Paul Ohanian | @uslacrosse
Related Story: Soft Stick Lacrosse Grants Awarded
Inspiring participation is central to the US Lacrosse mission, and perhaps no program offered by the national governing body does a better job of making that happen than the soft-stick lacrosse initiative.
Through equipment grants and in-service training, US Lacrosse brings lacrosse right into hundreds of classrooms and youth organizations nationwide. The first exposure many kids have to the game is through the soft lacrosse experience at their schools.
Using specially molded, gender-neutral plastic sticks and soft balls, educators and community leaders are able to teach the basic skills of the game in a fun and safe environment. A physical education curriculum guide, specifically developed by US Lacrosse, is included with each equipment grant.
“It’s fun, it’s new and kids want to try it,” said Darrell Houston, youth sports program coordinator for the Berwyn City (Ill.) Parks & Rec Department. Houston received an equipment grant last year and, working in cooperation with local school district officials, planned to apply for a workshop grant in 2013.
“We quickly realized we needed more equipment,” Houston said.
Similar sentiments are shared by other recipients.
“The kids love the game,” said Stacey Kimmel, a physical education assistant at Celia Hayes Elementary School in Rockwall, Texas.
US Lacrosse annually offers two grant opportunities for PE/soft-stick lacrosse. These grants provide equipment and/or training to awarded lacrosse teams, schools, and community centers.
Kimmel received a 2012 equipment grant for her school. Due to the rave reviews by her students since beginning play in January, the entire Rockwall School District will join the party this coming year. Thomas helped her school district administrators submit a 2013 workshop grant application to provide greater exposure for the sport in Rockwall.
The US Lacrosse P.E. workshops are three-hour, in-service training seminars for teachers, many of whom may never have seen lacrosse before. The educators are taught how to introduce and teach the game to their students in a safe and age-appropriate manner. Each school represented at the workshop receives a set of the soft lacrosse equipment.
US Lacrosse piloted the PE lacrosse workshop in 2011 with a teaching seminar for 50 teachers in Little Rock, Ark. The national governing body expanded that effort to four PE training workshops for school districts last year. A third cycle of workshops will start this fall.
Each in service workshop typically has 30 schools in attendance with the cost completely covered by US Lacrosse.
"The program provides schools and local organizations from coast-to-coast the opportunity to incorporate lacrosse into physical education curriculums," said Meghan Mulford, programs manager at US Lacrosse.
Including workshop participants, US Lacrosse awarded 221 soft lacrosse equipment sets to schools and civic organizations in 34 states in 2012. The Thomas Edison Charter Academy (TECA) in San Francisco was among those recipients.
"I can't adequately share the giggles and shrieks of the students as they held lacrosse sticks for the first time and as they ran with joy and abandon practical cradling with their new sticks," TECA's Kate Sherwood said. "I was simply delighted to see the excitement on our students' faces as they experienced a sport that they would never have had the chance to without the generosity of US Lacrosse."
The newest component of the PE/soft lacrosse initiative is the development of a tutorial DVD that will be included in all equipment packages to complement the US Lacrosse curriculum guide. It provides a complete video-based instructional workshop on teaching and playing soft lacrosse. The DVD ncludes information about the origins of lacrosse, the variations of the game, the basic skills required, sample drills and activities, and details about the rules and execution of soft lacrosse game play.
"It's certainly our hope that if kids enjoy the soft lacrosse experience, they will then transition to playing traditional lacrosse," Mulford said.
For more information on bringing soft lacrosse to your school or community organization, visit www.uslacrosse.org/softlax
A version of this article appears in the September 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.
Bring soft-stick lacrosse to your school or community organization with a US Lacrosse Soft Lacrosse Equipment Grant and/or Physical Education Workshop Program. Applications are being accepted through March 1.