Bel Air club trades shots with English Lacrosse brings teams together

April 16, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Lacrosse is the excuse, but the benefits range far beyond the game for a group of English boys and girls winding up a weeklong stay in the Baltimore area today.

This marks the third year of what has become a reciprocal arrangement between the lacrosse program of the Bel Air Recreation Department and Heaton Mersey Lacrosse Club of Manchester.

The visitors include two boys teams, 15-under and 13-under, and one girls team, 16-under. The boys stayed with Bel Air families and played games in the area, while the girls team began the week with games in the Washington area, then moved to Bel Air to play against several high school junior varsity teams.

"We've seen the benefits to the kids. They start off playing lacrosse -- it's what brings us together -- and it becomes a love affair as the families get to know each other," said Heaton Mersey coach Tony Battersby.

The group also visited Washington and Annapolis and went on a white-water rafting trip.

This international association began in 1990 when David Volrath, then athletic director and lacrosse coach at Fallston High School, learned of an English team that had everything in place to come to this area, but no teams to play.

"I had been active with similar programs in Annapolis and was told I had to see this guy [Battersby] who was desperate to come to this country the next year," Volrath said.

"A visit with another group had been set up, but the plans didn't materialize, and Tony was left with airplane tickets but no arrangements in this country.

"Jack Parks was in the recreation program at that time, and since I live in Bel Air [Volrath currently is the assistant principal at Bel Air High School], I wanted to do something for the kids in my community."

The result was a visit by Heaton Mersey in 1991, and a trip by players from the Bel Air recreation program to Manchester last summer.

"There, in addition to games, we went to London for a day, visited the town of York, and a community in Wales," Volrath said.

"It usually winds up being about five playing dates and three side trips. Right now, we expect to go over there again in the summer of 1994," he said.

"One of the by-products of this was a social for the Bel Air families. Not only did the visiting players get to meet other families, but our own parents, who often simply act as chauffeurs for their children, had a chance to meet other local families."

As for the games, the skill levels of the two sides are similar, with only slight differences in the way the two play.

"The difference there, I think, is because our players get to see the sport at higher levels -- high school, college and club -- and they can see how the game flows," Volrath said.

Still, "At home, over the last six years, the English Lacrosse Union has done a good job of spreading the game," Battersby said.

"The sport is not played in our schools -- it is all at a club level. One reason for the increase in our numbers is that American coaches have been brought over to help us. We're getting better."

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