Urban lacrosse can have many challenges. Among these are cost, perception and logistics, which can simply be having access to field space.

To that end, the Brooklyn Lacrosse Club, a non-profit founded in 2012 to help bring the sport to local boys and girls, has recently unveiled a new strategy to deal with the concrete jungle of the urban metropolis.

Say hello to WallGames.

Conceived by Brooklyn Lacrosse co-founder Khalid West, WallGames are a series of competitive games in which lacrosse is played on fenced-in handball courts. The parks and public spaces across New York City are littered with outdoor handball courts, which are a reflection of a bygone era in which the game dominated the city landscape. Many of the players are gone, but the courts remain.

The official website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation lists over 600 handball courts in Brooklyn alone. That doesn’t include any of NYC’s other boroughs. The courts are all open to the public, free of charge.

While Brooklyn Lacrosse Club does have access to some field space, it is limited and in high demand. That’s where West stepped into the void, seeking to utilize the under-utilized handball courts as skill development facilities for players.

“It’s a constant battle to secure field space. It’s very competitive and drives us nuts,” West said.

West has developed six different games, thus far, along with several drills that help players to improve on their fundamentals: passing, catching, shooting, footwork, spacing and more. The most important element of using the handball court is that it increases the number of touches that players have with the ball, a requisite in skill development.

All of the games involve a scoring system. Some have time limits. Most incorporate the use of regular defense. All of the games are small-sided, meaning they can be played with one, two or three players aside. Most can also be played individually.

The current menu includes: Off-the-Wall, Tennis (aka Back & Forth), Pipes, Board and Hoops, Bricks, Catches and Cones, Suddenly, and Walk the Line. The games and rules are explained online.

Wallgames
Many of the WallGames can be played individually or as small-sided competitions.

“The interest in the games and the intensity of the players has been gratifying to see,” said West, who grew up in Liverpool, N.Y. and has played lacrosse since eighth grade.

West has launched a web site, AsoyahLacrosse.org, that further explains the games and includes video demonstrations. As a tribute to the Native American roots of lacrosse, he incorporated the Cherokee word for wall, asoyah, into the site name.

 

One of the by-products of WallGames has been increased exposure to lacrosse throughout the community. Having spectators gather around a court to watch the players is not unusual.

“There’s lots of flow from people walking through the parks and we get a lot of attention,” West said.

Having started with just 20 kids in 2012, Brooklyn Lacrosse Club, an Urban Lacrosse Alliance member, has seen significant growth through its first five years. The club expects to have almost 500 kids across 15 teams this spring. The increased exposure of the game on handball courts throughout the city does help in fueling the organization’s growth.

“I don’t think we are very different than many other youth lacrosse organizations. We all face the same challenges and meet those challenges slightly differently,” said Joe Nocella, Brooklyn Lacrosse’s co-founder. “We see the barriers of entry and we strive to remove these barriers in everything we do.”

Adapting the field game to handball courts is just the latest example.

“It’s a different perspective and a different environment,” West said, “but it’s still lacrosse.

 

Brooklyn Lacrosse
One of the field venues used by Brooklyn Lacrosse Club is picturesque Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

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