PITTSBORO — Nationally, lacrosse has yet to penetrate the mainstream, being most popular in the Northeastern United States with small pockets of interest in other parts of the country.
But as Seaforth’s latest venture into youth sports camps illustrates, Pittsboro just might be one of those pockets.
Seaforth held its first-ever mixed youth lacrosse camp last week, June 20-23, in a packed week of camps alongside baseball, cheerleading, soccer, softball and volleyball. The camp attracted interest from students across the region, with 60 athletes, aged 7 to 17, registering to attend.
“It was pretty special,” Joe Hubbard, head coach of the men’s lacrosse school and senior camp counselor, told the News+Record. “We are excited to continue to develop the program at the secondary level. …There are some very special things happening in this community right now.
Seaforth attracting 60 participants for the camp shows the level of community interest in the sport, although Hubbard declined to take full credit.
“I have to say some of the credit for that success and the numbers goes to the youth organization, the Chatham Cardinals,” Hubbard said, “because a lot of the kids are playing in the recreational league.”
The Chatham Cardinals, otherwise known as North Chatham Youth Lacrosse (NCYL), are a Chapel Hill-based recreational men’s lacrosse league “dedicated to the promotion of the game of lacrosse in Chatham County and surrounding areas”, according to its website. It offers four teams, one for each of the 8U, 10U, 12U and 14U divisions.
Hubbard said NCYL has “done a really good job” of involving more students in lacrosse, a mission he hoped to continue during the four-day camp at Seaforth.
Typically, Hubbard asks up-and-coming seniors to help out by volunteering as camp counselors — a staple of the youth camps he hosted during his tenure at East Chapel Hill High School before joining. being hired by Seaforth – but with the population of Seaforth being as young as it is, with the rising juniors being the oldest age group in the school, with his own players attending the camp, he decided to show off of creativity.
He found a few recent high school graduates to help with the volunteering, as well as former Lenoir-Rhyne defenseman and current 14U Chatham Cardinals head coach Arno Olivier, who helped coach high school-age campers.
As is usually the case with summer sports camps, Hubbard and the other advisers divided the players into groups determined by age and skill level, allowing each group to work on different elements of the game at different times.
They often started with stations, where campers learned the basics of passing, shooting, defensive positioning, among other skills, and then they could put what they had learned to the test in scrimmage games.
Although in addition to the general basics, the camp also had specialist sections for goalkeepers – who would break off on their own to focus on improving their goalkeeping skills with goalkeeper coaches specific – as well as what Hubbard called a “face-off clinic.” where campers would essentially learn strategies for winning faceoffs, one of the most important facets of the game.
While camp had its tough moments of skill work, Hubbard always made sure to mix in a little fun along the way to keep campers smiling, especially those in the younger age group.
“It’s all about energy and passion and the coaches put that into the younger group, keeping them moving,” Hubbard said. “Do things in short bursts, have them play and incorporate a fun element, so with every skill that’s taught, make it a game.
“For the balls on the ground,” he explained, “we played games like Hungry Hungry Hippo, where it’s a challenge and there’s competitive stuff. Guys were putting all the balls in the middle and divided them into teams and they had to run and bring the balls back. They loved it.”
During his camps at East Chapel Hill, Hubbard encountered many campers who had little or no experience with lacrosse, many of whom had never picked up a stick before. One of the most rewarding things, he recalls, is when those same campers ask him which stick they should buy after camp is over.
His main focus at all of his youth camps, including Seaforth, has been to get campers to fall in love with the sport, developing the game in the process.
“At the end of camp, the goal is to energize them, to feel excited and encouraged to be the best lacrosse player they can be,” Hubbard said. “The most important thing, in my opinion, is that they have a good time, that they smile and laugh at the end of the camp. For me, that love and passion for the sport goes a long way, even if it’s only two hours a day for four days.
“The best possible outcome,” he continued, “is that they keep the ball in their stick and keep the stick in their hands for the rest of the summer. … It’s the most important piece of the game. puzzle.
With Seaforth welcoming students in Years 9-11 next year, the Lacrosse program is expected to grow with the school’s population, providing the opportunity for more than just a university program. for men.
In fact, according to Hubbard, Seaforth plans to offer women’s lacrosse for the first time next year as the sport continues to grow among mid-size NCHSAA programs, although it’s still up in the air if that will be a JV or a university. program in its inaugural season.
“There’s 100% (an expectation of having a program for women),” Hubbard said. “There seems to be enough people expressing interest in the new 9th graders coming in, so we are currently working to get that on day one, starting to bring girls to practices and things like that. All signs indicate that we have 100% a team.
Journalist Victor Hensley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.