Schools to get lacrosse in 2015
Acknowledging that lacrosse is “a growing sport,” School Board Chairman Dave Wyman told the audience that “We are going to give the green light” to lacrosse clubs at Midlothian High School and Thomas Dale High School and others “that have reached critical mass” to begin official varsity play with the 2015 season.
Perhaps most importantly, Wyman said, the school division “will provide one-time funding for that startup.”
The announcement, which was not on the School Board’s agenda but was made during the public comment period, drew cheers and applause from the audience. Many of the citizens had come to the meeting to urge the board to expand lacrosse, and were wearing jerseys bearing the names of club lacrosse teams in the county.
The county’s one Virginia High School League lacrosse team, James River High School, has been in the league for several years, and enthusiasts have urged the school division for some time to expand varsity play to other schools. “This issue has been out there a number of years,” Wyman acknowledged. “It’s not a new idea.”
The board, he said, has been examining the sport thoroughly, giving consideration especially to safety and costs. With tight budgets in recent years, “adding sports hasn’t really been on our agenda,” Wyman noted.
But with enthusiasm for the sport increasing not just locally but regionally and nationally, Wyman said it was time to reconsider lacrosse.
“This is clearly a growing sport,” he said. “We can’t as a board turn a blind eye to that.”
The delay until 2015 is necessary because the other school systems in the Richmond area that play varsity lacrosse, Hanover and Henrico counties, have already set their schedules for next year, noted Tom Doland, the Matoaca District board member.
Doland said Chesterfield will start negotiations with those teams and the league to schedule games for 2015 so Chesterfield teams won’t have to travel long distances for away games.
However, he emphasized, “The question, Are we going to have lacrosse? has been answered. Yes, we’re going to have lacrosse.”
Maintaining the sport at the new schools will require strong support from players and parents, said Carrie Coyner, the Bermuda District member. “We have seen in all of our sports … a decline in gate receipts,” she noted. “We will need 150 percent support from parents to make this work.”
Paul Amos, a club lacrosse coach who lives in Matoaca, said the county has many of the elements in place to make the sport a long-term success.
Amos noted that there are already clubs at middle schools that can feed players into the high school teams. In addition, U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, provided a startup grant to the Chester club and could offer similar grants to others. “The resources are there,” he said. “They want to help us.”
Expanding the sport will allow schools “to touch a new revenue base,” Amos said. “We anticipate being a revenue [generating] sport in a very short time.”