Move over spring sports, there is a new game in town. Lacrosse, a highly popular sport in the Northeast, has taken the South by storm over the past few years, drawing in young athletes who enjoy the fast pace of the game, and where small and quick can be more desirable than large and strong.
“Lacrosse is a sport for all sizes and is especially appealing to youth who don’t have the size to play football,” explains Greg Doepke, one of the founders of the Auburn Youth Lacrosse Club. “I’m a good example of a kid from a football family who was just too small for football, but because of my small build and speed, I was the ideal player for lacrosse. I have a passion for the sport because of the positive impact it had on me growing up.”
Both girls and boys play the game, though the rules and the equipment are different.
“Boys wear helmets, mouth pieces and protective padding; girls do not wear helmets because their contact is much more limited,” says Doepke.
Lacrosse is a spring sport played on a grass field with a net like soccer, but the ball is advanced using sticks with nets. Boys play a much more physical contact game than girls who can only hit the ball with a stick.
Auburn University offers lacrosse as a club sport for both men’s and women’s teams. Jake Ponseti, president of the AU men’s lacrosse team, said the teams are excited about youth lacrosse coming into the area and have been a tremendous support in launching the program.
“When it comes down to it, we love the sport and will do everything we can to share the game with kids who are willing to give it a shot,” says Ponseti. “We believe having a strong youth program is a great way to cultivate our team’s relationship with Auburn’s close-knit community—an aspect that usually plays a big part in students choosing to come here in the first place.”
As with any youth sport, parents are an essential part of a successful program and both Doepke and Ponseti have been impressed with how parents have stepped up to learn the sport.
“Most of the kids and the parents who are interested in lacrosse know little or nothing about the game,” says Gregory Forthofer, founding member of the Auburn Youth Lacrosse Club. “Our club spends a lot of time teaching the fundamentals of the game to the kids and the parents, and we hold coaching clinics for parents who want to be more involved. The main thing is just to get out there and be a part of it.”
“We (AU teams) have been so impressed with the initiative of the parents here,” says Ponseti. “They have taken the bull by the horns and done whatever it takes to get this program up and running. Speaking from
experience, it is not easy to make something like this happen from scratch.”
Forthofer, whose son, Gabe, is a lacrosse player, says the City of Auburn has been extremely supportive in getting the program started.
“Becky Richardson and her staff at Auburn Parks and Recreation have helped us get the word out and have worked with us to secure practice and game facilities,” says Forthofer. “We had tremendous response last year with more than 100 players, and we feel confident we will have even more participation in 2012. The players,
their families and all the spectators
really enjoy the excitement and skill
of the game.”
Doepke says the league has depended on the US Lacrosse Association and this year, the Auburn program secured a grant for 40 sets of equipment (20 for boys/20 for girls) to help offset the cost for first time players and/or children who need assistance. Doepke says the equipment will be used during the season and returned.
For more information and for 2012 schedules for Auburn lacrosse, visit www.AuburnYouthlax.com.