At least one Sioux Falls resident is making a living from lacrosse. That represents a start for the expanding sport in this area.
Lacrosse coach Corey Mitchell of Sioux Falls explains the game of lacrosse and tells about its growth in the region. Fifth-grade player Kayd Hainsch talks about why he likes the sport.
Lacrosse isn’t new to South Dakota; it’s just getting more organized. Led by former youth trainer Corey Mitchell, the Sioux Falls Spark is a first-year organization that teaches the game to kids and a few adults.
It’s the foundation necessary for a grass-roots program that could serve as common ground for other development systems: college club teams, summer clinics and a web presence.
Parlaying that into a steady spot in the crowded sports landscape is so far down the line that Mitchell hasn’t even considered a timeline. There’s been talk of soccer as a model. That sport needed decades to gain enough traction to get high school sanctioning.
Still, this is a vital part of the process. Lacrosse is surrounding South Dakota and no longer can be seen as just an East Coast thing; Colorado and Minnesota have become hotbeds. Kids here know kids there – friends, relatives. The Spark are ahead of the curve, hoping to speed up the level of familiarity and interest.
“Let’s get sticks in hands, let’s get some exposure, let’s get people aware that there’s lacrosse in Sioux Falls and South Dakota,” Mitchell said. “Let’s get the game growing and see where it goes from there.”
He has staked his livelihood on that mission. Last year, he was training youth athletes, and through that became involved with a pilot program – lacrosse as complementary summer work for hockey players. He liked it enough to create a standalone program last fall.
The Spark have 74 kids in their youth program and 12 adults involved in a rec league, plus 15 kids in Huron. Mitchell has been driving there on Tuesdays to coach. He planned to start satellite programs in Mitchell and Brookings, too, but instead had to settle for setting up summer camps.
Sioux Falls players are divided into two groups for practice based on age, resulting in a wide range of sizes and abilities – and both genders. They share a field at Riverdale Park in east-central Sioux Falls. Games are held Friday nights and amount to a series of intrasquad scrimmages. Traveling isn’t in the cards yet, although the Spark have cultivated relationships with clubs in Fargo, Grand Forks, N.D., Omaha and Rapid City.
Harrisburg fifth-grader Kayd Hanisch plans to stick around long enough to be a part of those road trips, whenever they come to fruition. He became involved with the Spark when his dad asked whether he would like to try it out.
“I said, ‘What is it?’ Hanisch said. “He told me, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ “
Such unfamiliarity is not uncommon, even though the stick-and-ball game has been traced back as far as 900 years to when native Americans played a form of the sport.
It’s not easy to trace the history in South Dakota. But the current push began no later than 1999, when students at the University of South Dakota formed a club team. Josh Ring was among them, responding to a campus flier. He liked the way lacrosse combined elements of many sports with which he grew up – football, basketball and track.
Through web research and contacting coaches around the country, Ring picked up enough expertise to get into coaching, first at USD then with the Spark. Lacrosse is akin to hockey and wrestling in that way, he said – participants are passionate and cooperative, motivated to help grow the game.
Even so, the process is bound to take time – maybe decades. Soccer used to be considered a fringe sport, and now the Dakota Alliance Soccer Club in Sioux Falls boasts 7,000 participants annually. Soccer is set to become a sanctioned high school sport for the Sioux Falls public schools in the next school year.
“I’d love to see it happen,” Ring said of lacrosse getting to that point. “Whether or not it will is another story. Soccer is pretty entrenched in Sioux Falls – so is hockey. We’ve got a fair share of kids from both those groups and baseball pulled into lacrosse right now. It’s a matter of them picking what sports they want to stick with.”
Malcolm McDonald is all in as he finishes eighth grade and heads to high school. In a matter of months, lacrosse has pulled even with basketball in terms of his favorite sport. He likes that it’s similar to hockey – older players are allowed to body-check opponents – minus the skating. Instead, there’s constant running required at his position – midfielder.
The uninitiated can sample the sport next month during a five-day camp for boys and girls in grades 2-7 put on by the community education department of the Sioux Falls School District. For $160, participants get equipment and instruction.
Fliers advertising the first-time event were hung up in schools across the city. That made Mitchell smile – it’s invaluable advertising for the game, going beyond what he can afford and perhaps drumming up new readers for upstart sport-specific site Lacrosse605.com.
The more information the better at this stage of the game – even for those involved.
“It’s kind of a learning curve,” said Spark parent Derrick Schafer, whose son Teegan has opted to play lacrosse instead of baseball this summer. “We’re really kind of learning the rules as we go – kids and parents and all of us.”
HOW TO JOIN
• The Sioux Falls Spark is a first-year organization with youth and adult offerings. It also has a satellite program in Huron. SiouxFallsLacrosse.com is their web site.
• Several area colleges such
as USD, SDSU and Dordt field club lacrosse teams. Most compete under the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. The website MCLA.us
has further information.
• The Sioux Falls School District this summer is offering a lacrosse camp for the first time through its Continuing Education program. It’s June 16-20 at Robert Frost Elementary School for boys and girls in grades 2-7. Cost is $160. Call 367-4384 for information.
LACROSSE FOR BEGINNERS
Lacrosse is played on a field 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. The last 35 yards of each end is the attack or defensive areas. A goal is placed 15 yards from each end line. The crease, a circle with a 9-foot radius, surrounds each. The lacrosse stick varies in length and includes a net or crosse. Players wear helmets, gloves and other safety equipment. The ball is made of solid rubber.
In men’s lacrosse, a team consists of 10 players: a goalie, three defenders, three midfielders and three attackers. A teams must have at least four players in its defensive half of the field and at least three in its attacking half. Midfielders are allowed anywhere on the field. In women’s lacrosse, teams include 12 players: a goalie, three defenders, five midfielders and three attackers.
Lacrosse games begin with a face-off. The ball is placed in the middle of the field and a member of each team crouches to battle for possession. A face-off also follows each goal. Players use their sticks to carry the ball, pass it to a teammate and shoot at the goal. If the ball goes out of bounds the team that is closest to the spot where it went out is awarded possession.
Lacrosse players may check an opponent if he has the ball or if he is within five yards of the ball. Checks must be made from the front or side of the body, below the shoulders and above the waist. Excessive contact, such as a push or trip, results in a foul. Some fouls may result in a penalty in which the player has to sit out for a specified amount of time.