|Tuesday's Pleasanton Lacrosse Club practice wasn't ordinary by any means. Two players from indoor lacrosse team, the San Jose Stealth, took a couple of hours out of their day to show the youths techniques that have made them such successful athletes in the increasingly popular game.
Only a few years ago, lacrosse began gaining traction, and today, the sport is the fastest-growing in California, particularly in the Bay Area and Sacramento, according to Pleasanton Lacrosse Club President Byron Hay.
"I knew nothing about lacrosse four years ago," Hay, who has a son who plays high school lacrosse, said.
The size of the Pleasanton Lacrosse Club is a testament to that. It started seven years ago with 78 players and currently, there are 16 teams--six girls' teams and 10 boys' teams--and a total of 375 players in grades three through 10. There are also junior varsity and varsity level teams at both Pleasanton high schools.
"It's the fastest-growing sport right now and I think that's because it's very fun, fast-paced and it's as much fun for players as it is for fans," Hay said.
The game of lacrosse, played with sticks that have a net on the end and a ball that's just smaller than those used in tennis, is a cross of many popular sports such as football, soccer, basketball and hockey. It's played both indoor on an artificial turf or outdoors on natural grass. Indoor lacrosse has a different set of rules and number of players who can be playing at one time.
During Tuesday's practice, the "young pups" boys' division of the lacrosse club was taking pointers on catching, shooting, dodges and inside rolls from Stealth pros--forwards Colin Doyle and Jeff Zywicki. They returned last Wednesday to teach an older group of players. The two often travel to Bay Area schools to teach techniques. Doyle also participates in Sticks to Schools, a program of the Stealth which aims--just like the name--to get more lacrosse sticks in schools and spread the word about the game.
In teaching students and teachers who know nothing or very little about the sport, Doyle said "We hope that it catches on."
"From a PR point of view, we want to promote the Stealth and lacrosse, but I think all of us want to see lacrosse grow," Doyle said. "You have to start somewhere."
Doyle got his start as a young boy, playing with his brother, in his native Toronto, Canada.
Zywicki, who is from Ottawa, Canada, started playing lacrosse at 7. Doyle is in his second year at the Stealth and Zywicki has played with the team for three.
The San Jose Stealth recently moved its headquarters to Pleasanton, located at 4695 Chabot Drive, Ste. 115, after the team changed ownership. Ticket Account Manager Brad Hock said Pleasanton was chosen because lacrosse is prominent here as well as the entire East Bay area. The Pleasanton Lacrosse Club plays in the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association, which includes teams from San Ramon, Danville and Alamo, and teams from farther away, such as Chico, Grass Valley and Monterey. Teams are organized in age-divisions with the object of getting to the playoffs to play the championship tournament. While there are no state or national tournaments, that is a future goal, Hay said. The Pleasanton Lacrosse Club seasons are from February to May and from July to August.
What is Lacrosse?
Lacrosse was invented by North American Indians who played with sticks made of wood and leather and a rock was used as the ball. The game became a substitute for warring between tribes to establish dominance. The Canadians also adopted the sport from the Indians in northeastern America and it is their national sport, not hockey as is commonly believed. Modern lacrosse has been played by athletes in the United States and the British Commonwealth for over a century.
Source: Pleasanton Lacrosse Club, pleasantonlacrosseclub.com
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