I am a native Marylander. Even though I have lived in North Carolina for 17 years now (gah!), I am not from here. Nothing against North Carolina – it has its positives and negatives just like any other place – it’s just not home. There is no Chesapeake Bay, the seafood is fried rather than steamed, there are far too many trees everywhere that block my view, too many mobile homes and too few centuries old houses nestled in the rolling countryside that reek of history. But there is hope. There is lacrosse.
Before I continue, I need to be completely honest. I don’t really know that much about lacrosse. I never played when I was in school and I know little of the rivalries, or the different clubs and teams that play in the Maryland area. I am only just beginning to learn a little about the game. But I know that its roots are on the East Coast, primarily from Maryland and points north, and was originally played by the Iroquois. It is the oldest sport in North America and it is huge in Maryland, having been named the official team sport in 2004.
As a transplant in North Carolina, I cannot help but look for comfort in those things that remind me of home. I think most people who spent the majority of their lives in one place, and then move, can identify. A new town might be nice. It might have a lot to offer in terms of weather, jobs, safety, traffic, affordability, people. But it isn’t home, and it never will be. So when I come across something that reminds me of my roots, I grab on pretty tight.
Lacrosse is relatively new in North Carolina and it is only just gaining popularity elsewhere. We have a Maryland friend now living in the Charleston, SC area whose sons are avid players, and the high schools here in Wake County often have lacrosse teams, though not all of them necessarily have women’s lacrosse. There are very few recreational teams around.
We haven’t pushed either of our kids into any sports in particular. They’ve tried soccer, softball, and swimming, which were all fine but nothing to write home about. They aren’t five years into a kid-career hoping for a college scholarship offer at age 14, but as they’ve approached middle and high school, we are more keen to have them put their efforts toward something. Sports are most valuable, in our minds, for learning to be part of a team, for learning discipline, and for identifying with people outside of your usual comfort zone of school friends.
I don’t recall exactly how lacrosse showed up on our radar, but it interested us and our daughter for several reasons. First, it reminded us of Maryland. Second, not many kids are playing it, so it was something different from what everyone else was doing, and it afforded our daughter the opportunity to learn a sport that everyone didn’t already know how to play.
After asking around, we found exactly two recreational organizations in the northern Wake County area – Carolina Youth Lacrosse and Fusion Lacrosse. Carolina Youth Lacrosse has been around for three years, is focused in the Wake Forest area, and is still developing its program with many of the offerings seeming to be geared toward boys. Fusion Lacrosse has been around for 15 years and has various leagues and teams around Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
I’m quite sure either program would have been fine, but we ended up choosing a fall clinic through Fusion, even though the price was a bit higher, because CYL wasn’t certain it would be holding a fall girls’ clinic due to availability of coaches. Both programs are run by people who have lots of experience with lacrosse. All of them are from up north, many have played college lacrosse and many of them currently coach the high school teams in the area.
The Fusion clinics were two hours every Saturday morning on the fields at Ravenscroft, a private prep school in North Raleigh. My husband attended most of them, but I was finally able to take off work and make a couple of them myself. I was immediately smitten. There is just something about sitting on the side of a field on a beautiful fall morning, smelling the cut grass, and talking with people who are from up north. It was familiar and comfortable and wonderful. It felt like home. Oh, and my daughter seemed to like it too. Ha.
Seriously, though, we were very impressed with Fusion’s program. It is extremely well organized – while the ages of the participants ranged from early elementary school through 8th grade and their knowledge of the game varied from beginner to seasoned, they were all grouped appropriately. The coaches were excellent with the kids, taught them the fundamentals of the game, and were patient in answering all of our questions about equipment and the differences between women’s and men’s lacrosse. It was clear to us that all of the coaches really love the game.
The two hour clinics consisted of an hour and a half of drills conducted in stations that the girls rotated through, followed by 30 minutes of scrimmage / game instruction. Our daughter was comfortable with the program because she wasn’t the only kid there who was a beginner, and because the coaches taught her how the actual game is played. One of her biggest frustrations when she’s played other sports is not really learning the game or its strategies.
We’ve gone ahead and signed her up for spring lacrosse, which she will be playing while also running track and field through her middle school. Lacrosse practices are twice a week for an hour and 45 minutes with games later in the season on Saturdays. The only caveat is the games are sometimes not so close by, since the sport is still relatively new and there aren’t that many teams locally to compete against. It will be the first time we’ve come close to over scheduling her, but lately her head’s been buried in her phone too much, and her grades are good so we think she’ll be able to handle it just fine.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking of bugging the coaches about an adult league, as they won’t let me play on the youth team, and it just seems like a heck of a fun way to get rid of some aggression on a regular basis. I was given a lacrosse stick for my birthday, one of the most fun gifts I’ve received in a long time. I figure my daughter and I can go throw some balls against a wall somewhere for practice, and chase each other around the yard, because neither of us is very good at catching the ball right now. Either way, it’s nice to have a little bit of Maryland hanging in my garage when I need it!
For more information on Fusion Lacrosse and Carolina Youth Lacrosse in the Raleigh, NC area:
Categories: This and That