Why Pensacola Could Become a Lacrosse Hotbed


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

Football and baseball reign supreme on Florida’s Gulf Coast, especially in and around the Pensacola area.

But starting about six years ago, Cassandra Waller, who oversees the physical education curriculum for Escambia County Public Schools, started to hear rumblings of another sport in her community — lacrosse.

More and more youth programs, like the Pensacola Knights and Gulf Breeze, popped up and children were increasingly becoming interested in the stick-and-ball game.

“I started to notice an upward trend in lacrosse in our community,” Waller said. “Not in our school district, but our community. I was like ‘Wow, this is really picking up a lot of headway.”

By 2013, Escambia County had up to four Florida High School Athletic Association-participating teams, but Waller saw even more potential in the sport. Why couldn’t middle and elementary schools have lacrosse included in the curriculum?

After an initial conversation with US Lacrosse regional director Lou Corsetti at a state conference, Waller submitted a grant request for her school district. Shortly after, US Lacrosse provided a Soft Stick Program grant covering all nine middle schools and one elementary school in Escambia County. 

In addition, Corsetti and a team that included regional board member Harry Guthmuller, a Navy lacrosse alum, and Pensacola Knights coach Leigh Frosch orchestrated a workshop for 43 middle school teachers in Pensacola. The goal was to give these teachers the keys to implement lacrosse into the physical education curriculum.

Organizers of the effort hope it will help boost the burgeoning lacrosse scene in Escambia County. 

“It’s going to grow,” Corsetti said. “Pensacola is going to blow up. There are still plenty of high schools that don’t have it. The sky is the limit, because you’re talking a lot of transplant people that are there because of the [naval] base. As you go further west, there are a lot of high schools going that way.”

For Waller, the opportunity to provide more children the chance to play lacrosse is exciting.

“We went from little to no lacrosse that I’m aware of, to now here we are, it’s so big that you can’t miss it,” she said. “This is huge. It’s everywhere. It’s all over our large parks. You go to the high schools, and you see kids that are on the team walking with lacrosse sticks down the halls. Before, you didn’t see that.”

Corsetti and his cohorts conducted a 90-minute clinic for the middle school teachers at a local gymnasium. There, they practiced ground balls, passing, catching and shooting and capped the day with 4v4 small-sided game.

The clinic had the local teachers excited for another option to implement into their PE classes. Now with lacrosse as a mandatory unit in middle schools, more than 8,000 children will be exposed to the game.

In a county where many children do not have the resources to play lacrosse, having the sport in public schools could be the only way to introduce it to them.

“I learned so much that I can immediately implement thanks to the hands-on training and the curriculum provided,” said Julie Madison-Tompkins, a teacher at Warrington Middle School, which has a 70-percent minority student body and 100-percent free and reduced lunch. “I’m looking forward to sharing lacrosse with my students, because many of them are often overlooked or have never even heard of lacrosse.”

Waller said the open communication between teachers and resources like Frosch and Guthmuller will be beneficial as they implement lacrosse in schools across the county. It helps that the Naval Air Station in Pensacola brings in active-duty Navy personnel from around the U.S. — including lacrosse hotbeds like the Northeast. USL







Locally Grown

Georgia

Roswell Youth Lacrosse hosted the 15th-annual Roswell Youth Lacrosse Invitational Tournament in May. More than 70 teams participated between the girls’ and boys’ programs in the Metro Atlanta area.

North Carolina

The North Carolina Lacrosse Hall of Fame welcomed John Hayden, Michelle Hood, Geoff Miller, Duke Whelan and Ron Wilson as inductees June 9 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C. The Eastern NC and Western NC chapters of US Lacrosse sponsored the event and received additional support from N.C. State University.

South Florida

Joe Chiarella, vice president of the South Florida chapter, and Troy Wheaton, chairman for the Broward County PE curriculum, hosted a lacrosse presentation for Broward County Schools at their annual PE convention. More than 120 PE educators attended.

South Carolina

Major League Lacrosse, US Lacrosse and the South Carolina Chapter, along with several youth programs in the area, hosted the MLL championship in August. The event was well received by the Charleston community.

Alabama

The Mobile Youth Lacrosse League participated in the 2018 Mayors Cup. “This event teaches our young people the important values of teamwork and sportsmanship,” said Sandy Stimpson, mayor of Mobile, Ala.

Kentucky

The Blue Grass Lacrosse Officials Association Kentucky (BLOAKY) had the first of three roundtable meetings with local stakeholders on the subject of recruiting and retaining officials. 

Picture This
Volunteer State

The Tennessee Chapter along with the Tennessee Scholastic Lacrosse Association hosted a US Lacrosse Coach Development Program Level 1 clinic during their annual meeting. TSLA president and Christian Brothers Academy coach Collin Welsh and the board have instituted requirements for all head coaches to be certified by US Lacrosse. Tennessee Chapter president Mark Bodo was the lead trainer. More than 25 coaches were certified.

My USL Rep
Lou Corsetti, Southeast

Corsetti, a Long Island native living in Atlanta, has been around lacrosse for more than 40 years as a player and coach. He was a four-time all-league attackman at Marist, where he also played football and set an NCAA single-game record for punt return touchdowns. He is a US Lacrosse Level 3-certified coach for the Atlanta Coyotes, past president of the Georgia Chapter and a Georgia Lacrosse Hall of Fame member. His son, Gordon, is the manager of men’s officials development at US Lacrosse.

How can US Lacrosse help grow the sport in your area? Contact Lou at lcorsetti@uslacrosse.org or 410-235-6882, extension 190.

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