Endless Sports Provides Endless Possibilities

PHOTO BY IVAN OO

Endless Sports, a North Carolina-based nonprofit is providing a lacrosse experience for special needs youth.


This article appears in the Southeast version of the April edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Help fuel the growth of the sport and get the magazine delivered directly to your mailbox. Join USA Lacrosse today.

Ryan Alberque caught the lacrosse bug early.

Then, just as quickly, he hit a roadblock.

When his older cousins and brother wanted more development and structure, they had their pick of camps and leagues across North Carolina’s greater Triangle. But when Ryan, 12, who has Down syndrome, was ready to move on from front yard lacrosse into something more formal?

“There was nothing,” said Jim Alberque, Ryan’s father.

Thanks to Endless Sports, that’s no longer the case.

Fueled by high school volunteers, sponsors and a director whose passion for the sport is perhaps only bested by his passion for helping others, Endless Sports’ new “inclusive lacrosse league” has emerged as a tangible — and popular — option for children, teen and adult athletes with disabilities across the state.

The nonprofit hosted a free skills clinic in Raleigh in October and six events in January and February in the Apex Community Center’s Gym 2, where 26 athletes and their families gathered for two hours of warmups, skills training, lacrosse scrimmages and occasional dance breaks.

Endless Sports has locked in a second six-week program for May and June, and its director, Scott Stein, is already in expansion talks with nonprofits in Ohio and Oklahoma. 

“Years ago, no one would have even thought of a special needs lacrosse program,” Stein said. “But as the sport grows and more and more high schoolers are playing it, I think it lends itself to more groups like this.”

USA Lacrosse awarded Endless Sports with a First Stick Program grant, donated apparel and provided additional support through its own adaptive lacrosse programs.

Stein, 60, now dedicates most of his free time to the sport despite growing up in New York and New Jersey knowing “nothing about it.”

The Steins were a baseball family living in California until elder son Skyler tried out for lacrosse on a whim and got hooked. By the time they moved to North Carolina three years ago, Skyler and his younger brother Ethan were longtime rec goalies, and Scott and his wife, Erin, were longtime lacrosse parents.

As for the inclusive lacrosse league, Stein has long involved his family in charity and community efforts, “so this was just natural,” he said. “There was baseball and basketball and hockey, but I hadn’t seen anything for lacrosse, so I thought, ‘OK, maybe there’s a niche there.’ We loved the game anyway.”

He made some calls, and things moved fast.

“My dad mentioned it one day, but he has all of these big ideas,” said Skyler, 18, a senior team captain and varsity goalie at Cary’s Green Level High School. “We kind of just brushed it off. ‘Yeah, that’s an awesome idea, but how are you going to make it happen?’ Next thing we know, the clinic’s tomorrow.”

Around 20 athletes with disabilities and their families gathered at an outdoor Raleigh sports complex in October to nail down the sport’s basics — ground balls, catching and passing — under the instruction of Stein and local high school lacrosse players.

The Alberques filtered into the gym at around 6 p.m. that night with 25 other families. Athletes suited up in donated equipment like lacrosse goggles, helmets and sticks and loosened up with warmups including butt kicks, high knees and Frankenstein walks. Then they split into four groups to fine-tune their skills — bending their knees to scoop up ground balls, switching their stick between hands mid-run and cradling — with volunteers leading drills at each station and Stein patrolling the gym, dishing out a mix of humor and motivation.

“That was beautiful!”

“You look like a hot dog with all of that mustard!”

“You guys have only been at this for a week? You look good.”

Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.,” Flo Rida’s “My House” and Reel 2 Real’s “I Like To Move It” played during water breaks that doubled as dance breaks, and the night’s session ended with two 10-minute, full-court scrimmages heavy on cheering and scoring.

Watching as 12-year-old Ryan Alberque ran around the gym with his younger sister to burn off lingering energy after one session, Jim Alberque smiled.

“When you have a child with a disability, you don’t know what opportunities are going to be available for him,” he said. “Are they going to be able to be included in things? So programs like this, cases where he is included, it’s good for us as parents, and it’s good for them as kids. It’s been awesome.”    







SOUTHEAST REGION SPOTLIGHT

ALABAMA

The Greater Birmingham Youth Lacrosse Association put on one of the largest TryLax events in the country. Mickey Wright and Brian Lucas were instrumental in introducing the game to 146 new players.

GEORGIA

The Georgia Lacrosse Foundation supported the ninth-annual coaches clinic to help youth and high school coaches in the state. College and high school coaches shared their knowledge with more than 80 coaches.

KENTUCKY

Transylvania coach Logan Otto established For Keeps Lacrosse in 2018 to provide free lacrosse equipment to underprivileged children.

NORTH CAROLINA

The Piedmont Community Lacrosse Association put on two TryLax events and an adaptive lacrosse event for the city of Greensboro and Davie County Parks and Recreation.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Cusabo Nation hosted a 7v7 tournament in honor of a local player, Logan Janik, who had an undiagnosed heart condition and died unexpectedly. More than 150 players participated.

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