Despite its popularity throughout the state of Maryland, lacrosse has been slow to gain a foothold in Prince George’s County.
While local private high schools offer the sport, only one public school——does, and that’s only on the club level.
Those involved with the Prince George’s Lacrosse Club, though, are hoping to change that. The organization practices and plays at Duvall Field in College Park, and attracts young players from throughout the county who are eager to learn the game.
“It’s so much fun to play,” said Stacey Morrison, who serves as co-commissioner of the organization with her husband, Tim. “As soon as those kids get their sticks and the helmets on the pads, they’re hooked. I mean, in my son’s class alone, we had seven or eight of them all decide to play lacrosse this spring as opposed to baseball.”
For many county residents, however, lacrosse is a hard sell. Lewisdale-University Park Boys & Girls Club President Alex Heitkemper—whose 9-year-old son John plays for the Raiders—said that’s because other sports have monopolized the area’s attention.
“Prince George’s County really has two sports: basketball and football,” Heitkemper said. “We’ve had basketball and football forever; they’re ingrained in people’s mind of what kids should play, and lacrosse is fairly expensive and it takes a little bit to get all the equipment and everything. … It’s foreign to a lot of kids, and they’ve never tried it.”
The PGLC, though, is offering those kids an alternative. The Raiders are a member of the 15-team Southern Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association (SMYLA), which offers teams in four age groups: 15 and under, 13 and under, 11 and under, and 9 and under. Morrison said players are allowed to play up into older age groups if they want, as long as the coach and parents also agree.
The Raiders hope to host their inaugural lacrosse clinic this summer, and Morrison said she hopes that the University of Maryland’s recent success—the men’s and women’s teams each finished as national runner-ups—will help provide a boost in interest.
The SMYLA also has a , but it competes in the Northern Division—Prince George’s is in the Southern—meaning the two teams rarely face off. The Raiders’ division includes teams from Chesapeake Beach, Frederick and Calvert County. Bowie plays in a division with Montgomery Village, Rockville and Silver Spring.
“That’s it, that’s all you have to offer,” Heitkemper said. “Bowie’s on the eastern half of the county over there by Anne Arundel, and we’re on the western half and there’s nothing south and nothing in between.”
As a result, the Raiders attract players from throughout the county. The PGLC’s roster includes participants from Beltsville, Bowie, Capitol Heights, College Park, Fort Washington, Glenarden, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Lanham, Laurel, Riverdale, University Park and Upper Marlboro.
Many of those players and their parents come aboard with little, if any, knowledge of the sport.
Morrison and her husband took over as commissioners of the club last fall. They have lived in College Park since 1994, but had no previous lacrosse experience until their sons Ryan and Tyler picked it up.
Morrison said her family found about the league from a friend. The boys attended a lacrosse camp at Gonzaga and fell in love with the game, although they admittedly didn’t understand its nuances.
“When I first started playing, I played attack and I had no clue what to do,” said Tyler Morrison, who now plays goalie for the 13U team. “And then the goalie on our team just didn’t feel like playing, so they were looking for volunteers to play goalie, and I’m just like, this little kid standing in the back and said, ‘I’ll play,’ and they’re like, ‘Who said that?’”
In addition to unfamiliarity, the expense is one of the biggest factors that keep families from signing their kids up for lacrosse. Stacey Morrison said a quality helmet can start at around $150, while the price of a stick can run as high as $400.
To help offset some of the cost, the College Park Boys & Girls Club has worked to provide the Raiders with equipment for players who can’t afford it.
“We try to do whatever we can to get those kids out to play,” said CPBGC president Mary Lintner, whose son, Chase, plays for the Raiders. “Even to the point where we are having a mini-bus service picking them up on the corner of whatever and whatever to get them over of the game if their parents are working.”
Stacey Morrison said she’d like to see the organization grow to the point where participation ceases to be an issue, and perhaps help spur the addition of lacrosse as a sanctioned interscholastic sport someday.
“Lacrosse is a fun sport,” Tyler Morrison said, “and it’d be cool if a lot of other people played it, too.”
For more information visit PGLC's website.