Here in the Sierra Nevada, our young people have a plethora of options for activities. Many focus on the Tahoe outdoorsy sports: sliding on snow in winter and running through pine trees in fall. Or they play the types of sports enjoyed everywhere: football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and tennis.
But there’s another sport that has been part of the fabric of America for hundreds of years and is gaining in popularity for young athletes: lacrosse. With a lot of effort from parent volunteers and a determined group of kids, North Tahoe for the first time in many years had a youth girls lacrosse team in 2022, and they are right now recruiting for other girls to join the team this spring.
Lacrosse is one of the oldest sports in the world and was played by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Originally, the game was called stickball. Until in 1636 a French Jesuit missionary by the name of Jean de Brébeuf saw the natives playing and called it lacrosse. Now, nearly a million people play the sport in the United States. It is popular on many college campuses, especially in the northeast and in New England.
Lacrosse is played on a field nearly the size of a football field. Players wield sticks with mesh pockets that hold a ball. “It’s a fast sport, great cross-training for kids who enjoy hockey,” says lacrosse parent Kate Abraham. “It’s physical with a lot of running, an aggressive and fun sport to play and to watch.”
Parent volunteer Cynthia Cendreda agrees, adding, “It is really unlike other sports. There is a lot of hand-eye coordination and a lot of nuance.” Interestingly, significant differences between the boys games and the girls games have evolved.
“Boys lacrosse is like hockey; girls is like basketball,” Cendreda said. By that she means that in girls lacrosse the players are supposed to keep a certain distance from each other, so finesse, passing skills, and strategy are important. The boys game is more physical.
It is an effort to get either boys or girls to be a part of North Tahoe’s lacrosse team, Abraham admitted. “Parents haven’t played, so we struggle with getting numbers. But it is the fastest growing sport in the nation,” she said.
While not many may know about lacrosse, those who take it up seem to fall in love. “Our son lives and breathes the sport,” Abraham shared.
This past year North Tahoe Lacrosse had just barely enough girls to form a U10/U12 combined team as well as a small U8 team, but the girls who showed up loved the sport. “Both my girls played on the U12 girls team last year,” Virginia Rogers, a mother involved in the sport, said. “What an incredible year! It was truly amazing to watch these girls grow as a team and as individuals.”
Only five of the dozen players on the U10/U12 team had any prior lacrosse experience, and that was just a single season playing a somewhat different game on the boys’ team. And most of the team were only 9- and 10-year-olds competing against taller and more experienced girls.
“Their good sportsmanship was known throughout the league,” Rogers said. “Not only to players but to coaches and referees as well!! It was a true Bad News Bears type of situation. Despite never winning a game, these girls held their head high and acted with grace and integrity!”
They had a winning attitude.
“Without enough players for the first few games, the Lakers often borrowed talent from other teams,” Cendreda said. “In a generous show of camaraderie, organizations like the South Reno Rattlers and Truckee Tribe often lent some of their best players to help the Lakers find their stride and get on the board.”
The North Tahoe team improved steadily through the year, from double-digit losses to five-point gaps by the end of the season. By the last game, the Lakers had garnered both respect and friendships from the other organizations.
“Praised every week for their dignity and determination, they set a high bar standard for sportsmanship in the future, a legacy they can all be proud of,” Cendreda said. “North Tahoe Lacrosse is looking forward to growing the girls team. With a spring and fall season and additional clinics and camps over the summer, the organization is hoping to encourage young players to take advantage of every learning opportunity to develop their skills and passion for the game.”
Matches in the Tahoe/Reno region are played from mid-March (or later in the spring, depending on snow levels) until June. For information or to sign up go to tahoelax.com.