They're Feeling the Lacrosse Fever in Fayetteville, North Carolina

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

When Tom Rogers returned to Fayetteville, N.C., in the mid 2000s, he faced a small problem. His son wanted to play lacrosse, but the closest option was two-and-a-half hours away.

Rogers decided to form his own team through the Village Baptist Church. A month before the season, he had only 18 players, no coach and no equipment.

Determined, Rogers went to a nearby business and asked it to sponsor the team. The owners agreed and helped to purchase equipment, while Rogers crafted an eight-game schedule. Village Lacrosse lost all eight games, most of them by lopsided scores, and did football-based drills in practice. But it was a start, and they weren’t going to stop.

“My vision was just to offer a sport that would allow the kids to learn life lessons through the game where you won’t always win,” Rogers said. “Losing teaches you a lot. It was also character development, where there were discussions of if practice was hard, how that then relates to life.”

More than a decade later, Fayetteville now has nearly a dozen schools playing lacrosse in the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Club teams have popped up. Village Lacrosse has grown to include about 150 boys and girls each year.

Robert Corzette, who works for the local parks and recreation department, said it also averages just under 150 players each year.

“Our feeder program has helped kickstart a hunger for a new sport here in town,” Corzette said. “We are just one spoke in the greater wheel throughout Fayetteville.”

Fayetteville is near Fort Bragg, the largest military base in America. Soctt Menoher, head coach at Jack Britt High School, has a funny way of describing the dynamic that creates in the community.

With military personnel coming in and out, the term “army brat” comes into play, meaning kids stick around for a few years based on their parents’ deployment.

Some talented lacrosse players come. Others leave.

“Every season in Fayetteville is like Christmas, because you never know who is going to roll in with the military,” Menoher said. “You may have an all-star who’s been playing at Fort Drum in New York. You maybe have kids coming back from Fort Carson in Colorado. All the kids in the military around the Virginia and Maryland area, too.”

But there’s more to the community’s complexion, as the people of Fayetteville also reside near the Lumbee, one of many state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. Menoher draws on that connection and makes sure his players appreciate the sport’s Native American origins.

“We owe them a debt of honoring the sport,” Menoher said. “It goes all the way back, and we need to respect that.” 

Corzette and Menoher agree that the next step for lacrosse’s development in Fayetteville is getting more high schools to offer the sport. For Menoher, it’s also getting to the point where they can compete for state championships and produce high-caliber college players. After all, Duke and North Carolina — two of the most storied programs in NCAA Division I lacrosse — are not too far away. There are also the likes of High Point, Elon and Davidson.

Rogers, meanwhile, remarked on how much had changed since those early days of football kids trying a new sport.

“Eighty-five to 90 percent had no clue about lacrosse,” he said. “Their parents knew me, so that helped. They didn’t want to do baseball and weren’t soccer players, so we talked to football coaches about the benefits for them. There was no understanding of the game. Not even as us coaches, really.”

Now there’s a strong foundation in place that’s supported by a unique blend of Native American and military influences.

“My hope is to have all high schools in Cumberland County playing lacrosse in the future,” Corzette said. “God willing.”

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