The oldest sport in America is as fresh as ever in Northwest Tucson.
In its sixth year, the Oro Valley Lacrosse Club continues to grow in popularity, offering student athletes from the high schools of Marana, Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, and Canyon del Oro the chance to participate in a sport that is often overshadowed by other mainstream ones.
But for the 60 athletes who make up the high school and middle school clubs, lacrosse is the game of choice.
“These kids have a genuine love of the game,” said David Wrenn, board president of the club. “It happens so quickly with these boys. There is a bug when they get out there and try it. You can have a 120-pound kid or a 220-pound kid out there, and there is a role for them on the field.”
The club, originated by coach Tom Carr, is now run by high school coach Andy Smith and middle school coach Andy Conboy, who agree there are some misunderstandings about the sport.
“The biggest misconception is probably the physicality of the game,” said Conboy. “It’s a very physical game.”
Smith said in addition to the physical aspect, the game is extremely fast paced.
“It’s the fastest two-footed sport,” he said. “It’s fast and furious. It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination. And, with how physical it is, it’s actually a good alternative to football. It keeps their conditioning up.”
Smith added that much of the way the game is organized and executed is similar to the strategy of other sports like basketball and football.
A total of 10 players from each team, made up of three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, and a goalie move a five-ounce lacrosse ball across field with racquets in attempt to make it into the opponent’s goal. Substitutions can be made at anytime without stopping the clock. Depending on the player, the ball can be thrown upwards of 95 miles per hour at the high school level.
Though the game is a physical one, Smith said it is no less safe than playing football, as protective gear is used and there is less hard impact between players.
However, when compared to other mainstream sports, lacrosse comes with its own unique perk.
“There are some fantastic opportunities for scholarship money in lacrosse in comparison to baseball and football – much, much better,” said Smith.
Two former players of the club currently play at the University of Arizona, while others have played in Colorado, Michigan, and other parts of the country.
In addition to the Oro Valley Lacrosse Club, three other clubs are available in Division II, including Salpointe, Catalina Foothills, and Tanque Verde.
While most of the competitions are local, the Oro Valley Club and others also compete in Phoenix, where about 20 clubs reside.
Two years ago, the Oro Valley club took second place in the state championship game after an overtime defeat.
The club lost about 15 seniors last year, so Smith says another run at state could take awhile.
“We’re rebuilding right now,” he said. “We have a young team, but hopefully we will get to the state level again.”
The club is hoping to add a few more players for its middle school program. Registration for that club is open until Dec. 1, and the season runs from January to March. The high school varsity and junior varsity clubs run from Jan. 5 to the third week of May.
For more information on registration and the club, visit orovalleylacrosse.org.