By David Rheinhart
Bright sunshine and the happy shouts of children resounded across Magnolia Park Friday, Sep. 7th when the Rancho Cotati Lacrosse Club held the first of its four clinics to help provide an easy entry point for newcomers to the sport.
According to US Lacrosse, the sport has managed a 12- year streak of growth, and over the last five years alone participation amongst high schools has risen 27 percent. The Rancho Cotati Lacrosse Club hopes to take advantage of the sudden wave of interest. The non-profit elected to host four free clinics over the next month to drive registration before its November deadline.
Free is the key word there, and it’s something Jennifer Luna, president of the Rancho Cotati Lacrosse Club, has worked tirelessly to ensure.
“We never turn anyone away. If there’s a financial reason that makes someone unable to play then we find a way to get them in,” Luna said. “The equipment can turn people off because it’s expensive. That’s why we give it to them. We want them to love this sport as much as we do.”
Luna has been involved in the club since 2011 and keeps a garage full of spare gear at her house to make good on her promise. Last year she outfitted over forty kids, and she’s prepared, if necessary, to do it again this year.
And Luna’s commitment isn’t an anomaly. Mario Merino has coached lacrosse for seven years and played professionally in college. He now watches over the U14 boys’ division, a division that contains his son.
“As a man who raises young men, you want them to grow up to become good men,” Merino said. “I think sports keeps boys out of trouble, sports teaches them to do their best and sports encourages them to work hard.”
Unfortunately for Merino, one of the largest challenges he and all the other coaches face is safety.
“Every single field, they’re all terrible. Tonight we put out cones and bags because of divots. I would hate to have a situation where someone hurt themselves,” Merino said. “My young man plays on the all-star team and he hyper-extended his knee in a divot and was out for four games.”
Safety is a constant concern for every parent, and lacrosse is certainly not immune. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lacrosse ranked thirteenth in total injuries between 2002 and 2014. Basketball ranked first and football followed close behind. Soccer lay as a distant third.
While this is a total injury count, which means more popular sports will naturally rise to the top, for many parents concerned for concussions lacrosse provides a welcome alternative to more conventional sports like football or basketball.
Parents like Carrie Schmidt. Schmidt’s daughter has played for four years and it was Schmidt’s husband who first heard of lacrosse.
“It was one of those sports where we were like, ‘Let’s try it for the hand-eye coordination’,” Schmidt said. “It’s got a little bit of physical activity, but not so much where we were worried for permanent damage.”
The Rancho Cotati Lacrosse Club will host its next free clinic at Magnolia Park Friday, Sep. 21st.