Lacrosse fans indulge in sport off the field Community: Once limited to mainstream media, followers of the sport can turn to the Web for information.

July 06, 1998|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Peggy Atkins pretty much avoided computers until lacrosse drove her to the Net.

It all started when a friend told her she could find pictures of her son's games online. Her oldest boy, Blake, was a standout senior midfielder at Gilman.

So Atkins, who lives in Cockeysville, took a few computer lessons from her sixth-grade daughter. Soon she was devouring lacrosse news online, following her son's team to its victory in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association "A" Conference championship this year.

Atkins isn't alone. Thousands of lacrosse lovers around the world are looking to the Web for in-depth news, photos and even video clips of their favorite teams - information that often isn't available from local newspapers or TV.

Their numbers are likely to grow larger next week when some of the finest men's lacrosse players in the world gather at Johns Hopkins University for the International Lacrosse Federation world championship.

The event - which is to lacrosse what the World Cup is to soccer - is held once every four years, and this is the first tournament on U.S. soil in 16 years. A record 11 nations are slated to participate, and fans who can't come to Baltimore or afford tickets will find blanket World Games coverage on the Web.

Lacrosse organizers hope the publicity will not only help unify the lacrosse community, but also generate new interest outside the sport's traditional East Coast strongholds.

"As with other hobbies, the Internet gives people a way to learn a lot about lacrosse and to find others who are interested in it," said Marc Bouchard, editor of Lacrosse Magazine, a 20-year-old national print publication dedicated to the sport.

Not surprisingly, the Web sites are popular among lacrosse players themselves. Johns Hopkins star goalkeeper Brian Carcaterra said he regularly visits them, "mostly to check out my competition."

"It's also nice break between writing papers," said Carcaterra, who will be a junior this fall.

One of the most popular and comprehensive sites is E-Lacrosse (www.e-lacrosse.

com), an online magazine launched last year by Baltimore native John Weaver.

Weaver says he's been loony about lacrosse since he was six years old, when his uncle first took him to the warehouse of Baltimore's equipment maker STX Inc. and told him to pick out any stick he wanted.

E-Lacrosse, Weaver's Web site, is stuffed with news stories, rosters and game summaries for wide variety of high schools, colleges and clubs.

To make this possible on his shoestring budget, Weaver has recruited students - and in some cases their parents - to file dispatches from games.

Weaver says he tries to cover a wide variety of schools to show his audience - which he says is mostly young - that the game isn't only enjoyed by rich, private-school kids.

"Lacrosse has a reputation for being preppy; we want to break that image so badly," he said.

To that end, he's loaded E-lacrosse with information on summer lacrosse clubs and a set up a classified advertising section where people can buy and sell used equipment and coaches and players can find one another.

E-Lacrosse also has links to nearly every lacrosse team and resource on the Web, as well as offbeat monthly feature stories on the game.

This month, for instance, enthusiasts can read about Peace Corps volunteers who brought lacrosse to Ajar Hilela Jedida, a tiny village in the northwest African country of Mauritania. The site includes what may be the first snapshot of a crease formed with dried cow dung.

For Weaver, the site is more than just a hobby. Eventually he hopes it becomes his career.

"I just thought what a dream life to be doing something that I love all day long," he said.

Although he hasn't quit his day job as a computer security consultant, Weaver says he puts in 50 hours a week updating the site, selling ads and hopping from game to game to videotape the highlight clips that have become one of the site's most popular features.

He has even compiled videos of more than 450 outrageous goal shots, set them to a grunge soundtrack, and started selling the video on his Web site under the title "Rage on the Cage." At $19.95 each, he said, the videos have brought in over $30,000 so far.

E-Lacrosse has become a favorite of lacrosse fans. During last month's NCAA Division I final, Weaver said, 28,000 people logged onto to his site, far more than the estimated 17,500 who attended the event in person.

As a result, Weaver is planning blanket coverage of the World Games.

"We're gonna be at all those games - even the ones some people might not want to want to go to. Remember, this is the Web. Unlike a newspaper, we have an audience in Japan. We have an audience in Czechoslovakia," he said.

He said he hopes that E-Lacrosse will be more than a resource for the already addicted. "We think it's really important for kids who live outside the traditional hotbeds of the sport to see how this game's played at the higher levels," he said. "We want to grow the game by growing it in little parts of the world."

Want to learn more?

For information about World Games match times and ticket prices, check out US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body at www.lacrosse.org.

Or call 410-235-6882.

For more lacrosse information on the Web, check out the following sites:

College Lacrosse USA

(www.centennial.org/clusa/)

The National Lacrosse League (http://www.be-lax.com/

index3.html)

The Mining Co. Lacrosse Site (lacrosse.miningco.com/)

Pub Date: 7/06/98

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