719 Lacrosse Brings the Adaptive Movement to Colorado Springs


719 Lacrosse, a Colorado-based non-profit organization, brings the game to participants with physical, cognitive or mental impairments.

This article appears in the Pacific Southwest version of our April edition. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Rob Raphael is trying to change the world during his lunch hour.

Raphael works as a full-time IT professional in Colorado Springs, but he devotes his free time to the sport of lacrosse. In addition to serving as the boys’ coach at Pine Creek High School and as a girls’ club coach, he has launched a non-profit organization, 719 Lacrosse, to bring the game to participants with physical, cognitive or mental impairments. 

“We want to open up the game to everybody who wants to play,” Raphael said.

Having no background with the adaptive community, Raphael realized that he needed to build bridges with partners to help the vision grow. That’s why he spends his lunch hour trying to connect with volunteers, supporters, special needs coordinators and service providers. 

“This is all new for me, so I’m always looking for help,” he said.

Fortunately, the community response has been very positive. Colorado College has provided gym space and field access for clinics. Members of the Rolling Mammoth wheelchair team have served as volunteers. Warrior Sports has donated equipment. And US Lacrosse provided a National Diversity Grant to support disability access. 

“We have started to gain some momentum,” Raphael said. “We’re casting a wide net, but it’s all about raising awareness and getting the word out. We’re open to everyone.”

Since launching last summer, 719 Lacrosse has hosted two adaptive clinics for players with varying disabilities. The events have included participants ranging in age from 6 to 46, with some in wheelchairs and some who are not. A small army of volunteers helps to facilitate the learning and move the players through different skill stations.

At the same time, Raphael has also forged a partnership with local school districts to provide lacrosse instruction to students with disabilities. He has introduced a six-week instructional course in three area high schools. 

“Rob was very accommodating to our schedule, needs, and goals,” said Nicole Beauvais, special education coordinator at Cheyenne Mountain High School. “The students were all part of the team and were allowed to shine.”
The instructional courses were capped with a modified game. Afterwards, each participant received a medal.
“One of my students wore his medal for the next week and did not even take it off to sleep,” Beauvais said. “It was amazing to see the students encouraging each other, their sportsmanship, how hard they worked to build their lacrosse skills and how proud they were of themselves.”

Beyond building skills, Raphael, who is hands-on as a clinician, notes that lacrosse is serving as a form of therapy for the students.

“The social interaction is a huge component of this,” he said. “They are developing better communication skills and learning what it means to be part of a team.”

Having no specialized training in working with disabled individuals, Raphael utilizes the principle of personal learning through observation.

“I have a huge learning curve, but we keep modifying the process as we go,” he said. “When I see something that isn’t working, we try adjustments to make the experience better. It’s about making a connection.”

Much of Raphael’s motivation for 719 Lacrosse started with an experience he had while coaching his son’s U15 team three years ago. The parent of a player with cerebral palsy asked if Raphael could help her son to be involved. That young man, Ryan, joined the team and scored a goal in the final game of the season. Lacrosse was the first organized sport he was able to play.

“After that experience, I started thinking about how we could do this on a wider basis,” Raphael said. “At the end of the day, it’s about fun and inclusion. That’s the spark. Seeing smiles and laughter helps to fill up my tank.” 

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