Focusing on lacrosse basics

AT PLAY

Placing program under rec umbrella helps with paperwork, gives time to teach the sport

March 15, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Those running the Howard County lacrosse program found themselves in recent seasons being stretched in directions they hadn't intended. They were growing fast, and administrative tasks were becoming overwhelming.

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks had been assisting the program informally over the past few seasons, and both sides decided after last spring to make that partnership a permanent one.

The lacrosse program is officially a part of Recreation and Parks, something that is helping in several ways as this season is about to begin.

Lacrosse is the second-biggest sport for children in Howard County - about 2,000 will be playing this spring, officials say - and it has grown at an rapid pace over the past several years.

Joe Dougherty is director of the Howard County lacrosse program, and he said he is thrilled with how everything is coming together this year and that the change has proven mutually beneficial.

"[Recreation and Parks] has always been very friendly to our programs and worked with us as more than just casual partners," said Dougherty, whose two sons play college lacrosse for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. "With the combination of Recreation and Parks and expanding our board, now we have people in charge of specific areas, and they're now allowed to devote time to one area - not four or five."

Derek Ludlow, a recreation coordinator for Recreation and Parks, said there are a few subtle changes this spring. The recreation program - called HCLAX - will have a logo and is available for boys and girls ages 5 to 14.

Ludlow said that the travel program would be called "Cobra." It's available for boys ages 7 to 14 and girls 9 to 14. The recreation program's games begin April 22, and the season runs through June 10. The travel program's practices have started, with games coming shortly, depending upon the league that the Cobra team plays in.

Ludlow said Recreation and Parks also would do several things to promote the sport. The department will handle marketing, e-mailing, mass mailings and help obtain field permits. Being a part of Recreation and Parks gives those in the lacrosse program a better idea of how many fields they can get per season.

That is important for several reasons. Being part of Recreation and Parks also gives lacrosse precedence and lets program officials know far in advance how many fields will be available to them - and ensures they won't have to limit registration.

"The fact that these people did it volunteer, after work at night, and didn't get paid for it, speaks volumes about ... the volunteers in this county," Ludlow said. "I [think] we help them considerably with the sheer number of participants."

Mike Milani, the sports supervisor for Recreation and Parks, said the department will be doing many more mundane tasks that must be done - but which take time and effort.

Recreation and Parks, which earns a fee per child to administer the program, will work on registration and background checks of coaches. The department also is handling the documentation and training of coaches, along with field issues and obtaining equipment.

"It just looked like we could help them by taking some of the administrative work off of their hands," Milani said. "This way, they could concentrate on teaching lacrosse."

Johns Hopkins women's coach Janine Tucker recently put on a clinic in which 85 girls' coaches participated. Mike Siegert and Lee Corrigan from Howard High drew 70 coaches for a boys clinic. Dougherty said they want to do clinics more often.

Dougherty said expanding the board would prove helpful because more people are involved who can do more coaching and teaching the sport.

"Now with expanding our board to be a little more mission specific ... it allows us to focus," Dougherty said. "In the past, it was always the same handful of guys [doing things]. It just makes for an easier infrastructure."

Program officials are also looking to the future, thinking about developing more programs and helping the leagues grow. Merging with Recreation and Parks will give the program the opportunity to do things the right way.

"Our fear is that the player base is going to grow exponentially without the coaching," Dougherty said. "Mike [Milani] and Recreation and Parks will help us develop a coaching base to go with it. It [will] pay benefits to the kids. It [will] pay benefits to the parents."

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