It started with a club program at Indian River High School. Then a varsity program for the boys, and eventually one for the girls. Then youth clinics and, just this past summer, the first Sharp Shooter Lax Shooting Camp.
Now, with the sport on the rise not only across the state of Delaware, but the nation as well, the local area could finally have its first lacrosse feeder program, with the Tribe Lacrosse Youth Developmental League.
“The hunger is there for the sport. We just don’t have enough kids that are into it yet because they really don’t know where to turn,” said Indian River High School assistant lacrosse coach and Sharp Shooter Lax Shooting Camp’s Dave Spencer.
“We want to be in competition with some of these powerhouses around. Even though we’re five years old, we feel like, to step up and play with the big boys, you gotta do it the right way and doing stuff like this is the right way.”
Spencer went on to note that the closest programs around for local kids to get involved with the sport from a young age are out in Salisbury, Md., and up toward the Cape region — which is where his own kids have been playing.
He and Indian River head coach Jim Dietsch noted the need for a program in the immediate area, which was reinforced by youth players at Sharp Shooter this past July.
For the past three years, Dietsch has put on local youth clinics, but now Tribe Lacrosse is looking to take the next step.
Before they do that, however, they’ll need to start with some equipment, which they’re hoping the community will step up and help them fund.
“It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to raise youth lacrosse,” said Dietsch, who has been involved in youth lacrosse throughout his more than 40 years of coaching and helped develop programs including the one in Bel Air, Md., while coaching at the University of Maryland.
“We can’t do it without equipment. Somehow, someway, we’re gonna get the kids equipment.”
While Dietsch has reached out to U.S. Lacrosse for a possible grant to help offset the cost of everything from helmets and shoulder pads to gloves and cleats, he and Spencer are working with the Indian River School District Community Education Program and have also reached out to Lax World, which will be providing equipment for the new program at discounted prices.
Fundraising efforts are under way, with the first donation coming from former IR Lacrosse Boosters’ President Tamara Smyth and her son Tristan Smyth, the owners of Turtle Beach Café on the boardwalk in Bethany Beach.
Tristan Smyth helped pioneer the varsity program at Indian River, as a defenseman on the Indians’ first-ever state tournament team in 2014. That was also their first varsity season, but they got their start as a club and J.V. program using some particularly outdated equipment.
“When we first started up, it was ragtag. We had helmets from the ’80s,” Smyth said with a laugh.
“It’ll be great to get a youth program around here. If you go play football, they have everything for you. It’ll be good to have lacrosse equipment for some of the kids who don’t have the funds to go out and buy it, so they can still go out there and play.”
As Smyth noted, unlike football, players are generally responsible for their own equipment when starting up in lacrosse. And, typically, that equipment can be expensive.
With the one-time discount prices provided by Lax World, however, local businesses and lacrosse boosters will have the chance to outfit a player in a pair of gloves for around $25, and an entire set of equipment for around $200. That’s compared to what Spencer estimated to be around $500 at normal prices.
Currently, youth players are going around town with fundraising letters and forms for checks to be made payable to Lax World. Businesses are being asked to donate what they can, but Dietsch and Spencer said that every little bit counts.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be part of something where the cost is offset by the people donating in the community,” said Spencer. “Just to have the community give back and support the growth of lacrosse around here — it really means a lot.”
The first season of the Tribe Youth Developmental League will be held throughout six weeks this spring, beginning on March 21. Boys in grades 6 throughout 8 will be eligible to play this season, with players from the high school program volunteering to help coach and referee.
For more information on the program or donations, contact Jim Dietsch at email@example.com.