Lacrosse is Catching Fire in Lemont, Across the Nation
Local coach says growth has exceeded expectations for Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse.
Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse President Bill Douglass is looking forward to getting the organization's third season underway in April. He sees a bright future ahead for the sport, which has been attracting more young players each year.
“We had roughly 30 kids in our first season, 66 kids last year – and we expect to be over 90 this year,” Douglass said. “Our growth has exceeded all of our expectations, but if you look at how fast Lacrosse is growing nationwide, it is not surprising.”
The non-profit organization US Lacrosse confirms the sport is indeed gaining popularity. The group’s latest survey shows Lacrosse as one of the fastest growing team sports in the country – with more than 360,000 players (230,356 male and 130,919 female) participating with organized youth Lacrosse teams in 2011 – an increase of 11.3 percent over the previous year.
Youth Lacrosse players from Lemont formerly played for the Orland Chiefs, until Tom Haggerty, former coach of the Lemont High School Lacrosse Club, founded the Indians youth organization in April 2011, Douglass said.
At that time, the Lemont Indians joined the Southland Lacrosse League, also founded by Haggerty, along with two teams each from Oak Forest, Orland Park and Beverly. This year, the league added teams from Tinley Park, Plainfield, Oswego, Lombard, Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles in Illinois and Chesterton and Crown Point in Indiana.
According to US Lacrosse, the game is the oldest sport native to the North American continent. Rooted in Native American ritual and tradition, it was once played to resolve conflicts, prepare for war, heal the sick and build strength.
Douglass describes today's Lacrosse as a fast-moving sport that shares commonality with hockey, soccer and basketball – and a “great cross-training sport for football players looking to develop speed and agility.”
And, he said, Lacrosse is a game that kids simply love to play.
“It has an X Games feel to it,” Douglass said. “There is something cool about being an eXtreme sport. The uniforms reflect the “X” nature of the sport, as well.”
Simply put, Lacrosse fields 10 players who use a stick with a net on the end to carry, pass and shoot a solid rubber ball. The purpose of the game is to advance the ball by running or passing until a player gets a shot and scores into the net. Each goal scores one point, and the team with the most points wins.
Douglass, a former football and basketball coach who now coaches the Indians’ U13 (under age 13) team along with Dave Henze, said he initially became interested in Lacrosse when his son Connor, now 12, fell in love with the sport.
“He really liked basketball and football and decided to give it a try,” Douglass said. “He came back from the first practice and said that Lacrosse was his favorite sport. I believed him when I saw him walking around the house with a [Lacrosse] stick in his hand, non-stop spinning the ball and practicing in the family room. My wife had to make a rule that the stick was not allowed in the kitchen – otherwise, he would have brought it to the dinner table.”
Transitioning from years of coaching football and basketball was made easier by Haggerty’s mentoring and the spectacular training programs and coaching clinics the Indians organization has to offer, Douglass said. He encourages other community members to get involved with the program, too – even if they have never coached Lacrosse before.
“The fact is that Lacrosse is growing so rapidly, that there are simply not enough former players to match up with the large number of new ones,” Douglass said. “At the end of the day, a good coach is a good coach, regardless of the sport. If you are a good coach, jump in. Every single child you reach gets paid forward exponentially.
“Our future is on fields, courts, rinks and pools, every day. We need to invest in all of them, and not just our own.”
Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse Season, Signup Info
According to Douglass, Lemont Indians Lacrosse is currently coordinating fields with the Lemont Park District and waiting for the league schedule to be set. The season starts April 2 and ends in mid-June, with games and tournaments played mostly on weekends. Teams will practice three days per week at the Bambrick Park fields and the younger players may practice on fields on 127th Street, he added.
Teams follow national age levels set by US Lacrosse, with levels determined by the age of the player as of Sept. 1. Douglass said participants may play “up,” in age levels, but not “down.”
Lemont Indians Lacrosse fields the following teams:
- U15: Ages 15 or under; high school players are not eligible
- U13: Ages 13 or under
- U11: Ages 11 or under
- U9: Ages 9 or under (participants play seven-on-seven on a shorter field with special rules)
A registration meeting for Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the Lemont Police Station at 4600 127th St. Parents of potential players can download a registration form in advance from the “documents” section in the right-hand section of the league’s website at www.lemontindiansyouthlacrosse.com.
The league also offers preseason conditioning and skill development from Friday, March 1, and continuing through March 19, at the Megaplex Sports Center at 15301 South Bell Road in Homer Glen. Check out Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse's website at http://www.lemontindiansyouthlacrosse.com/ for dates, times (which vary according to age level) and cost.
Members of the Lemont Indians Youth Lacrosse board include Bill Douglass, president; Bob Persak, vice president; Ross Metzler, secretary; Brenda Douglass, treasurer; Michael Porter, athletic director; and Tom Haggerty, director of player development.
For more information on the sport of Lacrosse, visit the US Lacrosse website.
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