Move over soccer. Lacrosse is having a moment.
Actually, it’s more like a decade – or maybe two. In 2018, the NCAA reported that no other sport was attracting more new athletes with the number of collegiate women’s lacrosse teams increasing nearly 100% from 2003 to 2018.
That popularity isn’t limited to the college level either with interest in lacrosse trickling down to elementary school students. In Lowell, the youth lacrosse program has attracted approximately 40 girls this year, and Cheri Krueger, Lowell Youth Lacrosse Organization Girls Coordinator, says she continues to receive sign-ups even though the season is underway.
“LYLO has doubled our players for the 2022 season,” Krueger says. She adds that although the season is short – it ends before Memorial Day – and games have started, new girls are still welcome to join.
Fast-Paced Game Gets Kids Moving
For anyone interested in trying their hand at lacrosse, Lowell girls have one message.
“I would tell them to be prepared to run,” says Ciarra Krueger, who is Cheri Krueger’s daughter and playing her second season on the 5/6th grade team. That’s a sentiment that is repeated over and over by her teammates.
“You run a lot,” says Kaylee Sweany who is also in her second year on the 5/6th grade team.
However, running isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ciarra is quick to say that she likes running and that she’s good at it too. In fact, running seems to be one of the appeals of the sport. With lacrosse, there isn’t a lot of standing around and waiting for the action to start. Instead, it’s a fast-paced activity that has girls running, passing and – if all goes well – scoring all game long.
“Last year, I scored all the points one time,” notes Sienna Tessmer, a second-year teammate to Ciarra and Kaylee. Sienna also plays basketball and volleyball, but to continue on the theme, she says she runs the most in lacrosse.
Despite the sport’s reputation for being physical, parents don’t have to worry much about injuries in the girls’ program. “The girls sport is a bit different than the boys, with not a lot of contact at all,” Cheri Krueger says. “Girls are not allowed to contact the other player, [and] there is a lot more passing and running.”
Or as Kaylee puts it: “You can be aggressive but not to the point where you’re getting concussions.”
This is also a sport that doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. A stick, goggles and mouthguard are all that is needed, and Cheri Krueger says a used stick is an affordable option for girls just starting out.
Short Season and Teams for All Ages
The Lowell girls lacrosse program has three team levels: 3/4th grade, 5/6th grade and 7/8th grade. The season runs for just eight weeks, but the girls fit in approximately 12 games plus a tournament during that time. Games are played against teams based in area school districts such as Rockford, Jenison and Forest Hills.
For girls in K-2nd grade, there is a “learn to play” program that begins next week. That includes six practices and is intended to teach girls the fundamentals of the game.
“Our hope is that all the girls that came out to play this year will come back again next year with more experience and skills,” Cheri Krueger says. “We love to watch the girls move up to play at the high school level.”
The LYLO girls program has a special bond with the high school team even though the two aren’t officially affiliated. The girls program cheers on the high school team at their games while high school students are generous with their time in mentoring younger players.
For instance, many members of the high school team helped out with open gym sessions earlier in the year. “It was amazing,” Krueger says. “All these high school girls devoted their time. It’s so cool to see.”