PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY – The DMV area has always been known as a mecca when it came to lacrosse. The area has seen many lacrosse greats come out of local high schools from Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, all the way up through the great universities such as John Hopkins and the University of Maryland. […]
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY – The DMV area has always been known as a mecca when it came to lacrosse.
The area has seen many lacrosse greats come out of local high schools from Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, all the way up through the great universities such as John Hopkins and the University of Maryland.
Prince George’s County has always seemed to be behind the curve when it came to having lacrosse in public schools. It has slowed down the growth of the sport in the county, and at the moment, lacrosse is considered the fastest-growing sport in the country.
After two decades and endless debates and processes to add lacrosse into the school system, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has finally offered lacrosse as an interscholastic sport for all public schools.
“Like everything else, expansion of varsity sports comes with a price tag,” said Earl Hawkins, athletics coordinating supervisor for PGCPS. “We started with schools where we saw the most interest and will expand the program as more schools start club teams and the budget allows. Expanding lacrosse as a varsity sport will also provide more scholarship opportunities for our students.”
The plan, according to Hawkins, is for PGCPS to begin participating in the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) postseason tournament by 2017.
“I hope every county school will have formed at least a club team by the end of this spring,” Hawkins said,
So far Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr., Bowie, Oxon Hill and Northwestern have both girls’ and boys’ lacrosse teams which held their first games on March 22. DuVal, Charles H. Flowers and Friendly will only be participating in girls’ lacrosse to start this season, while Gwynn Park and Douglass will field exclusively boys’ lacrosse for now. But, Hawkins, said it’s a start.
Eleanor Roosevelt had the first lacrosse club in Prince George’s County, which formed back in 1996. New club teams later formed and have grown over the past two decades. With the sport catching on in the area, the entire community has pushed even harder for lacrosse’s inclusion with other varsity sports. Students, parents, community members and elected officials have all lobbied for the sport and it finally worked.
“There’s a lot of kids in the county who are playing and it became harder and harder to explain why Prince George’s County didn’t have the fastest-growing high school sport in America as a varsity sport,” former Maryland Del. Justin Ross told the Washington Post. He is also the commissioner of the Prince George’s Pride Lacrosse Club.
With Eleanor Roosevelt seeing success with its program over recent years, including back-to-back winning seasons, it was starting to become obvious that other Prince George’s County schools would join in.
“It’s a good day for the kids, and whether it’s a long time coming or not, it is great news,” Roosevelt boys’ lacrosse Head Coach Don Fink said.
Fink has been at Roosevelt for nine years and has seen his program grow from a club sport into a more legitimate program. He knew that the rest of the county could grow as well, given the proper funding. And it all started because his son wanted to play the game he loved, and not have to leave Roosevelt behind for a private school.
In 2008, Riley Fink told his story about wanting to play lacrosse to the Washington Post and it was a very compelling situation. Riley had many opportunities to play high-level lacrosse at the cost of leaving Roosevelt, his friends and his brothers’ alma-mater. Because he lived in Prince George’s County, he had to choose between public school and playing lacrosse at an elite private school, which was far more promising for his future. Riley chose Roosevelt, which provided no lacrosse funding or even a place to change clothes.
“I’m really happy to get to play here, but it might have been nice to have uniforms and a locker room and travel money and stuff,” Riley said when he was a junior.
He did consider leaving Roosevelt and transferring to DeMatha at one point, but opted to stay.
“Coaches will look at two recruits, see a guy who went to Roosevelt and say, ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and go with the kid they know,” he said. “If I went to DeMatha, or if Roosevelt had a varsity program, I’d have a better name. It’s disappointing, but you just have to work harder.”
Riley is now a junior at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he is still playing the game he loves. His story had a major impact on Prince George’s County’s decision to add lacrosse after parents started to speak up.
Janis Milman, a Waldorf resident whose daughter played for a recreational team in St. Mary’s County, was also outspoken when Riley’s story broke.
“Why should our kids get fewer opportunities to play because of where they live?” Milman said.
Now the wait is finally over. Prince George’s County can now work on joining the likes of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties who have been dominating area lacrosse for decades. It will take some time to be able to compete with those high schools, but the buzz in the area has been extremely positive.
DeMatha Head Lacrosse Coach Scott Morrison believes even more change will happen in the future.
“Prince George’s County is most certainly behind the rest of the state, in terms of offering lacrosse, but that’s changing in a good way,” Morrison said. “Look forward five or 10 years from now, I’m confident you’re going to see some kids from Prince George’s County Public Schools going on to play at the next level.”
Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer for PGCPS, was happy to see the sport become a part of the varsity landscape as well.
“I am thrilled that the many students who have taken part in lacrosse at the club level will now have the opportunity to compete in varsity games,” he said.
District 7 Board of Education member K. Alexander Wallace was at the opening game on March 22 at Wise and posted on his Twitter his happiness for the launch of lacrosse as an interscholastic sport.
“Before tonight’s Board of Education meeting, I joined Dr. Kevin Maxwell (PGCPS CEO) to celebrate the first match at Wise High School. With lacrosse being available in Prince George’s County Public Schools, I personally want to thank State Sen. Doug Peters for his advocacy in making this happen.”
Peters, a University of Maryland alum, was a major force behind the finalization of interscholastic lacrosse in the county.
With the support of the community, lacrosse is poised to make a major impact on the sports landscape in Prince George’s County.