Published: Thursday, Jul 31, 2008
In one Southern California school district, the jump rope game Double Dutch has been recognized as an official school sport. Somehow, I can’t visualize a television program “Wednesday Night Lights” being built around jump rope, no matter how gifted the athletes.
However, the fact that schools are willing to try new sports and adapt to what the kids really want is encouraging.
In Petaluma, what the kids really want is lacrosse. The sport was started in our community just three years ago by a small group of parents who had played the sport in college and wanted to give their children and others a chance to experience the game.
Lacrosse is truly an American game, tracing its roots back to Native Americans who were playing a form of the game when the ships carrying Europeans to the new world were still a speck on history’s horizon.
It is also a fun game for both spectators and players. It combines the non-stop action of basketball, with the skill of soccer and the physical nature of football and wraps it all up in teamwork. One player can stand out, but not dominate a game.
It only took watching a couple of games to get me hooked on the sport. It is exciting and very fun to watch. It must be a blast to play. I still don’t know all the rules and I’m still learning the terminology, but you really don’t have to know a lot to appreciate the sport.
From the beginning three years ago, lacrosse has grown to 17 teams involving more than 350 youngsters of various age groups. There are boys varsity and junior varsity and girls club teams at both Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools.
Those numbers are an indication that lacrosse has quickly caught on with the only demographic group that really counts — the players. It really doesn’t matter how much me or any other fan enjoys the sport or how passionate the coaches are about lacrosse. What really counts is how enthusiastic the players are about the sport and, from what I can tell, they love it.
That is the biggest and best argument for making lacrosse an official school sport.
Its current status as a club sport means that Petaluma and Casa Grande teams are traveling all over the country. Even more significantly, the athletes cannot officially represent their schools. They cannot earn school athletic letters or win pennants and trophies for their schools. They aren’t even officially Trojans or Gauchos.
It’s not fair.
School administrators argue that they don’t have the resources to add an additional sport. They say there isn’t enough money or administrators to supervise the games.
Lacrosse supporters point out that if the sport were recognized as an official California Interscholastic Federation sport, the local schools could be placed in a league with Marin County or other closer-to-home schools.
Petaluma Youth Lacrosse League, the parent organization of the Petaluma River Cats, has said it will pick up the entire tab for a lacrosse program in both high schools and even provide most of the administrative work.
Truthfully, adding lacrosse, or any other sport, will have some impact on the schools. There will be some cost, some administrative work and it will take some athletes away from other sports. But those impacts will be minimal.
On the other side of the ledger is the irrefutable argument that their a lot of kids who want to represent their school playing lacrosse.
They deserve the chance.