by Mark Klym
The sport of lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, originally played by Native Americans who referred to it as “the Creators Game.”
In the past 10 years lacrosse has seen tremendous growth among girls and boys in Naples. This is not surprising given the fact that youth lacrosse has been one of the fastest growing sports in the United States since 2001.
According to the US Lacrosse 2014 Participation Survey there were 253,931 people playing lacrosse in 2001 which has grown to 772,772 in 2014. In the same survey Florida ranked as one of the top ten states for increased participation in lacrosse – so it’s not surprising that Naples is seeing growth in youth lacrosse participation as well.
In Collier County seven out of eight public high schools have varsity boys and girls lacrosse teams. The only exception in Collier County is Lorenzo Walker Technical Institute.
Victor Konopik who is the President of the Collier County Lacrosse Association, Inc. (“CCLA”) believes that “the players who field the boys’ varsity lacrosse programs are becoming more skilled and more experienced each season due mostly in part to the experience they are getting by playing in CCLA leagues and clinics.”
CCLA is a non-profit boys youth lacrosse organization that has been in existence since 2004. CCLA provides spring, summer and fall boys youth lacrosse clinics and league play. The recent spring CCLA season which just finished their championship weekend, had over 125 boys ages 6-15 playing lacrosse against teams from Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Estero and Lehigh Acres.
CCLA also offers introductory programs for new players in the summer and fall as well as clinics for beginners to advanced players.
Lacrosse is a relatively new and growing sport in the State of Florida. Collier County is fortunate to have many coaches and supporters of youth lacrosse who call its sunny shores home. These include Ed Calkins who won an NCAA Division I National Championship with Princeton University.
Calkins served as the Chairman for the US Lacrosse Foundation from 2010-2015. During his tenure as Chairman he was instrumental in helping the Foundation make significant strides towards reaching its goal of raising $15 Million for a new national
lacrosse center in Sparks, Maryland. Calkins is also a past president of CCLA and a lacrosse coach for the league.
When asked about why lacrosse is growing so rapidly in popularity in Naples, Calkins comments that “the sport’s growth is a combination of what the sport offers – a fast-paced, high scoring, game – along with its overall increased popularity and visibility across the country. ”
Recently Collier County’s Gulf Coast High School scored big with the addition of Brett Queener as their varsity boy’s head lacrosse coach.
Coach Queener is a former NCAA men’s lacrosse standout at the University at Albany – SUNY and a current goalie for the Florida Launch of Major League Lacrosse. Coach Queener has hit the ground running by organizing clinics for local youth players through his 23 Lacrosse club and quickly becoming a local ambassador for the sport. Coach Queener is joined in his efforts to grow the game locally by other area coaches like Trent Carter who has coached the Barron Collier High School boy’s lacrosse team for several years and also runs a local youth lacrosse travel program called Madlax.
One thing is for certain, there can never be too many qualified lacrosse coaches at the youth level. This means that if you are reading this article and you have experience at the youth, high school or college level either coaching or playing lacrosse, the Collier County Lacrosse Association would welcome your assistance coaching at the youth level. If you would like more information on how you can help with youth lacrosse in Collier County please contact Mark Klym at email@example.com.
Boys who are interested in playing lacrosse in Collier County should go to www.collierlax.com or email Mark Klym at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about their spring, summer and fall programs for beginning to advanced players.
Girls who are interested in playing lacrosse in Collier County should go to www.napleslacrosseclub.com for more information on their programs for beginning to advanced players.