Girls lacrosse catches on in city

April 18, 1994|By Kiah Stokes | Kiah Stokes,Contributing Writer

On a muddy high school field at Falls Road in Baltimore City, girls are learning the art of passing. A few miles up the road, another group of girls are sprinting vivaciously and learning to cradle lacrosse sticks.

What?

Girls lacrosse in Baltimore City?

Yes, finally.

"Young ladies kept showing an interest in the sport and asking their coaches and athletic directors about girls lacrosse," said Obie Barnes, who is the athletic director and boys lacrosse coach at Forest Park. "Girls lacrosse can survive in the city, but will need a start."

The start came nearly a month ago. Ten city schools now offer lacrosse as a varsity sport. Sixteen schools were considered, but only 11 showed interest and 10 fielded teams.

Because this is the first year for the sport, city schools will not be allowed to compete for a state championship.

The goal for city lacrosse is not to compete against county teams, but the private schools, which traditionally field some of the best teams.

"Our goal is not to compete with the county," said Donald Williams, curriculum specialist of Physical Education and Athletics. "The panacea is not the county schools, but the private schools.

"If it were up to the Board of Physical Education and Athletics, there would not be city girls lacrosse," he said.

Salvation for girls lacrosse came from the Abell Foundation.

Last year, the Abell Foundation, which also funds lacrosse at the city middle schools, approved a $42,000 grant, $26,000 of which has been used for equipment, transportation, coaches, consultants and stipends, according to Abell Foundation president Bob Embry.

Williams, city high school athletic directors and Dr. Maurice Howard, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, met later to discuss the feasibility of lacrosse.

The schools that have teams are: City, Forest Park, Lake Clifton,

Mervo, Northwestern, Patterson, Poly, Southwestern, Western and Walbrook.

But in order to be viable, the sport needs to start in the middle schools.

"Success in the county definitely comes from the feeder schools and the fact that we have good recreational programs," said Wendy Galinn, coach of Loch Raven, ranked No. 4 among area girls lacrosse teams.

There are currently 15 boys feeder schools that offer lacrosse in the city, most of those teams from the Baltimore City Middle School Lacrosse League. Players who participate are required to pass every class, maintain a C average and have a 90-percent attendance rate.

Middle school league commissioner Jerry Schnydman believes the program has been successful.

"We need ways to get kids to perform in school," he said. "Lacrosse has proven to be a magnificent vehicle for the boys in middle school and I think it would be a magnificent vehicle for the girls. If introduced properly, it should work. We need to do the same thing for the girls that we do for the boys."

Steve Stenersen, executive director of the Lacrosse Foundation, agrees with Schnydman.

"Success for the boys may mean success for the girls," said Stenersen. "Mirror the program for girls and it makes a good way to get a girls lacrosse team."

In the past, high school girls had to play on the boys' teams. Junior Teresa Scheve of Patterson said the experience was a lesson that could not be learned in any classroom.

"The guys were real aggressive and talked of roughing me up. It wasn't intimidating. . . . I still wanted to play," she said.

Forest Park junior Tiffany Taylor had an advantage over Scheve. She played in the Pimlico Middle School program.

"I like playing lacrosse. I like it and I have an opportunity to play and start for the girls," said Taylor.

If you ask Williams why more girls in the city are not playing in the middle schools, he'll say it's not due to lack of opportunity.

"Young women have other things to do besides play sports," says Williams. "They don't find the time to polish their skills.

But according to Taylor, the major problem is that a lot of girls are not exposed to the sport at an early age.

Patterson coach Wrae Wene welcomes the opportunity for girls.

"Some of my county colleagues are pleased the city is making this commitment. We're excited about being the first team in Patterson's history to carry a tradition," said Wene.

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