Equipment grant takes pressure off youth team's parents
By Jeff Nations
Paul Kosubinsky knows lacrosse can be a tough sell when it comes to convincing parents of prospective players.
Hooking new players, once they are exposed to the sport, is the easy part. Getting their parents on board has been a little bit tougher for Kosubinsky, who co-coaches the Shenandoah Valley Youth Lacrosse U9/U11 and U13/U15 teams with Frank Haun.
"One of the drawbacks to growing the league is the perceived cost," Kosubinsky said. "Much like hockey, there's a lot of gear that has to be purchased to play. I think a lot of parents are hesitant to make that investment if they're not sure their kid is going to stay with the sport."
This year, that potential sticker shock should be much more manageable for potential SVYL players and their parents, thanks to a grant from U.S. Lacrosse.
The grant has provided the Shenandoah County-based Southern Division of the SVYL with 25 brand-new sets of equipment -- sticks, pads and helmets -- in time for the upcoming season.
Kosubinsky spearheaded the drive for the grant, provided through U.S. Lacrosse's First Stick program. His squad, the SVYL Sabers, is one of 102 teams nationwide that were awarded development grants through the 2012 First Stick program. The grant covered not only equipment but also provided training for coaches and emergency medical equipment as well. Kosubinsky estimates the total value at around $7,000.
"I heard about it, and I just kept following it up," Kosubinsky said. "In the application packet, I explained what we're doing and what we're trying to accomplish."
The grant could help further grow the SVYL, which consists of the Northern Division Vipers and the Southern Division Sabers. The North draws players from Frederick and Clarke counties, plus Winchester, while the South consists of players from Shenandoah and Warren counties. In past years, those two divisions often were combined due to lack of numbers. This year, each will field separate teams in several age divisions. The Sabers expect around 45-50 players combined this season, while the Vipers could have close to 100 players in all divisions.
Frank Haun, a former high school and college lacrosse player who got into coaching because his son wanted to play, said the grant already has sparked increased interest in the league. Still, the SVYL is always looking for additional help.
"We're always interested in recruiting both players and parents," Haun said. "Anybody who has lacrosse exposure, we're looking for people."
One of the SVYL's biggest recruiting efforts takes place Saturday at Winchester's Sportsplex. The league will hold its annual Lax-Fest from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Designed as an introduction to the sport, Lax-Fest offers potential players the opportunity to participate in basic warm-up and shooting drills, participate in a scrimmage and take part in a shooting contest.
"We ask all our former players to bring someone with them, so they already have the interest," Haun said. "I like to say we use this to kind of set the hook. We want to get people worked up and excited about the season, get a stick in their hand."
The co-ed SVYL is currently registering for the spring season, set to begin play in late March. The registration fee is $100, and that includes most of the equipment.
The Sabers also will take part this season in a U.S. Lacrosse pilot project called "Honoring the Game." The project is designed to promote sportsmanship within the sport.
One of just 10 teams chosen for the program, the Sabers will earn helmet decals for acts of good sportsmanship during interactions with opposing players, coaches and officials. At the end of the season, the players in each age division with the most earned decals will be honored in a ceremony by U.S. Lacrosse.
Kosubinsky is also pursuing more grants offered by U.S. Lacrosse in the hope of further defraying the cost for players and parents.
"Success brings success, and this has made me excited to go out and get some more grants," Kosubinsky said. "We want to keep growing the sport in this area."
Sports editor Jeff Nations can be reached at 540-465-5137 ext. 161 or firstname.lastname@example.org