US Lacrosse circled back to check up on some of the prior First Stick recipients.
"Lacrosse is all about having fun, and we’re not letting wins and losses get in the way of having fun," said Deron Ambler, coach of San Diego High School’s first-year boys’ program. Ambler utilized a number of unconventional approaches to ensure that his players enjoyed their initial season of play – from using the Harlem Shake in pregame warm-ups to giving goalies a chance to score by playing on attack. Ambler believes that a positive attitude and experience will motivate players to continue with the game. A graduate of San Diego State, he also tapped four of his former teammates to volunteer as 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."
• More about SDHS from MaxLax
While the equipment for the new U13 team at Oasis Academy in Fallon, Nevada was greatly appreciated, the First Stick resource that coach John Keitz says made the biggest difference was the opportunity to attend the US Lacrosse Convention. "I learned more things in the first hour that I am actually using on the field with my players than I had gotten out of two decades of teacher conventions," said the 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 that 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 doubled in size the next year, including a girls’ team that Massery coached. "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 High School and grew into a fully-funded varsity program. 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, Vicki Williams and a few other parents decided it was time to stop driving to Maryland to have their kids play lacrosse. They wanted their own identity, in their own state. So when they began planning the start of their own youth program, she knew exactly where to turn for 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, they now have about 20 players per team across five different boys and girls age groups. "We have some passionate kids and families," Williams said. "This has been a very rewarding experience."
Ridgely Britton had a lacrosse itch that he just had to scratch. One year after retiring from Xerox in 1995, the former University of Virginia (Class of ’63) player moved to Charleston and got involved with the city’s youth rec program. That eventually led him to the fledgling West Ashley High School team as a volunteer assistant. Britton coordinated the school’s First Stick application and has been a sideline fixture. Wins were slow in coming initially, but there is hope for the future. "This has been a tremendously rewarding experience," Britton said. "We’ve had a few rough patches, but the girls’ made the commitment."