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Chicago Sun-Times

Declaring a sport as the "fastest-growing" in pick-your-location is tricky because of the math involved.

For example, if you have 500 kids playing in your basketball program and then the next season, you have 550 playing, your rate of growth is 10 percent.

But if you have 10 kids playing in your rhythmic gymnastics program and then the next season, you have 13 playing, your rate of growth is 30 percent.

And then, the next thing you know, someone is declaring that rhythmic gymnastics is the fastest-growing sport in the community.

That's what is known as a fact, but not whole truth.

But all that said, here is a fact that also is the whole truth: The sport of lacrosse is exploding at the youth level in Lake County. And while it may not translate into soccer-type participation numbers, it's still big and it's growing.

Right now, you may not know the difference between the "third man," the "attack wings" and the "second home" - all positions on a lacrosse team - but there was a time you didn't know what a "sweeper" was, or what a "stopper" was, or what an "attacking mid" was on a soccer field either.

Now, you not only know what countries soccer players such as Messi and Ronaldo and Hernandez, and Neymar play for, you also know that Brazil's defense and its goalie are mediocre, and the Olympic summer tournament is a competition for players in the 23-under age group.

Will lacrosse ever get to that level?

That's really not important. What matters is that more and more youngsters are taking up the sport, making it another option for outdoor activity during the spring, summer and fall, and for indoor activity in the winter.

At the youth level, the hot spots for lacrosse in this corner of the state are in Gurnee, Grayslake, Lake Villa, Lake Zurich, Mundelein, and Vernon Hills.

The youth programs in those communities all participate in the Northwest Chicago Youth Lacrosse Federation, which is to lacrosse what The Chicagoland Youth Football League is to youth football.

Last month, the NCYLF held its spring-season championships at Warren High School in Gurnee, with champs crowned in age groups ranging from under-9 to under 15.

Division champs were Palatine (under-9), Cary-Grove (under-11), Lake Villa (under-13 "A" Division), Warren/Gurnee (under-13 "B" Division), Lake Zurich (under-15 "A" Division), and Lake Villa (under-13 "B" Division).

In terms of numbers, there were 13 teams playing under-9, 20 playing under-11, 23 playing under-13, and 13 playing under-15.

Lacrosse is becoming so popular that, right here in Lake County, there's an indoor facility that focuses heavily on the sport.

It's called Quick Stick All Sports Training, and it's located on Route 120, between Route 12 to the west and Route 60 to the east. Turn south at the Ellis Drive stop light and then turn left on Commerce.

Quick Stick is one of those hidden gems that, alas, is so well-hidden that you don't even know it's there, unless you happen to bank at the facility that's just north of the Quick Stick building.

Quick Stick specializes in lacrosse, although the facility also is very popular as an indoor practice site for youth baseball/softball teams, etc.

Coming to Quick Stick next Tuesday is the The Faceoff Academy, which is high-level instruction for boys lacrosse players.

There are two sessions: 9-noon for youth lacrosse players who are entering school grades 4-8, and 2-5 p.m. for high school players. Cost is $125 for the youngsters and $225 for the high school kids.

On The Faceoff Academy website (www.thefaceoffacademy.com), it says: "The Faceoff Academy is dedicated to developing the lacrosse skills of every athlete through the highest quality of instruction. We strive to create well-rounded athletes with the ability to contribute to their teams offensively, defensively, and at the faceoff 'X.' While physical skills are important, The Faceoff Academy recognizes that many times the mental game can be the difference between a good player and an elite player. Therefore, we place great emphasis on strengthening these skills. Although lacrosse is our main focus, we also seek to develop young men of character. The Faceoff Academy, above all else, takes pride in developing young men who are confident, and believe in hard work and discipline."

Lacrosse, of course, is just part of what happens at Quick Stick. A summary of the facility goes like this: "We are a 7,100-square foot indoor turfed sports training facility. Teams, trainers, coaches and individuals can rent our facility to run practices, camps and clinics. We offer open gym for kids to drop in and play. They can use our equipment or bring their own. We like to say, 'Whatever you can do outside, you can do inside Quick Stick."

The Quick Stick website is wwwquickstickallsportstraining.com.

If you're interested in getting involved with the Northwest Chicago Youth Lacrosse Federation, its website is www.nwcylf.com.

And when you reach any of these people, be sure to tell them you want your son to grow up to be a "first home" or "cover point" on the lacrosse field.

And then go ahead and ask why men's lacrosse has 10 players on each team and women's lacrosse has 12 players on a team.

- Bryan Bonato contributed to this report

 

July 17, 2014

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