Kids can ‘Try It’ Feb. 6-9
Nancy Edmonds Hanson
One of Moorhead’s youngest sports — and North America’s oldest — is inviting youngsters to give it a try next week.
From Monday through Thursday, the Moorhead Youth Lacrosse Association is sponsoring free “Try It” clinics at each of the city’s four elementary schools. The one-hour sessions, each beginning at 3 p.m., take place at Reinertson School on Monday, Ellen Hopkins on Tuesday, Robert Asp on Wednesday, and Dorothy Dodds on Thursday.
Though it’s the fastest-growing sport in the nation, lacrosse is still a mystery to the majority of athletics-loving families in this part of the country. But that first taste can be addicting, says Ashley Hirchert, an enthusiastic “lacrosse mom” and member of MYLA’s board of directors.
“Our son Gage, who was a second grader at St. Joseph’s School at the time, really wanted to play an active, physical sport,” Ashley recalls. “We’d heard a little about lacrosse from friends whose kids played. They told us to try it — ‘He’ll love it,’ they said. I was the one who finally said, ‘Let’s try it.'”
Their friends were right. As soon as Gage had his basic gear — shoulder and arm pads, a helmet, gloves and the distinctive stick with its netted scoop — he was hooked. Not only did Gage have fun playing the age-old sport on the grass fields of Centennial Park, says his mother; she, too, caught the bug.
Now, as the local youth league gets ready for its fifth season this spring, Ashley counts herself an avid fan. “When you’re watching, it’s like your right in the middle of it — cheering, yelling, hyping them up,” she says, confessing, “I’m the loudest.”
On its website, MYLA cites the benefits of mastering lacrosse, from sharpening hand-eye coordination to developing dynamic physical creativity – jukes, fakes, fades, running dodges. It stresses quickness and agility around a net or in the scoring area.
Boys’ and girls’ teams use somewhat different rules. “The boys’ game is extremely physical,” MHS athletic director Dean Haugo explains. “The girls’ game is physical, too, but more finesse-oriented, with less contact. The game is fast-moving and strategic. The kids really enjoy it.”
Lacrosse can be traced back almost a thousand years. The game was approached as both a social event and a way to settle disputes by the Iroquois people in what’s now New York and southeastern Canada. It has been played at the college and high school level in Northeast and Middle Atlantic states for nearly 150 years, but arrived much more recently in Minnesota. The first high school teams were sanctioned in this area in 2016 at Grand Rapids and in 2017 at Brainerd.
The sport was being played in local parks ten years ago, when the Red River Valley Lacrosse Association began operating a K-12 club for children and teens from the Fargo-Moorhead area. The collection of parents, students and enthusiasts discussed the prospects for sanctioned varsity lacrosse with the Moorhead Public Schools the next year. In 2017, the Moorhead Lacrosse Booster Club incorporated to raise funds for sanctioned Spud lacrosse. Eighteen months later, they presented the school system with a check for $19,000 to kick-start the program.
That came about in 2018. Working with the schools, the volunteers developed a program to prepare both boys and girls to play the game. MYLA fields teams for those ages 8 and under, 10 and under, 12 and under, and 14 and under. More than 100 have taken part in past years, a number that’s been growing by some 10% every year.
The young players got their first chance to try out for Moorhead High’s Spuds lacrosse team in 2019. Success has come quickly, observes Haugo. The Spuds unit won its section in what has been its third and fourth seasons of play. “The girls have been very impressive, too,” he adds. “For a young program that’s just five years old, they’ve all done great.”
The 2022-2023 season for both the younger teams and the high school Spuds commences in April, continuing through mid-June. The upcoming season will mark another “first,” Ashley notes, as MYLA hosts its first regional tournament. The local group hopes to bring teams from 60 communities to the Spring Spud Showdown Tourney May 13-14. She is working with the rest of the 10-member board, headed by president Joni Woidtke, to secure sponsors for the event, which could draw more than 1,200 players and their parents. Several have already stepped up, including Buffalo Wild Wings, Brady’s Service Center, Essentia Hospital, the University of Jamestown, HDO Electric, the MacArthur Company, Small Wonders Child Care and the F-M Visitors and Convention Bureau.
As Moorhead’s lacrosse program grows, MYLA’s website urges potential fans to not let unfamiliarity with the game slow them down. “After one season, you will be an expert lacrosse parent,” it guarantees (with tongue in cheek). “Just ask any lacrosse paren. They are all experts!”
Registration is open now for the upcoming season. To find out more about the MYLA program and sign up to participate this spring, go to www.moorheadlacrosse.com.