If there’s one New York Times trend story all you lacrosse Bros should read today, it’s the New York Times’ trend story on the explosion in popularity of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse inner-city lacrosse leagues in New York City. Lacrosse is all too easy to make fun of for being the de facto sport-of-choice for rich white kids from Maryland, Long Island, Connecticut, and other outposts of boat shoe-wearing suburban entitlement. But in New York City, lacrosse is quickly becoming democratized beyond elite prep schools and college circles thanks to groups like CityLax, Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership, and Brooklyn Lacrosse.
It is a perception that still resonates in urban communities. But across New York City, the image of lacrosse is shifting. Nonprofit groups have been attracting a racially and economically diverse population to play a sport, created by Native Americans, that has long been associated with elite prep schools and colleges.
Fall is the sport’s traditional off-season, but last Sunday, Joshua and Jordyn, 6, joined 300 other children on a turf field at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, for practice with Brooklyn Lacrosse.
This is having a direct impact on the school’s public school programs, too:
Participation in lacrosse in city high schools has nearly doubled since 2009, mostly because of girls’ teams, said Eric Goldstein, the chief executive of school support services for the Education Department (who played in the city’s first public program, at Jamaica High School in 1985). In the last school year, 1,169 public school students played varsity or junior varsity lacrosse, up from 679 in 2009. In the same period, girls’ varsity programs grew to 21, from 10; only girls’ wrestling is growing faster, Mr. Goldstein said.
Women’s lacrosse is starting to boom, too, mostly because of the lower costs associated with women’s laxing (…they don’t need pads):
The relatively low cost may partly explain the 120 girls registered with Brooklyn Lacrosse this season, but there is another force: Shari Appollon, 28, the girls’ head coach. She starred at Syracuse University, coached in Britain, in California and on Staten Island, and is on a mission to involve the black community. After her day job as a social worker in the Bronx, Ms. Appollon visited seven community board meetings in Brooklyn this winter to pitch lacrosse. “There was a lot of distrust,” she recalled. “Mothers would say, ‘I’m concentrating on my kid getting good grades, how is this really going to help me?’ ”
She related her own experience, growing up on Long Island, the daughter of a single mother from Haiti, and earning an athletic scholarship to Syracuse. Maybe the pitches worked; Ms. Appollon said girls from as far away as East New York were coming to Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“I get like a chill whenever I see a kid with a lacrosse stick in the city,” she said. “I am hoping that what happens will inspire somebody in small towns in Texas or maybe St. Louis.”
Lacrosse has been going this way for years. If you know anyone who plays lacrosse, there’s a strong chance you’ve heard them brag about the sport’s exploding growth and booming popularity, especially with youth leagues. The New York Times profile just added more fuel to that fire.