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Copyright 2014 Idaho State Journal
The fastest-growing sport in the United States right now is also its oldest: lacrosse.
The fast-paced game resembles an ice hockey match played on a grass field as players use a long stick with a net at the end (a crosse) to carry, catch and pass a small rubber ball into the opponent's goal.
To encourage more children to try the sport, the Pocatello Lacrosse Association will be waiving its fees for its elementary and middle school players until after the second game of the season on April 12. The only fees needed up front will be the $25 enrollment with the U.S. Lacrosse Association, which covers the required registration and insurance to play.
"We are trying to expand the sport and get more kids to get a taste of what it's like," said Stan Latimer, the coach of the middle school teams. "We are offering a 'no fee' trial period to parents, so if their children come out and decide lacrosse is not for them, they won't be out a large sum of money."
The fees to be waived for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders on the U13 team is $65, and for seventh- and eighthgraders on the U15 team is $105, and includes the cost of equipment rental.
With a history dating back to 1100 AD, lacrosse was originally developed by the Iroqouis Nation in present-day Canada. The first European record of the game being played was documented by French Jesuit missionaries in present-day New York during the 17th century.
The sport has traditionally been popular along the East Coast of the United States and in Canada, where it is the country's national summer sport. In recent years, the sport has seen a spike in interest in the western United States.
"In most places, lacrosse is considered a whitecollar sport," said Craig Thompson, vice president of the Pocatello Lacrosse Association, "but that's been changing, as more and more blue-collar areas like Pocatello are taking up the sport."
The Pocatello Lacrosse Association was started eight years ago, and oversees the U13 and U15 teams, as well as the local high school team consisting of players from Pocatello High, Century and Highland. All of the teams are called the Pocatello Bandits.
According to Latimer and Thompson, the game relies heavily on speed and agility, and is well-suited to young athletes who play other sports as well.
"We practice like we play, running a lot and doing a lot of scrimmages," said Latimer. "It's one of the best conditioning sports out there. A lot of the kids who start playing do it to help condition for their primary sport, but lacrosse soon becomes that primary sport. We not only play in Pocatello but get to travel to Idaho Falls, Boise and Jackson to play games and the kids have a blast at those tournaments."
In terms of player safety, Latimer says that even though injuries occur, just like in other sports, they are not frequent. Players are required to wear a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and gloves, and hits above the shoulders and below the hips are banned, a rule the sporting industry as a whole has been moving towards to ensure player safety.
Andy Pennington, the U13 coach, said, "lacrosse has been tagged as the fastest game on two feet and it is rapidly moving across the county. With the speed, agility and teamwork that is taught with this game, it's no wonder that once kids play, they usually stick with it. If your son doesn't have a spring sport or would like to try something new, there is nothing better."
The first practice for the middle school teams will be on Monday at 5 p.m. at Hawthorne Park and is open to children in grades four through eight.
"There will also be sticks for use during this trial period, so there really isn't an excuse not to give it a try as everything needed to play is provided," said Latimer.
For more information on signing up for the team or to be a sponsor, call Latimer at 208-251-5922 or Thompson at 208-380-0985.