Anne Shaw said her son, Nick, tried baseball and soccer when he was younger, but those sports did not kindle his passion the way lacrosse eventually did.
But the lacrosse future of Shaw and three of his fellow Kaneland freshmen appear to be a dead end – at least for now – after the families were recently informed the four Kaneland boys no longer could compete as part of a co-op with the Geneva freshman-sophomore boys lacrosse team.
Jacob Sussland, Joe Bittenbinder, Tyler Kraus and Shaw – all Kaneland freshmen – practiced with the Geneva team and competed last week during a loss against St. Charles East. But Shaw said that on Friday, parents were informed by Kaneland – which does not presently have a full-time athletic director – that the boys no longer would be allowed to play.
“It was a sad thing when they told us on Friday that they couldn’t play for Geneva,” Shaw said. “We’re hoping that they change their mind and realize the impact it will make on these boys.”
The parents have since composed a letter to athletic directors in the Upstate Eight Conference asking that they reconsider their stance on the participation of the Kaneland boys.
The letter – sent on behalf of each of the four families – states that the four boys’ lives “revolve around lacrosse.”
“Geneva was gracious enough to agree with Kaneland to co-op, and we had been working on the process, but it got delayed with change in athletic directors at Kaneland. We understand a vote was taken and did not pass for the boys to participate and would like to respectfully ask you to reconsider,” part of the letter reads.
Anne Shaw, of Elburn, said she didn’t think the boys being able to play with Geneva would create much of a fuss considering lacrosse is not an official IHSA sport and the boys were only competing for the freshman-sophomore team.
But because lacrosse is considered an “emerging” sport in Illinois, it still must abide by IHSA protocols regarding player eligibility, according to Geneva athletic director Jim Kafer.
“Although it was a ‘last minute’ effort, both schools and the IHSA were fine with the set-up so it appeared that we might be able to make this work,” Kafer wrote in an email. “One final hurdle, though, was approval by both athletic conferences that the schools belong to. This is required even though lacrosse is not a conference sport. The Upstate 8 conference denied the request due to concerns over the precedence that it might set.”
The boys played through River City Lacrosse at the youth level, but their River City teammates then split off to play for their respective high school clubs throughout the Tri-Cities.
The families’ letter notes that several other lacrosse club teams in the area started as co-ops, and noted that the families’ goal is for lacrosse to grow in popularity in the Kaneland area so that the boys wouldn’t need to be part of a co-op in another year or two.
Lacking other options for now, though, the boys were grateful to compete with the Geneva co-op until the news was broken to them after school Friday.
“We just want them to be able to play, that’s what the bottom line is,” Anne Shaw said. “They do so much better with their schoolwork and they’re just happier boys [when they’re playing], so we just would love to see this be rectified.”
The boys wrote testimonials about their experiences in lacrosse that were attached as part of the families’ appeal to UEC athletic directors.
In Nick Shaw’s letter, he writes that “lacrosse is the one sport I feel I am successful at.”
“He’s very thankful the four of us moms are trying to get them to be allowed to play,” Anne Shaw said. “He’s thanked me many times for my efforts. They’re all just saying ‘What are we going to do with our time?’ ”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.