By Molly Godby
Lacrosse is the oldest sport in our nation, yet so many people have no idea what it is. Most of the time lacrosse is known as an East Coast sport, with schools such as the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins and Syracuse dominating the field. Lacrosse in the Midwest? You bet! We have a seriously strong program right here in Zionsville, and the Zionsville Lacrosse family wants you to check it out.
What is lacrosse?
Because of conflicting historical accounts, there is not an exact history of the game. It is known, however, that it was started by Native Americans and adapted by early French settlers. They used a generic term for a game played with a curved stick (crosse) and a ball. Later it become “la crosse” and finally the modern name of lacrosse. Simply put, two teams compete against each other to score goals using a lacrosse stick (a long pole with a net at the end) to handle, throw and catch the ball, weaving and passing to throw the ball in their opponent’s net.
Lacrosse has evolved since the Native Americans played. In their version, hundreds to thousands of braves played together at one time, while teams today typically have just nine players and a goalie on the field at one time. The playing area could stretch for miles, and goals were scored either by hitting the ball off of a rock or tree, or by tossing the ball between goalposts. The games lasted from sunup to sundown, and often went on for two to three days. These days, games are played on fields about the size of a football field. Native Americans often used games as a means to toughen up young braves in preparation for combat or to settle a disagreement between tribes. Now lacrosse is a recreational and competitive sport played all over the nation, with teams at the secondary school, collegiate and professional levels.
The Zionsville Lacrosse program is now more than 10 years old and continues to grow. Known as “The Joes,” Joe Schoener and Joe Stadelmaier helped to develop the first team in 2000, a boy’s high school varsity team. Despite a rocky 2-11 start, the experience and knowledge gained were the keys to further developing the program. The next season the team finished with a record of 11-4 in the regular season and placed fifth in the state tournament. Since then, the program has created high school girls teams, as well as teams for younger kids. In fact, the first year the girls team hit the field in 2002, they finished with a winning record, led by coaches Leslie Sherman and Nancy Fagan.
Fast forward to 2014. Some of these same founding leaders are still involved in Zionsville Lacrosse as players, coaches and volunteers, establishing Zionsville as one of the Midwest hotbeds for developing lacrosse players. Just last year male varsity player Ryan Broderick was sent to play Division I lacrosse for the Knights of Bellermine University in Louisville, Ky.
So how does one get involved in lacrosse? Kids can play boys or girls lacrosse starting in third grade. The children’s programs (third-eighth grades) are run by the Zionsville Lacrosse Club — or ZLAX — working hand in hand with the high school programs to ensure consistency throughout a player’s career. Most third- and fourth-graders come into the sport knowing very little about lacrosse but think that it sounds like a cool sport to try.
The older players often can be seen interacting with the younger players. They are big brothers and sisters, helping with practices, reffing and running camps for younger players. These high-schoolers are good role models for the younger players, teaching them the ropes while giving back to the lacrosse family that they care so much about. The coaches and volunteers realize that these are important teaching years. They look for it to be a positive experience for all who are involved, and moreover, want the kids to have fun!
There are opportunities year-round to be involved with the lacrosse program, such as camps and indoor sessions to help kids learn the game. And for more experienced players, teams like Green Machine and Titanium offer advanced competition. Despite the year-round offerings, coaches don’t insist that players play lacrosse only. They want well-rounded kids on the team — kids who play other sports or are involved in other activities. It keeps kids interested and their excitement for the game fresh.
Not only are the kids having fun, but so are the parents. Sometimes the parents are in the same boat as the children, learning the rules and positions as they watch practices and games. Maybe what builds enthusiasm for the game is that players and parents are learning together, getting to know each other as they figure out what an “attack” is, or why the kids can play behind the goal. Or maybe it’s simply that the kids are having fun out there and learning a new sport. Whatever the reason, it works. People stick around and become part of the ZLAX family.
Lacrosse in the Zionsville community
As an organization, lacrosse people also give back to the community. Every year Zionsville Lacrosse and ZLAX pair up with Just Win Ruby! Community Connection to raise money to help families affected by childhood cancer. The Zionsville Lacrosse family has close ties to the Kahoun family whose daughter, Ruby, suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Craig Kahoun is an assistant varsity coach for boys high school lacrosse and coaches a team for ZLAX. His wife, Jenny Kahoun, is on the ZLAX board. The Kahoun’s older daughter, Gracie, plays girls lacrosse, and the Kahoun’s son, Bodie, is on the third-fourth grade team. Together these organizations create a day for the community to come out and have fun. There are lacrosse games, food and a silent auction, among other games and activities. Last year the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach, Chuck Pagano, even stopped by to support the event.
Now it’s time to check it out — there is an all-star program right here in Zionsville, waiting, wanting to be noticed! Get to know the game. Ask questions. Go see a neighbor play. Come to the events, or as ZLAX people like to say: Play lacrosse!
Registration for spring lacrosse is going on now until March 1. Go to zlax.org to sign up. The website has all contact information: registration, photos, etc. There are no tryouts for kids this young — everyone has a chance to try it out. The season runs from March until May. The following link to ZLAX gives general information: http://files.LeagueAthletics.com/Images/Club/8780/Attachments/ZLAX_56_prog_desc.pdf.
Mark your calendar
Just Win Ruby! Community Connection
Family Fun Lacrosse Day and Silent Auction
May 3, 2014 (Noon-6 p.m.)
Zionsville High School Stadium
All proceeds will go toward the foundation and their efforts to assist families with sick children.