Youth lacrosse program loses longtime leader

PLAYING AROUND

April 14, 2002|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

THE HOWARD County Lacrosse Program, which may be the county's fastest-growing youth sports organization, is beginning its largest season minus a familiar face in the president's seat and on the sidelines, coaching a team, or two, or three.

That would be Kevin Campbell, a Syracuse, N.Y., native who got involved locally in 1990 after driving past a practice and quickly became president, presiding over the club's boom. Last month, he moved for business reasons to Rochester, N.Y.

Campbell recalled that when he first volunteered - recruited immediately as a coach simply because he actually had been a defenseman at Penn State - the program counted, maybe, 300 boys and 50 girls.

This spring, the total has topped 1,600, with about 100 more boys than girls. The boys have eight travel teams and about 45 rec-level teams competing in age groups; the girls have eight travel teams and 41 rec-level squads. Clinic programs for 5- and 6-year-old boys and girls are unexpectedly large.

"The growth has been unbelievable," said Clarksville's Diana Carey, a co-leader of the girls program.

The club hasn't elected a new president, but Ellicott City's Joe Dougherty is guiding the boys operation, with Glenwood's Kathy Black and Carey splitting travel and rec-level leadership for the girls, respectively. Black and Carey are both ex-players who have been active in the club for more than five years.

"I guess we're all vice presidents," said Dougherty, a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent in Baltimore who played at Mount St. Mary's College and has coached for most of his seven years with the group, although not this spring.

"But, really, we're running it by committee. ... We are trying to fill a really big void that Kevin occupied. I know I really miss him. But the fact is, we've had many parents and adults really step up to help, so we feel good about the club's future."

Campbell said from New York that if he were to be remembered for one thing, he would like it to be "really strengthening the rec-level program - getting it operating on the right philosophy, of teaching. ... If you do that right, the travel teams will benefit from the cream rising, and they'll take care of themselves [competitively]."

Sports council likely

An array of county sports leaders convened for the first time Thursday, encouraging Dave Grabowski, former Elkridge Youth Organization president and now on the county's Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, to proceed with forming a "sports council."

The idea is to lobby for common issues, such as maintenance, fields and other facilities.

"Eight groups sent people, and at least that many more called in to support the idea," Grabowski said.

In dealing with government, he said, "the groups have learned they just can't go it alone. A sports council would be what the historical groups, the school groups, do - and sports people have to do the same thing."

No agenda was set or leaders designated, but Grabowski said at least two issues emerged: lack of baseball diamonds with full 90-foot base paths and the poor condition of county school system fields.

Ah, spring

It's April, when baseball, softball and lacrosse are working into the sports pages, when Amateur Athletic Union basketball blossoms, when golfers are in heaven, and the soccer's really serious. But football?

Item: Flag football for kids, NFL-style, started yesterday, courtesy of the Department of Recreation and Parks, and will last eight weeks. About 170 kids are competing.

"This is the first time we've tried it in the spring," said Mike Milani, a rec and parks coordinator. The Savage Boys and Girls Club and the Howard County YMCA play the same game in the fall.

Item: We reported in January on a new youth tackle football program in the western county, with about 150 players signed up. Well, it's 300 now, with about 50 on a waiting list, said Milani, the contact for the Howard County Wolfpack - the name organizers announced but may change because of a conflict with another club.

Item: Now is registration time, by the way, for the county's three older youth football programs, the Columbia Bulldogs, the Howard County Trojans and the Columbia Community Church's Warriors. Each has a Web site for forms and more info, and you can find links to all three on the rec department's sports-only Web site, www.hcrpsports.com.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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