Transitioning lacrosse from the club realm to sports sponsored by the St. Charles East and St. Charles North athletic departments likely would raise the sport’s already substantial profile in St. Charles.
St. Charles has long been a lacrosse hotbed – at least by west suburban standards – and a pending proposal for boys and girls lacrosse to become official, school sports would allow the sport to blossom further, St. Charles North boys lacrosse coach Sean McCaffrey said.
“I think any kind of change that improves something is worth it,” McCaffrey said. “In this case, they want to help us financially. If it goes through, I think that’s a great thing. Lowering fees for more students to be able to participate, that’s great. Any coach would want to tell you they want more numbers in their program. I definitely do, and lowering the cost definitely helps that.”
The District 303 school board is expected to vote Aug. 11 on a joint proposal from East athletic director Mike Sommerfeld and North AD Dan Dolney to include the lacrosse teams as part of the schools’ athletic departments.
The ADs’ proposal estimates adding the teams would cost the district about $75,000 annually between coaching stipends, equipment, transportation and other assorted costs.
Members of the board’s Community Relations Committee reviewed the proposal Monday.
Lacrosse is not yet an IHSA sport, though that could change in the next year or two after a series of false starts on that front in recent years.
“To me, it’s kind of inevitable,” McCaffrey said. “A lot of people think lacrosse is still up-and-coming. I think that’s wrong. Lacrosse is here. School districts, they know that it’s here. They have to pull the trigger at one point or another.”
McCaffrey said there typically are “two or three” prospective lacrosse athletes each year that express interest but can’t afford the costs of competing at the club level, which include an annual fee of $650. The D-303 plan calls for participation fees of $400 for the first year decreasing to $110 over a four-year period as start-up costs of phasing in the sport gradually lessen.
The proposal from Dolney and Sommerfeld in part contends “lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and there are currently 172 of our students that play the sport. These athletes currently play for the St. Charles Lacrosse club and they want to play for the high schools. We feel there is a large enough need to accommodate this opportunity for them.”
School districts throughout the Chicago area have been reluctant to take action toward adding lacrosse and pushing for an IHSA state series as finances and space concerns during the spring season have dampened their enthusiasm.
But given the participation in communities such as St. Charles, it’s increasingly difficult to justify funding sports that attract considerably smaller pools of athletes while putting off lacrosse.
If the proposal in St. Charles is approved, it could embolden other schools to follow suit and show that lacrosse’s days outside the mainstream are officially over.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.