Both high schools could net new sport
Lacrosse will be added to the roster of high school sports this spring if the District 833 School Board approves the proposal when it meets this week.
The district won't be plowing new ground with the addition. Five other schools in the conference already have lacrosse teams, according to Phil Kuemmel, who directs sports for the south end of the district including Park High School.
There is an existing boys lacrosse team in Woodbury that has "club" status because, until recently, it was not a sport sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League. Girls lacrosse was approved several years ago.
Kuemmel said about 80 boys are participating in club lacrosse, with only about 10 players from Park High School. "It's just been a little slower to catch on in the south," he said.
Beginning next spring and for the following two seasons, there will be one boys team for Park and Woodbury high schools and a corresponding girls team including varsity and junior varsity squads. One is expected to practice at Park and the other at Woodbury.
The state league allows for combined teams for three years when a new sport is added, according to Kuemmel and John Soma, athletic director for sports in the north half of the district including Woodbury High School.
When girls ice hockey was added in the early 90s, there was a combined team for three years with the majority of the players from Park High School until the sport took hold in Woodbury, Kuemmel said.
The sport is not expected to take players away from other spring sports, such as golf or track because according to student surveys the interest is coming from students who are not participating in other sports, Kuemmel said.
Assistant Superintendent Randy Zipf said adding lacrosse is expected to increase interest. "Participation in sports traditionally goes down in the spring," he said.
Knowing that lacrosse is gaining a foothold in the area, Soma said it should be brought under the rules of the high school league because there are currently no eligibility rules. "At the club level, there are no sanctions for academics, drinking or practice conditions," Soma said.
The game is played on a grass field with nine players per team including a goalie. Players have lacrosse sticks with netting that allows players to carry a ball and try to get it into the opposing team's net, similar to ice hockey.
It is expected that the cost of offering lacrosse will be $13,880 with $10,000 of the cost coming from player fees at $130 each.
"The highest expense is coaches' salaries," Kuemmel said. "They will need to fundraise to pay for uniforms, transportation and officials for the first year. Players buy their own equipment."
If interest in playing lacrosse appears lagging in the south half of the district, according the athletic directors, it is on the rise among youth who are not yet old enough to play on a varsity team.
Three years ago, only eight youngsters signed up for lacrosse in a program at Kingston Park in Cottage Grove, according to the Cottage Grove Parks and Recreation Department.
Last week, there were about 30 kids taking weeklong instruction at Kingston under the supervision of Sports Unlimited that offers classes in numerous city recreation programs.
"It's the fastest growing sport in America," said Sports Unlimited owner Don McHugh, who has coached the St. Thomas Academy team for three years.
"It combines basketball, soccer, baseball, football and hockey," he said
When teams are divided into boys and girls teams at age 12, rules for the boys games include "checking" or body contact. Boys wear helmets and shoulder pads.
The girls game, identical to the rules for ice hockey, does not allow checking and girls wear goggles but not helmets, McHugh said.