Lacrosse steps in the varsity direction
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” What was once a novelty is on the verge of becoming a varsity sport.
For the upcoming spring season, boys and girls lacrosse in Eagle County has been granted a special pseudo-varsity status by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Although the Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley teams won’t be eligible for playoffs and won’t be funded by the schools, they will be able to play varsity teams and will abide by varsity rules. If the teams meet certain requirements by the start of the 2009 season, they may be granted full varsity status.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting a high-school-sanctioned team for the last couple years,” said Battle Mountain senior Barrett Chow, who has been playing the sport since middle school. “It’s good to see the program actually went somewhere and didn’t flop.”
About one month ago, CHSAA had spoken with school administrators and coaches, although the final points weren’t ironed out until recently.
“I’d been hearing on and off stories for a while,” Eagle Valley’s Zach Bailey said.
One of the biggest advantages of the new status is that the kids will be able to play more games. Many other club teams in the region, such as Aspen, Grand Junction and Durango, will be under the same status as the local teams. Had the lacrosse teams stayed as a club, they only would have been able to play other club teams.
“That’s why we needed to push,” said Eric Mandeville, the assistant principal and lacrosse coach for Eagle Valley. “If we didn’t jump, we would have been left in the cold. … My first year we didn’t have any games ” we just practiced. It was so hard.”
The girls teams likely will take full advantage of the ability to play a wide variety of teams.
“In the last two years, we had quite a few games, and last year we cut down a bit and really only had Eagle Valley,” said Kristy Scahill, one of the Battle Mountain coaches. “Our girls wanted some other teams to play.”
Although the local lacrosse teams will have the ability to schedule varsity squads, it may be a challenge, as most varsity teams already have their schedules set from last year (CHSAA has a two-year scheduling block). Still, the local teams are already looking at an amped-up schedule from last year.
“I’ve already spoken with Aspen, Durango, Grand Junction, Steamboat, Summit, Eagle Valley and Windsor,” Battle Mountain coach Bob Daino said. “Right there I have 10 to 12 games, which is great.
“The kids are so excited, you can’t imagine. They are all coming up to me and telling me how psyched they are.”
In preparation for when the teams do move up to a full varsity status, they will all be abiding by high school athletics rules. All players will have to be academically eligible, and coaches will have to be certified. The teams still will be club-funded and will supply their own equipment and jerseys.
“The only (financial) advantage I have this year is that I don’t have to play for transportation,” Daino said. “Because we’re technically still a club, we don’t have to hire a school bus.”
One of the biggest stipulations that CHSAA has for teams looking to become varsity is the addition of officials. For this year, CHSAA put a freeze on new varsity teams because of a lack of officials on the Front Range.
“When (one team) comes in, you will have to bring three officials,” said Mandeville, who, per school policy, will step down as coach of the team. “It’s bittersweet, but I’ll still help out, and I’ll be in charge of the coordinating.”
The upcoming lacrosse season will fall in line with that of other varsity sports, starting in late February, unlike last year, when it started in late March.
“We can throw the ball around in the gym and get our hands moving and walk through our offense and defense,” Chow said.
And practices likely will increase from two to five days a week.
“That will be really good,” Bailey said. “We’ll get a lot out of it and improve.”
Schools can also now add JV and freshman teams, which will allow for kids of similar skill levels to play together.
“It’ll be good for them to realize how they have to step it up,” Scahill said. “If we have cuts, … it’ll make them realize it’s serious.”
The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, which was instrumental in lacrosse’s growth in the county and still runs the youth programs, will continue to provide field space for the teams.
“Without WECMRD, we’re in a lot of trouble. We really need that turf field (in Edwards) early in the season,” Daino said.
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