Re-LAX: Youth lacrosse gets a boost
For years, youth soccer players looking for tougher competition have had the SOCA organization, and, more recently, Monticello United for a travel team experience. Serious swimmers have had the Gators and baseball players have had the Bears. But those looking to advance their lacrosse game have been limited to school teams or to playing for travel leagues based far away– in Richmond or Northern Virginia. No longer. This spring there's a new travel organization called the Bolts, thanks to the efforts of several parents determined to grow the sport in the Charlottesville area, and interest has been high.
"There's been a pretty good void," says Mike Kelly, one of a small group of parents who worked to get the Bolts off the ground this year and who've secured UVA's support in the form of tournament fields and coaching assistance.
Teams have been formed for youth under 11, under 13, and under 15, and while the U13 team roster is complete, there are still several openings for the younger and older age brackets.
"He was looking for more competition," says parent Gordie Croll, of his 12-year-old, sixth-grade son Connor, who also plays in the Boys Middle School Lacrosse League team for St. Anne's-Belfield. Croll says an additional benefit of the travel-level play is having a dedicated coaching staff and a well-organized parent group. UVA lacrosse players and coaches have also volunteered their time for the new league.
"The boys love that," he says.
While travel teams in any sport can take a toll on families' times and pocketbooks, Kelly says the Bolts do offer scholarships, and for boys hoping for a chance at college-level play, travel team experience, he says, is important.
"If these kids are really serious about lacrosse and want to try to move forward and get looked at, all the high schools are now realizing that recruiters don't look at club teams," Kelly says, "and they don't pay too much attention to high school teams."
The Bolts play year round, including indoor practices in winter, and plan to compete in summer tournaments in Pennsylvania and Maryland. More information is available on the Bolts website at www.cvbolts.org.
Correction: the web address for the bolts was incorrect in the original version of this article. –ed.