A few weeks later, Dan Gibbons, the coach for the Red Rock lacrosse club, showed up at Rich’s physical education class to teach the children how to play lacrosse.
Rich, now a sophomore at Desert Hills, was hooked, and he has been playing for Gibbons ever since.
“I got a stick and took to it real fast,” Rich said. “I like that you’re always having to give 110 percent out there.”
Despite being located in St. George, Red Rock fields teams in the varsity, JV and middle school divisions of the Southern Nevada Lacrosse League.
Gibbons said he hopes to grow lacrosse to the point where the varsity team will be split along high school lines.
This year, Red Rock introduced indoor lacrosse, splitting the club into four teams, comprised primarily of high school players plus a smattering of college and adult players.
“It’s much more strategic outside,” Gibbons said. “When you’re playing on a football field, you’re not under as much pressure. When you’re playing inside, you’re playing tight quarters, and you’re under pressure a lot more.”
The indoor season culminated Tuesday when the Red Team, led by Rich and Jarrod West, downed the White Team, 18-12, in the championship game. In a key 5-0 run near the start of the second half, Rich scored three goals – all from 25 feet out to put the game out of reach.
“Usually, right there, no one comes out to play defense,” he said. “When you’re on a real field, that’s still a really good shot.”
Rich is one of many players who were introduced to the sport by Gibbons. In its fourth year, the Red Rock club has around 100 players.
“Most of these kids were exposed to lacrosse at Sunrise, Desert Hills and Tonaquint Intermediate Schools in their P.E. classes,” Gibbons said. “A lot of these kids first experienced lacrosse with me. Some of them have developed quite a skill set.”
Nate Bunker, an assistant coach who played lacrosse for the University of Utah, said the nature of the game attracts many players.
“You see that it’s a lot of sports mixed together,” Bunker said. “It’s a very fast-paced teamwork game.”
Nik Johnson plans to start a program similar to Red Rock this year in Iron County.
“We’re shooting for this spring to get a middle school team going,” Johnson said. “As those players age, we’ll advance as well, adding JV and high school teams.”
Both Johnson and Gibbons said they desperately need people with lacrosse experience to help them coach and officiate. A need that grows more profound as the popularity of lacrosse catches on.