HT Urban Lacrosse Fostering Growth of the Game in North Carolina
April 2, 2012 - For Richard Haith, the goal of bringing lacrosse to an underserved urban area in Greensboro, North Carolina is motivated by a simple goal: sharing his joy.
It all began four years ago, shortly after his oldest son, Eugene, was first introduced to the game. Eugene began playing in high school, and was soon followed by Haith’s second son, Tyson, who is now a high school freshman. Both sons were smitten with the game.
||With an assist from USL's Equipment Grant Program, HT Urban Lacrosse is bringing the game to a nontraditional lacrosse community in Greensboro, N.C.
Richard’s attraction to lacrosse was nearly as consuming as that of his boys. He began serving as the second assistant – basically the team dad – on his sons’ rec teams. As he started learning more about the game, he moved up to first assistant, then eventually took on his own teams as the head coach.
Now, he has a vision to expand that involvement through HT Urban Lacrosse, an organization he founded in order to bring the game to communities that have never previously been exposed to the sport.
"We’re still in the beginning phases," says Haith, himself a native North Carolinian. "We’re building one on one."
While turnout for clinics and practices has been encouraging, Haith understands that retention, from week to week and season to season, is the real challenge that faces a demographic group that has very little history with the game. Not only have many of the 9, 10 and 11 year old urban kids never heard of the sport, Haith finds that many of their parents are equally unawares.
"We’re trying to introduce the sport to a community that has no idea what we’re talking about," says Haith. "We show them videos to get them excited about playing and we tell them not to worry about the cost because we’ll try to find sponsors who will help support these kids."
That’s where US Lacrosse and the former Equipment Grant Program (now restructured as the First Stick Program) enter the picture. HT Urban Lacrosse was one of the 2011 recipients of a USL equipment grant. The fact that Haith can fully outfit all the kids that show up for the weekly clinics has been a real benefit.
"The equipment has made a great difference," says Haith. "Our clinics are much more effective now that the kids learn the game while using real equipment. We’re still teaching the basics like throwing and catching, but now they’re using real balls instead of tennis balls."
Haith’s goals for HT Urban Lacrosse are simple: help the kids learn the basic skills so that they can begin truly enjoying the game. The next step will come when Urban Lacrosse will be able to sponsor teams in the U9 and U11 divisions of the Triad Youth Lacrosse Association. Haith’s ultimate measure of success is still on the horizon.
"I hope to drive around some of the urban areas in a few years and see kids in the parks with lacrosse sticks in their hands," says Haith. "That’s when I’ll know that we’ve been successful. That’s when I’ll see the fruits of our labor."
The US Lacrosse Equipment Grant Program has been restructured recently and is now part of the more comprehensive First Stick Program offered by US Lacrosse. The First Stick Program continues to offer equipment grants to assist developing youth teams, but also supplements that equipment with additional educational and safety resources. To learn more, please visit www.uslacrosse.org/FirstStick.