Lacrosse expansion bringing new opportunity to students in every neighborhood

Posted: Thursday, March 7th 2019


Girls' lacrosse teams from Hoover and San Diego high schools in a 2018 game

The field beneath their feet may feel familiar, but these young women know that each step they take could be leading them to new world of opportunities when they compete in lacrosse on April 3. They will be facing off in a sport that many adults still do not know, playing for teams that did not even exist a few years ago, on the path to potential scholarships that could one day help them become the first in their families to attend college. These possibilities are some of the reasons that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in San Diego Unified schools.

Dating back to at least the 17th century, lacrosse is a true American pastime, first played by Native Americans on massive fields that often had more than 100 players on each team. Today, teams of 12 play a fast-paced game resembling different aspects of soccer, hockey, and basketball. The sport is gaining local popularity with the San Diego Seals professional lacrosse team now playing their first full season. For many, the appeal extends beyond the game to the opportunities it represents.

San Diego student athletes have the chance to compete for thousands of college lacrosse scholarships that are available to young men and women annually. That number is only expected to increase in coming years. Recognizing this opportunity, San Diego Unified recently began launching lacrosse programs in historically disadvantaged communities where access to the sport had been largely missing.

In just the past several years, new boys’ and girls’ lacrosse programs have sprung up at Hoover, Lincoln, and San Diego high schools, and Clairemont High will be kicking off its inaugural lacrosse season this month. Going forward, Morse and Crawford high schools are set to launch their own teams next year.

This city-wide expansion has not been without its challenges, however. The coaches and staff spearheading the district’s lacrosse effort will tell you that, while immensely rewarding, starting a new sports program can be a schoolwide undertaking.

“At Lincoln, the school’s Athletic Director David Fai couldn’t line up a coach, and had a pretty hard time getting enough girls to try out,” recalled Scott Giusti, Director of Athletics. “It was going to be a challenge to get the program off the ground.”

Fai decided to serve as the head coach himself, and personally took up the effort of recruiting Lincoln students for the brand new team. The school held a meeting and promoted the new team while Fai actively worked to build awareness on campus. Eventually, he found plenty of interest from students and staff alike. “He wound up doubling the number of kids that had originally tried out,” said Giusti. “That first year they didn’t win a lot of games, but it was definitely a success story.”

With college tuition costs climbing to exorbitant levels, and admissions becoming more and more competitive, lacrosse is just one more tool that San Diego Unified students can use in helping advance their academic career. In addition to potential scholarship offers, playing a sport provides the intangible benefits of friendship, community pride, and structure.

“Our student athletes are getting much more than just the experience of playing a sport,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “They are making memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, while building confidence and leadership skills that will help them succeed at every level.”

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