Editor’s Note: Pete Stevenson is the newest writer for Utah Lacrosse News and will be sharing his insight to the Utah lacrosse community. Stevenson is the current boys head coach at East High School.
Do you remember your first time? That first time you touched a lacrosse stick and figured out that you had found the love of your life? My first time was in the fall of 1994 with the BYU lacrosse team. The Utah County team that year had our first practice with BYU and it was magical. We stayed after and Mark Stout showed how he could hit a pipe from 10 yards away (I had no clue that it was as easy as it was at the time and it was nothing short of a miracle to my youthful eyes). I fell in love that day with this game. Every girlfriend that I have had since has been told that she comes second to lacrosse (that may be why I am such a terrible dater). I haven’t had a week go by since then that it hasn’t played a major roll in the thoughts of my life. And my life is better for it.
This past week I found out that the team I helped found in 1994 at Orem High was not going to field a team next year but were folding because of low numbers. This is just one year after cross-town rival Mountain View (who I coached in 2006) folded from lack of interest and fellow Orem high school Timpanogos went to the state championship game. So what is the difference? The organizations that they have built.
With the way the leagues in Utah run currently (The ULA and the GULL), they are basically there to provide a league for teams that are interested. They will provide the things a team needs to compete (balls, coaching help, field lining, etc.) but they are not helping to create new teams or stabilize struggling teams. To be fair, that is a very difficult and expensive proposition. I get that. But East, my current team, had been far below average for many years, despite being a large school with very affluent neighborhoods feeding into it. And three years ago, a man named Charlie decided to take it upon himself to make this game ubiquitous in the East youth areas. He created clinics, bought gear and passed out fliers and hung up signs all over the area and we have gone from 20 kids in our youth organization to more then 150 today. How? Passion.
It had to come from inside our program. Brighton was an average team for a long time till Steve Grey built up the youth programs and now they have about a million youth players. And this is what I am asking the leagues that we play under to do. To change. To bring that passion.
I mourn the loss of Cottonwood and Murray while their neighbors prosper. I can’t believe that we haven’t been able to grow teams in most of Salt Lake. We are still just in small enclaves. And I am determined to change that. And I am begging you as a fan of this game to change that too.
I have communicated with both the ULA and the GULL to ask about help in creating clinics and in school programs to get kids the opportunity to handle a stick. To give kids their first time. I want more experiences like Matt Anderson who played lacrosse at East and BYU, who inspired a whole neighborhood to play. He had been invited to go to the U of U camp as 4th grader to hang out with a friend who he played soccer with. He came home that night and told his parents he was never playing soccer again. That he was now a lacrosse player. I want more experiences like that happening around the state. We need more sticks in young kids hands and more people concerned with the growth of the game here in the state. Not just the talent level, but the number of teams and players. And all it takes is people with passion. Guys like Charlie and Mason Goodhand. Guys who can’t stop talking about lacrosse to everyone. And giving everything they have to the sport.
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