Lacrosse catching on with kids
Twice in the last three weeks, up to 50 youngsters in grades 3 through 10 have gathered at the Knowles Center on the campus of UW-River Falls to learn the finer points of the game of lacrosse.
Starting in 2008 with about 20 players, the Hudson Area Lacrosse Association has grown to around 80 this year with registration for the upcoming spring season still open through the end of March.
Rich Grinstead, a clinic instructor and coach in the association, said all it takes for a kid to get hooked on the game is to start playing it.
"Once you start playing, it's contagious," he said. "I started six years ago, now I'm coaching and playing on the UW-River Falls club team and I love it."
The Hudson Area Lacrosse Association (HALA) was started two years ago with the hope of introducing the sport to Hudson and the surrounding communities. Participation has grown each year.
This year teams from grades 3-8 will compete with Youth Lacrosse of Minnesota and grades 9-10 with the Minnesota Boys' Scholastic Association. Any girls interested are referred to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area Middle School girls Lacrosse Association.
"We get about 10 girls who are interested each year," HALA board president Jeff McNamara said.
Grinstead said the biggest challenge he faces as a coach and instructor is getting the young players to understand the game.
"They've got to get their lacrosse IQ," he said. "It's a very tactical, finesse game."
McNamara said the season runs from April through July, depending on the age level of the team.
When the season gets going there are practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and depending on the week one of them may be a game day," he said. "It's not real demanding on weekends."
HALA secretary Heather Connolly said the association is looking to branch out to surrounding communities.
"Somerset, River Falls, New Richmond, anywhere we can," she said during the clinic in River Falls last month. "We have a lot of new faces at this clinic."
She said if enough players from other communities take up the game, it will result in more teams and perhaps lead to the sport being played at the high school level. Currently a handful of schools, mainly in the southeast part of the state, host lacrosse teams.
She said a key is getting the younger kids interested.
"We're trying to build up the third and fourth grade teams," she said. "We want to get them started early so they can be competitive."
HALA membership is $150 per season and includes a team jersey. Players need to provide their own stick, helmet, gloves and elbow pads.
The association is hosting two Family Fresh Bagging Fundraisers March 27 and 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day at Family Fresh Market in Hudson. For more information about the association, including registration forms, go to www.freeteams.net/hudsonlax or e-mail a board member at email@example.com.