By Monica Pettengill Jerkins
PARIS — Lacrosse may soon be coming to Oxford Hills Middle School thanks to an active group of parent volunteers who received consent to proceed with a lacrosse club from the SAD 17 Board of Directors at Monday night’s regularly scheduled board meeting.
“The hockey club started very similar,” said Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia. “This is an opportunity to create a feeder system for a varsity sport at our school.”
A group of middle-school aged children already participate in lacrosse activities with other organizations, according to a letter of request sent to the board by Garth Grover, coordinator of the lacrosse club effort.
Grover said his oldest son, now in middle school, has played lacrosse for the past three years through the Lakes Region and Auburn recreation programs since Oxford did not offer the sport for his age group. Grover learned that several other families he met through his involvement in those programs also had children approaching middle school who played lacrosse.
Grover knew about a similar, successful youth club program in the Gray/New Gloucester area, and when he heard about the Athletic Boosters attempts to start a lacrosse program for younger children in grades three through six, he was inspired to pursue the idea of a middle school club.
“It seemed like all of the stars were aligning,” he said.
Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the middle school program will provide students with some exposure, experience and interest in the sport before entering high school, which will benefit the high school teams.
As part of their organization efforts, a group of parents have been meeting every couple of weeks since the middle of summer. Their goal was to figure out a way to start the club without costing the district any money. The club will work to raise money for uniforms and coaching stipends through various channels, according to their request to the board. Families of players will have to purchase the necessary equipment for their child to participate, but the organization will work to find discount pricing for participants.
“The effort will dovetail with the Oxford Hills Athletic Boosters Youth Lacrosse program (beginning in spring 2016) and the boys and girls high school varsity lacrosse teams to provide the comprehensive development opportunity that students in the Oxford Hills deserve,” said Grover in his letter.
With the board’s approval, the club will start this spring. The group is already sponsoring a number of skills clinics, with the next ones organized for Nov. 15 and 22 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for grades three through eight. The coach the group has lined up for the new middle school team will lead the clinic, so Grover said it will be a good opportunity for the kids who are interested in playing to meet the coach and gain exposure to the sport.
When the sport starts in the spring, practices will be scheduled for evenings to accommodate parent volunteer work schedules and to interfere as little as possible with other spring sports. The team will be co-ed and will compete with other clubs from the region and beyond.
The district’s athletic director and the middle school principal both voiced their support for the program. The board of directors approved the proposal with a unanimous vote. The club has agreed to play for three seasons before potentially seeking funding approval from the district’s Budget Committee and board of directors, should they decide to. If, at that point, the school decides to pick up funding for the program, it would carry a cost of approximately $7,850, which would cover coaching stipends, game officials, transportation, uniforms and equipment.