Having a ball with sticks

Game: In the league of teaching as opposed to competition, coaches cheer when someone throws a pass and another player catches it.

May 12, 2002|By Lowell E. Sunderland

They're scarcely taller than the lacrosse sticks they wield, these neophytes, just 5 and 6 years old. About 70 are gathering Saturday mornings at Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City, and a few also practice one evening a week.

Coaches are thrilled if the girls (and boys the same age in a separate clinic) can put two consecutive successful passes together, because passing and catching so young is no easy feat.

"Most of the time, the ball is on the ground," says Ellicott City's Jay Martin, coordinator of this year's girls clinic for the Howard County Lacrosse Program and father of one of the 6-year-olds.

Learning skills is the emphasis, with games played on a small field with shrunken goals and no goalies. They use a softer ball than the hard-rubber regulation model that hurts if it hits you.

Last spring was the first for girls so young to pick up the sport in Howard County. This year's clinic is larger, with five 14-girl teams, two of them from Trinity Preparatory School in Ilchester and Glenelg Country School.

"Athletics for girls is so completely different from what it used to be," says Martin, who played for John Carroll High School in Bel Air and then for St. Mary's College.

Half of the 10 clinic coaches are women. The Glenelg girls have a three-time All-American and former member of a national collegiate championship team in the sport helping teach them skills while she renews her own.

She is Lori Moxley. A phys-ed major at the University of Maryland, College Park, 22 years ago, Moxley coached briefly at Loyola College. She then became a restaurateur and is managing the family Angus farm in West Friendship.

For Moxley, whose team includes a niece, this spring taps long-put-aside skills first learned as a Garrison Forest ninth-grader in Baltimore.

"This might be the spark that gets me more involved," she said.

"The game has changed so much. But it's fun, and I'm amazed at their progress. Even though they sometimes look like they're not paying attention, they really are," she said.

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