TAMPA – It’s been a long wait for the growing legion of lacrosse fans in the Tampa Bay area, but, now that the sport has been sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association, the floodgates are starting to open.
For years, lacrosse has been big in most parts of Florida, especially Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Central Florida, and South Florida. But the growth of the game is ensure now that it is sanctioned at the high school level.
And much like football, baseball and volleyball, feeder programs will be needed to pump skilled players into participating schools.
In Northwest Tampa, youth and middle school lacrosse is offered at Northlake Park in Carrollwood by the Northwest Tampa Pride lacrosse organization. Practice is underway and games begin on Feb. 1.
Pride public relations coordinator Melissa Ransdell’s son Austin will play for Steinbrenner his senior year. He found lacrosse after playing five years of youth football and hasn’t looked back. Ransdell said that she hopes the Pride can work with both the sanctioned high school programs as well as the schools that have hopes to be sanctioned in the near future.
“Lacrosse is one of those games that, if kids give it a try, they love the game,’’ Ransdell said. “The kids are falling for this new sport. We are taking it slow, but we think it is going to work.’’
It’s a startup program and, registration went really well for the boys under-15 and under-13 teams, but there were too few applicants for the girls middle school and elementary school teams. The boys under-9 and under-11 teams didn’t meet their quota, but the Pride has formed a partnership with the New Tampa programs at that level and will practice with them while New Tampa supplies extra players.
Ransdell said she knew it wouldn’t explode at first. She is disappointed that there aren’t enough girls to fill out the rosters, especially since her daughter, Lauren, 15, and a freshman at Steinbrenner, loves the game. She plays goalie.
“This is a long-term project and we knew that from the beginning,’’ Ransdell said. “We are in this for the long haul. We have a lot of interest and can use more. This game is growing so fast in Florida and we wanted to be a part of it.’’
The youth program has already started taking off. More than 75 Steinbrenner students showed up for a recent clinic.
“It’s just a matter of time,’’ Ransdell said. We have lots of support and we are off to a great start.’’