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

Correction: the web address for the bolts was incorrect in the original version of this article. –ed.


STAB parent Gordie thinks the local, 300 player league isn't challenging enough for his 12 year old. Shocking.

"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."

Huh? then what do they look at? home movies? club teams are travel teams.

Every high school team tapes its games, uploads to a file sharing site, and shares with college coaches, who love it. If anything, the players' performance in high school games is more important because college coaches know how watered down every $ummer "elite" travel $quad is.

Dont know about LAX but I can tell you that college coaches dont pay attention to High school soccer. Gotta be on a club team going to a tourny to get a look and as often as not, hittting the summer camp at those schools you like.

On a positive note, I have enjoyed my time with the Bolts organization. The Bolts have brought together players from every local school and given youth lacrosse players another opportunity to play lacrosse. At the same time, the players participating on a Bolts team are encouraged to play in the local league for their school teams.

It's middle school lacrosse. The only college coaches at any middle school game are watching their own child play. I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'm pretty certain Mr. Kelly was misquoted. As for select teams being watered down, if college coaches believed that they wouldn't be lined up on the sidelines taking notes at club tournaments. College coaches can rarely get to high school games. They are busy preparing their teams for their next opponent. Players can make highlight videos and send them to college coaches. They may like what they see but 99.9% of the time the response to the video is, "where can I see you play this summer?"

Fact is, club teams are important to lacrosse.

To think of the Bolts organization as a recruiting springboard is wrong. The organization has focused on consistent training provided by coaches and volunteers who want to give back to the game. It is fun to watch the kids test their developing skills against teams from traditional lacrosse hotbeds like Baltimore and Long Island. And again, the kids get to spend time with friends from other schools they may not see otherwise.

Everyone involved seems to be enjoying the experience. If it's not your thing, no big deal.

What happened to CAYLC that had U-9, U-11, U-13, U-15 and U-16 travel teams for many years?

It's about time. Could not believe the hometown of NCAA's National Championship lacrosse team didn't have a Club program like every other lacrosse community throughout the land. Heck, even Texas got on board with this a long time ago people (showing football isn't all they know). The rec league in Cville can't have it both ways, putting beginner and developmental players on teams with athletes ready to compete at the club level. Finally, a place for great players to grow their game by training hard and competing with tougher programs. Keeping it a true non-profit shows a commitment to the kids and families that its about the kids, not $. A lot of clubs out there are a racket. Crabs up in MD does it right. Hope Bolts follows that model. Congrats Cville Bolts! We had to go by way of SOCA for a club experience, although one of ours would have preferred club lacrosse.

Mr. Kelly was misquoted, he indicated that recruiters do not scout most high school games, except in the Baltimore/NJ/Long Island areas, they scout the summer club teams, as the summer teams/tournaments will have a much higher number of college caliber players participating, the tournaments are like ducks on a pond, making recruiting much easier and less costly. The Bolts organization was not formed to replace any of the existing fine programs that are currently offering boys the great experience of playing lacrosse, but rather what the Bolts offer is the opportunity to play at a higher level of play, that will improve their skills by the time they move on to high school and play on the local high school summer club teams. When all is said and done, the opportunity to compete against teams not only from around VA, but also teams from all over the country, they will see what it takes to get to the next level, should that be a goal for they choose for themselves. The tournaments that they will be participating in this summer will have teams from the traditional hot spots such as Baltimore (the best area), Long Island, Texas, IL, etc. Great friendships have already been made and the boys will be exposed to many great life experiences. The Bolts will be traveling to Annapolis, the Philadelphia area, New Jersey (the largest Youth Tournament in the country and conclude the season in Maryland. As another comment said, "if it's not your thing, no big deal."