By Natalie Webster
Three major high schools in the Chesterfield County School District are considering adding boys and girls lacrosse to their athletic programs for the 2014-15 school year. While not all schools will be adding this sport, this would be a major step forward for the sport of lacrosse in central Virginia.
“The schools that seem to have the most interest in implementing lacrosse right now as we’ve been told in our county are Thomas Dale, Midlothian, and possibly Cosby,” said Roger Cassem, the Athletic Director at Manchester High School.
The Weaver Athletic Association has sponsored strong Midlothian lacrosse club teams for the past several years. In 2013, both the boys and girls Midlothian club lacrosse teams won the club lacrosse state championships.
Midlothian High School held an informational meeting about lacrosse on Monday, September 30th. In the meeting, they discussed the issue of adding the sport of lacrosse for both boys and girls in the 2014-15 school year. If everything at Midlothian proceeds as planned, Midlothian will provide an official VHSL lacrosse program in the near future.
“Ideally, all of the county schools will offer lacrosse as a VHSL sport. However, due to budget issues, the county cannot just drop a team in every school automatically starting the program. I think you will see some schools take it sooner than others,” said Varsity lacrosse coach of the Midlothian Trojans Club team, John Henneberry.
Getting lacrosse in certain schools and not others causes some problems. One of the biggest concerns is that this leaves some boys and girls with no high school team on which to play. That’s where programs like the Weaver Athletic Association and the Midlothian Trojan Club lacrosse teams can provide an opportunity for any players not able to play at their home school. After lacrosse is approved to be a VSHL sport at Midlothian High School, it is likely that the Midlothian Club lacrosse teams will be dissolved.
“However, we are committed to providing a place for all girls in Chesterfield County to play until their schools are ready to field a lacrosse team at their school,” said Henneberry. Even though the Midlothian Club team eventually will no longer be there for players, Henneberry has started Chesterfield Girls Lacrosse Club for girls looking to play the game.
The CCPS Board has approved lacrosse in all of the Chesterfield County Public High Schools, but it is up to the parents and students at their home schools to show the interest and support needed before lacrosse becomes an official sport.
“Here at Manchester, honestly, there has not been much of an interest level at all. I’ve only had one female student that has actually approached me and asked about it,” said Cassem.
After the school has enough student interest to start a team, there are still two major obstacles. Funding and sustainability are both important factors. The CCPS Board isn’t giving any funding for new lacrosse programs and during difficult financial times when many school budgets are being cut, it is very challenging to add any new sport. Sustainability is a concern because there needs to be a lacrosse feeder program to ensure that there are players to replace players once they no longer play. A feeder program would allow high school programs to continue for future years.
Manchester High School is set to hold an interest meeting soon, but many think that Manchester will struggle to get enough people to make a team. There has not been a critical mass of demand for the sport until recently in schools like Midlothian and Thomas Dale. The demands have been answered by the board and the interest has increased very quickly as the word about lacrosse possibly becoming a high school sport has spread in the community.
“It’s not really a matter of if, but just a matter of when. Lacrosse has been approved for all Chesterfield County schools that have the interest and can support a team. It is now the responsibility of each school community to make things move forward. If Cosby High School, for instance, can’t get the sport started for the 2014-15 school year, then it would be very likely that they would have to wait until the following school year. I would expect that in the next 2 to 3 years, you will see at least 3 or 4 Chesterfield County Public Schools playing VHSL lacrosse,” stated Henneberry.