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Lane Errington | @lane_errington
Because the US Lacrosse First Stick Program puts more sticks in new players’ hands and more smiles on faces than any other lacrosse initiative, that’s why.
Last week, we shared some of the reactions from the 125 teams in 38 states that were awarded First Stick grants this fall. As we look forward to these new programs joining the First Stick family, check out these success stories from 2012 grant recipients, originally published in Lacrosse Magazine.
Coach Deton Ambler sought unconventional means to ensure his players enjoyed the school’s inaugural boys’ lacrosse season — from using the Harlem Shake in their pregame warm-up to giving his goalie a chance to score by playing on attack. Ambler believes a positive experience will motivate his players to continue with the game. A graduate of San Diego State, he has also has four former teammates as volunteer coaches. “There’s no coaching stipend, but we’re making it happen,” Ambler said. “We are all very thankful that US Lacrosse gave us this opportunity.”
While John Keitz appreciates the equipment for the new under-13 boys’ team at Oasis Academy in Fallon, Nev., the First Stick resource that made the biggest difference was the opportunity for him to attend the US Lacrosse National Convention.
“I learned more things in the first hour that I am actually using on the field with my players than I have gotten out of two decades of teacher conventions,” said Keitz, a Long Island native and middle school teacher who moved to western Nevada in 1995. “The drills and concepts presented at the convention are done by people who really know how to teach the game.”
Sometimes, getting a program started simply requires a willing volunteer. Meet Cynthia Massery. Realizing the local high school program needed a feeder, she stepped in as the program director and helped launch Georgetown Youth Lacrosse in 2012. Utilizing mostly donated equipment, 52 boys in grades 5 through 8 participated.
With the benefit of loaner equipment secured through the First Stick grant, the league has grown to 105 players in 2013, including a girls’ team that Massery is coaching. “I’m brave enough to learn,” Massery said. “I’m trying to be the front person and getting others to help out. We’re still a football state, but everybody loves the sport. We’re building a foundation.”
Lacrosse started as a pay-to-play club sport at St. Paul Catholic two years ago. Now fully funded, the boys’ lacrosse team just wrapped up its inaugural season. Longtime Bristol Youth Lacrosse coach Darren McGowan is an assistant on the St. Paul team and was one of those who helped initially launch the club program.
“First Stick was a huge factor in our sustainability,” McGowan said. “Now, we get a lot of support from the school administration. All of our players signed an ‘Honor the Game’ pledge before the season started, and our principal had it laminated and hung it in the school’s main entranceway.”
Living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, in a town called Hedgesville, Vicki Williams and other parents got tired of driving to Maryland for their kids to play lacrosse. They wanted their own identity in their own state. Williams knew where to find assistance.
“The first place I went for help was the US Lacrosse website, and the First Stick Program was a no brainer,” Williams said.
From a modest start with 45 boys in 2012, Panhandle Pride now boasts about 20 players per team across five different boys’ and girls’ age groups.
Ridgely Britton had a lacrosse itch he just had to scratch. One year after retiring from Xerox in 1995, the former Virginia player moved to Charleston and got involved with the city’s youth rec program. That eventually led him to the fledgling West Ashley High girls’ team as a volunteer assistant.
Britton coordinated the school’s First Stick application and has been a sideline fixture for three seasons. Wins have been slow in coming thus far, but there is hope for the future, including two juniors on the 2013 team that are drawing interest from college coaches. “This has been a tremendously rewarding experience,” Britton said. “We’ve had a few rough patches, but the girls’ have made the commitment.”
The US Lacrosse First Stick Program is the ultimate grassroots initiative for new and developing youth lacrosse teams nationwide. It provides a multi-year deployment of US Lacrosse resources to expand participation beyond traditional boundaries.
This holiday season, the US Lacrosse Foundation wants to put sticks in more new players’ hands. We’re setting an ambitious goal for Giving Tuesday to raise $20,600 that will underwrite the cost of one boys and one girls First Stick grant.
On December 3, let’s make this national day of giving the largest online giving day in our history, and more importantly, impact communities that are using lacrosse as a vehicle to empower young athletes. Join us in our commitment to give back with a donation at uslacrosse.org/givingtuesday.
Give smiles. Give sticks. #GivingTuesday.
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