The ancient sport of lacrosse once was used by Native American tribes to prepare for war, and is so revered by those that play it, the Oneida Nation’s Web site says residents of the spirit world “lack sickness and death. They know only happiness — possibly because they enjoy lacrosse.”
While it is uncertain whether lacrosse will grant this level of bliss to modern youth, a new Marana team will give area ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders a chance to find out.
“This really is the fastest game on two feet. As soon as a kid puts a lacrosse stick in his hand, he’ll get really excited,” said Heather Bruning, a driving force pushing for the junior varsity squad that would recruit players from Mountain View and Marana high schools.
Bruning got the idea to start a Marana-based team from her son, Athen, 14.
“I saw some videos of lacrosse, and told my mom, ‘I want to try this out,” Athen recalled last week.
“He played two years ago with Catalina Foothills lacrosse, but it was so far from where we lived,” Bruning said. “We just couldn’t make it work.”
Although the Marana team is in the very early stages of recruiting, Bruning believes that it will be ready for play in January, despite equipment costs of $180 to $400 per player, and the difficulty of selling a sport that few local kids are familiar with.
“A lot of Athen’s friends want to play, and we are starting to go around to the schools for open houses, explaining what lacrosse is all about,” she said.
“I’m excited about the team,” Athen said. “I get to play closer to where I live, and I’ll be with more of my friends.”
A study sponsored by the sport’s national governing body, U.S. Lacrosse, shows the sport spreading quickly.
Membership in U.S. Lacrosse has increased almost 540 percent since 1998, and youth participation in the sport has doubled since 2001. In the last 10 years, only bowling has had a higher growth rate among high school boys.
Local high school lacrosse also has an ally in the University of Arizona Laxcats club team.
“We’ll do anything to help them,” UA head coach Scott Morrison said.
Established local teams also are rooting for a successful Marana team.
“The formation of the Marana lacrosse team is a positive thing for the sport of lacrosse in Southern Arizona,” said Bake Shaffer, who coaches the Catalina Foothills Falcons team.
Bruning also wants prospective players to know that lacrosse does not have to interfere with other, more established sports.
“We just want to offer another option. You can do football, and then come out and play lacrosse,” Bruning suggested.
This alternative to traditional sports might be the reason for the Marana team’s successful start.
“A big reason lacrosse has been successful at recruiting athletes is that the lacrosse community welcomes those athletes who have been cut from the mainline games of basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.,” Shaffer said.
“Once they get a taste of the basics, they never look back,” he added.
If Athen Bruning’s enthusiasm for lacrosse and his future plans to continue with the sport in college are any indication, then Marana’s team has at least one die-hard member.
“I love lacrosse,” Athen said with a small smile.
“It’s just so fast, you almost never have to stand still,” he added as his smile broadened.
For more information about the new lacrosse team, call Heather Bruning at 579-5810.