December 7, 2019
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The More The Merrier

Area schools offer nontraditional sports to involve additional students
On the FieldOn the Field
Reitz Memorial High School lacrosse team has won the city tournament five out of seven years. Photo by Cynthia Sullivan.

Archery and lacrosse have caught fire as club sports among high schools in the Evansville-Newburgh areas.

Teams in both sports play at the club level at most schools in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., Catholic Diocese of Evansville Schools, and at Warrick County School Corp.

The EVSC offers 19 sports that are sanctioned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA). Archery and lacrosse are offered as a club sport only in the high schools by outside organizations, according to Lekita Hart, assistant athletic director for the EVSC.

Boys and girls can participate in archery and lacrosse.

State high school athletic associations have been more open in recent years to adding sports that fall outside of the mainstream, which includes football, basketball, softball, and volleyball.

“I absolutely believe that it is beneficial to add new sports to any community,” says Tim Clark, the lacrosse sponsor/coach at Castle High School. “It is not difficult to find research about the benefits that participating in sports can have on a person. If adding sports, no matter which sport it is, can provide the opportunity for a person to experience those benefits, then everyone should do everything in their power to create an environment to allow those new sports to thrive.” 

Growth has been considered steady for lacrosse, which is a popular high school and college sport in the northeast U.S. Teams in Evansville started forming in 2006.

“We began with approximately 20 players and now have approximately 60 players,” says Clark. “Outside of Castle, the other teams in the area — Reitz, North, Central, Memorial, Mater Dei, and Harrison — have experienced similar growth in that time.”

Reitz Memorial High School’s boys lacrosse team has won the city tournament five out of seven years, and has many boys playing baseball, swimming, or wrestling as well. Cliff Rogers is the Memorial boys lacrosse sponsor/coach.

“There are very few lacrosse players in this area who grew up playing the sport. Every year we try to get the best athletes in the school who are not involved in baseball or track and get them out for the lacrosse team,” says Rogers. “While some young men may have never even seen the game played, the skills they have learned on the football field or the basketball court translate very well to the lacrosse field. This has led to a good amount of success for Memorial.”

The keys for developing numbers is to start kids playing at younger levels. Castle, Memorial, North, and Central have plans to move their seventh and eighth grade players into an independent league where they can play against each other and teams from across the state, according to Clark.

Castle and the other Evansville area teams joined the league that hosts the state tournament, the Indiana High School Lacrosse Association (IHSLA), in 2010, which at the time had 27 teams. The ISHLA will host 51 teams in the 2016 season.

High schools begin practice in January and the regular seasons open in March.

Films like “The Hunger Games” or television series such as “The Walking Dead” have contributed to the popularity of archery.

“This year we had 83 students try out for the archery team,” said Mark Zwilling, Castle’s archery coach. “After five practice sessions and five days of tryouts we picked our team of 60 archers.”

Castle is defending state champion and has won that title eight of the last nine years. Castle also was fifth in a national meet in Louisville, Kentucky, that had more than 100 high schools competing.

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