have been a process. First, there is the idea of playing Lacrosse, and a group of kids or parents get together and form a "team". Second, when this team is formed, it then seeks out other teams in the area, and have unofficial "games". Third, athletic clubs around the area form Lacrosse leagues, and play other athletic clubs. By this point, Lacrosse is tagged with being a "club sport", which the majority of schools in the Cleveland area are at this point in time. After a few years a being a club sport, the school district can then decide to make Lacrosse a varsity sport, with the usual hoops to jump through from the state. An example of an athletic club in the Cleveland area that has caught the Lacrosse craze in Force Athletic Club in Rocky River. It has set up its own Lacrosse club. Another, more competitive club named Xcelerate, forms teams and plays at a higher level than your basic travel teams. They even set up summer camps, similar to other popular sports around the area. One Cleveland area mom has seen success with her son, who has taken up the sport:
Nolan is in his 2nd year with Olmsted Falls travel, and with be playing with Xcelerate this summer. He loves the fast pace of the game. He played soccer in the past, but likes Lacrosse because of the speed of the game, and some allowable contact. I had a lot of friends that played in college at Ithaca, and I always loved watching the sport. Nolan has taken advantage of Force in Rocky River, as they have some great programs for Lacrosse....Melissa Kozub, Olmsted Falls, OH
That isn't everything that Nolan likes about the sport:
I like the history and concept of the game too....Nolan Kozub, age 11, Olmsted Falls, OH
Ohio has been a little late to the Lacrosse party. The sport has been wildly popular in the Northeast for years. All the "power" Lacrosse teams at the college level are in the Northeast, such as Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Princeton, and other Ivy League schools. One considered a "rich man's" sport, Lacrosse is going mainstream.
It is starting to spread all over the country.
My son started playing Lacrosse when he was 8. He had tried soccer and baseball but his coach recommended football after watching him tackle a kid rounding third. We tried football that fall and Lacrosse the following spring. Where football was slow, Lacrosse moved fast. Where football was one hit or one play, Lacrosse kept going. He loved it! He played every season since and year round for the last three years, with clubs of increasing competitiveness. His enthusiasm for the sport caught on and my husband tried tossing it around too. Now he plays on a men's team I think so many people like it for the speed and the teamwork the game demands I'm hooked on the physicalness of it...like hockey....Kristin Rock, Leesburg, VA
In the Cleveland area, most of the successful teams come from the most affluent suburbs or are private schools. That trend will not continue for long, as more and more schools compete on the club level, where Lacrosse as a varsity sport is soon on the horizon. On the state level, the dominant team in the state just happens to be a public school. Upper Arlington, just outside of Columbus, has won seven state championships since 2004. They just so happened to beat another public school, Dublin Jerome, in last year's state final. While the Cleveland area sees the traditional private school powers such as St. Ignatius and St. Edward field powerful teams, public school teams such as Hudson and Solon have both advanced far in the state tournament in recent years, and both field highly competitive teams this season.
As with any new sport, there is a learning curve not only for the kids playing, but also for the parents:
Josh is playing it for the first time this year at St. Ignatius. He's very fortunate to be able to learn how to play. He's able to learn positions and how to play the game. He's glad to get the opportunity to participate in this sport. He's really enjoying playing and learning this sport. He's glad he finally started playing. I'm still learning the rules of the game -- such as when you can hit or "check" your opponent with your stick and when you can't.... Tina Jarosz, Cleveland, OH
How did Josh get hit with the Lacrosse "bug"?
I got influences from friends at school and family. I first watched it 2-1/2 years ago on TV watching a college Lacrosse game. It looked really cool and I wanted to try it. It's grown over the years because of the new opportunities that are being offered through clubs and high schools. It's becoming more popular because kids are able to learn it at younger ages. There are more opportunities for both girls and boys to learn it.... Josh Jarosz, St. Ignatius Lacrosse
It's not just on the boys side. Girls Lacrosse is growing at a rapid pace also. Public schools are forming Lacrosse clubs at their high schools. If you turn your head, another club team has popped up. One of the high schools in the Cleveland area that is trying their hand at a Lacrosse club is Brunswick:
Brianna is 14 and entering Brunswick in the fall. She wants to play Lacrosse. She has played volleyball her whole life, but has grown tired of it. She is very athletic, competitive, and likes the physically of Lacrosse.... Jim Steffen, Brunswick, OH
Still not convinced that their is a Lacrosse boom across the country?
- The Lacrosse National Championship for college Lacrosse is now televised on ESPN
- Since 2001, their has been a professional Lacrosse league, the Major Lacrosse League (MLL). That is 13 years. Any league that has been around for 13 years is here to stay
- Within the MLL, there is finally an Ohio team, the Ohio Machine.
- More and more athletes are giving up their childhood sports to pursue playing Lacrosse
Just ask the kids that play. Since Lacrosse is a spring sport, there are many football players that actually play Lacrosse as a way to keep in shape in the football off season. Solon, one of the top ranked Lacrosse schools in the Cleveland area, has 5 football players on their Lacrosse roster. Weather it be used as an alternative to playing another sport, OR as a way to keep in shape during another sport's off season, Lacrosse is catching on, and catching on in a hurry.
So parents, if your child is looking for a sport that is faster than soccer, less physical than football, and still highly competitive, have your child become a "LAXer".
There is still room on the bandwagon.