Youth lacrosse: Grizzlies travel to San Francisco


Submitted by M.J. Davey, executive director, Menlo Atherton Youth Lacrosse. Click on picture to enlarge.

The Menlo Atherton Youth Lacrosse Club will celebrate the conclusion of its inaugural season when the Grizzlies travel to San Francisco on June 5 to play in the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association's year-end Lacrosse Festival. At the festival, the Grizzlies will compete with about 15 Bay Area youth lacrosse teams in a day-long jamboree.

The festival marks the culmination of a remarkable first season for the new lacrosse club. It was nearly one year ago when local parents first had the idea to form a new youth lacrosse club for local youth in Menlo Park and Atherton.

Led by M.J. Davey, the founder of Atherton Lacrosse Camps and parent of a fifth-grader at Encinal School, the parent group petitioned the league to form the new club and began registering players.

In its first year, the club provided playing opportunities for 70 lacrosse players ranging in age from 5 to 11, playing on four boys and girls teams. For most of the players, it was their first experience playing organized lacrosse.

Parents have volunteered in key roles to help run the club. Local businesses, such as Oriental Carpet and GGV Capital, have provided sponsorship donations. Local high schools (Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School and Sacred Heart) welcomed our teams onto their fields for half-time mini-scrimmages. And the Menlo Park Recreation Department welcomed the club with allocation of field space.

In an especially exciting event for the kids, the top-ranked Stanford University women's lacrosse team hosted the Grizzlies girls team for a half-time demo exhibition during their Division 1 game against Cal.

Traditionally a popular East Coast and Canadian sport, lacrosse is experiencing explosive growth at the youth level, especially in the western United States.

The sport is sometimes referred to as the "fastest game on two feet." Played outdoors on a field similar to soccer, lacrosse involves passing and shooting a small ball into the opposition's goal via sticks carried by the players.

Movement in the game is fluid, similar to hockey or soccer, and individual player movements are often likened to the cutting and change of direction in basketball.

"Our experience with the young kids is that as soon as you get them out on the field and put a lacrosse stick in their hand, they fall in love with the game," stated Jeff Kangas, the club's president. While the current spring season is coming to an end, local playing opportunities are not. "Grizzlies Sizzling Summer" lacrosse is open to any local youth and will meet on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer for skills development and scrimmaging.

Later this year, the club will host its "Fall Ball" program to continue the year-round playing opportunities. Next year, there are plans to field an under-13 boys team, under-11 boys and girls teams, multiple under-9 boys and girls teams, and a developmental program for 5- and 6-year-old beginners.

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