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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
BOYLSTON — The Guardians Youth Lacrosse organization is riding high after receiving a grant from the Bill Belichick Foundation earlier this year.
Guardians involves players from Berlin, Boylston and West Boylston, and welcomes Lancaster and Clinton this year.
Art Brand, one of the organizers of the group, said the foundation, in conjunction with STX Lacrose, "offers scholarships or grants (equipment)."
So the Guardians board got together and created a grant request.
Steve Savoie, another board member, said that cost is a factor when playing lacrosse.
"At the younger end, the cost of equipment is prohibitive," Savoie said. "So we submitted a grant request for younger kids, to offset costs."
"Whatever we can do to help a kid (participate), because it's been shown that sports are a huge part of shaping a child's life, and we're passionate about that," Brand said.
The request was one of six programs nationally that were awarded that grant, he said.
"We received 24 full sets of equipment: helmet, stick, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves and a goalie set of equipment. And some pinnies (jerseys) as well, in conjunction with Nike, Belichick practice pinnies," Savoie said.
Guardians was awarded the equipment, which is for boys, at the end of last season. It will be given out to U9-U11 players this year, 2017-2018.
The organizers of the nonprofit are proud of their group's approach to the sport, which runs from players ages 4 to 6 up through a U15 group.
The youngest players, in U7, are part of the "fiddle-sticks development program," said Jen Savoie.
Fiddle-sticks players use a miniature lacrosse stick, with no other equipment, and "teaches kids the basics of lacrosse," Jen said. "We focus on fun and sportsmanship. And it's coed."
The small-scale lacrosse sticks cost $18 to $19, said Steve, and "use a softer ball."
Despite the grant being for boys' equipment, girls have become an integral part of Guardians Lacrosse. Eric Rubinow is the director of girls lacrosse.
"Last year was first year of the girls' program, and word on the street is that we may be able to field two or three girls' teams this year," Steve Lavoie said. He said Guardians has about 75 players in the program.
"Probably 14 are girls, and the rest are boys," he said. The majority are in the U9 to U15 teams, which have "60-ish participants."
Guardians is going into its fourth year this coming spring, and has seen steady growth over its first few years.
"The first year we had about 48" kids, Steve said.
That grow is due in large part, Jen said, to youths staying with the program.
"They come back year after year," Jen said. "We get feedback from parents about how the exciting games are. They take about an hour. The year-end survey says all (of the players) plan to come back if they don't age out."
Guardians teams practice at Hillside in Boylston, where they also hold home games. Boys play on the upper field, girls on the lower, primarily on Sundays.
The teams travel to various towns in the league. The boys' program is part of the West Central division of the Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League (MBYLL), and the girls' team is part of the MetroWest North division of the Mass Bay Girls Lacrosse League. Both leagues are considered "instructional leagues," according to the Guardians website, guardiansyouthlax.com.
For parents concerned with safety, Steve pointed out that the coaches are all trained and certified, including being CORI-checked and receiving concussion training.
Early registration for the spring lacrosse season opens Oct. 15, and can be completed online at guardiansyouthlax.com. Costs vary, depending on age and whether a player is a boy or a girl. There is also a family discount.
"We're offering payment plans this year," Steve said. "We know it can be tough with multiple kids involved."
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