The 2012 Varsity Boys at Oakland Tech
Despite having a reputation of being a rich white sport, this fall, hundreds of students at Oakland public schools will be introduced to the game of lacrosse.
The Oakland Lacrosse Club - which is a newly created, but not yet completed 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation - intends to work with several Oakland schools to introduce lacrosse to students that the sport has not traditionally served.
"I want every kid in Oakland to have access to play lacrosse," Kevin Kelley, the boys game director for the Oakland Lacrosse Club, said. "My goal is to expose the sport to 500 middle schoolers and then in the spring create two under 13 teams; one boys and one girls."
The Oakland Lacrosse Club will provide youth living in Oakland and attending public, charter or parochial schools with the opportunity to play the sport using P.E. classes and after school programs. This month, Kelley has started working twice a week with Claremont Middle School, in North Oakland, and plans to hold clinics next month with a host of other Oakland schools such as the Oakland Military Institute, Brewer Middle School and the Downtown Oakland YMCA.
"The plan is to have 25 kids in the spring for each team," said Kelley, who also is a lacrosse coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oakland Tech High School. "You need 18-20 healthy players to have a functional team. Typically, a P.E. class has 50 kids to a class. To get 50 kids who have never touched the sport ... that's a great start."
Although the club just formed this month, for the past couple of years, awareness and interest for the sport has moderately increased. In the spring of 2009, a varsity boys lacrosse team was formed at Skyline High School. That same year, work was started to create a boys Junior Varsity and a girls team at Oakland Tech High School.
"Lacrosse is a spring sport and it takes about a year to launch a program and team," Nora Mitchell, the executive director at the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association, said. "The lacrosse programs at both Skyline and Oakland Tech High School have been hugely successful. Kids get better grades by playing lacrosse. They are motivated and work hard. That's why I got involved, because I know how positively it can affect them."
Mitchell, who is an active volunteer and has coordinated high school lacrosse programs in the past, also said that the biggest challenge going forward for the Oakland Lacrosse Club is funding.
"Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in Northern California," she said. "Coaching is already in place and we got fields. Also, there is no problem finding kids because Kevin has done a great job of reaching out to Oakland schools."
Prior to working on getting the Oakland Lacrosse Club started, Mitchell was heavily involved with the Skyline Lacrosse Club. The Skyline Lacrosse Club is a youth lacrosse program serving players who live primarily in Piedmont and Oakland.
"Every kid is going to be able to play," Mitchell said. "I fell in love with the sport. I know that sports can impact young kids lives. At the end of the day, I want it to be available to any kid no matter where they live or their families' economic situation."
In 2010, under the Skyline Lacrosse Club, a formal program called the Skyline Lacrosse Club HS was launched. The program included Skyline boys varsity, Oakland Tech boys JV and Oakland Tech girls. These teams play in the NCJLA, the youth and high school club lacrosse league for Northern California.
"The hardest thing about playing lacrosse for a beginner is trying to develop stick skills," Kelley said. "Catching and throwing on the run is the biggest challenge."
Last year, the Oakland Tech boys JV team won the NCJLA championship and earlier this year, the Skyline Lacrosse Club HS program was expanded to include two boys teams at Oakland Tech - one JV and one varsity - making a total of four high school teams in the program (three at Tech and one at Skyline High).
According to Kelley, the primary goal of the Oakland Lacrosse Club is to expand the sport and use lacrosse as a tool to teach essential life skills.
"I'm excited. Schools have welcomed us with open arms; it has been a really easy transition," he said. "Lacrosse incorporates the running of soccer, the physicality of football and the concepts of basketball."
For more information on coaching, volunteering or making a donation to the Oakland Lacrosse Club, contact Kelley at email@example.com.