Lacrosse popularity grows locally

In Farragut and across East Tennessee, children and teenagers are picking up lacrosse sticks and scoring goals on the field.

Sarah Dougal who has been president of the Board of Farragut Youth Lacrosse for eight months said she definitely sees lacrosse’s popularity growing in recent years.

“When my family first moved here three years ago, there wasn’t even a program for children my son’s age and now we have programs for that age group and the age group younger.” she said. She said children as young as 6 years old play lacrosse with FYL.

She said two years ago, FYL had about 25 members, but this year, it has about 90.

“We had just a handful of kids 11 and under,” said Dave Weston, coach of the U11, which stands for Under age 11, children with FYL, regarding the number of children in the group he now coaches three years ago when FYL first started. “It’s probably doubled every year,” he said.

Dougal said she did grow up with the sport. However, her oldest son has been playing lacrosse for about four years and her daughter and middle son have been playing for about a year.

“For a lot of years it was kind of a niche sport … seen as elitist,” said Jeff Devlin, FYL coach for the U13 group. “Over the last 20 years or so it’s shaken some of that off … We’ve got kids from all sorts of backgrounds playing,” he said. “You can pretty much get a stick and a set of pads and play.”

“I think it’s a fun and interesting sport where you can get a lot of exercise and there’s enough skill involved that it’s a challenge,” Dougal said regarding lacrosse’s appeal.

“It’s fast, it’s exciting and it’s very accessible,” Devlin said.

Dougal said awareness of lacrosse in the broader region is growing, leading to more teams against which FYL can play.

Ken Thornton, father of FYL player Jake Thornton, said his son is one of a group of boys who split time between lacrosse and hockey. He said he liked the short seasons, which allowed for his son and others to do both sports.

“I think it’s great,” Thornton said, regarding lacrosse in general.

Dougal said the youngest children in FYL start with basic skills. As children get older, the program becomes progressively challenging, including some travel and tournaments. She mentioned FYL teams winning the Guardian Cup in Asheville, a regional tournament. While FYL is not affiliated with the high school program, Dougal said many children go on to the high school program after leaving FYL.

“We have a very nice working relationship with the girls’ program,” she said.

While FYL’s season has ended, Smoky Mountain Lacrosse Club’s summer programs began Wednesday, June 1.

Smoky Mountain Lacrosse includes several different options for different age groups, including some groups with the chance to go to tournaments. Provided they can fill the minimum roster requirements, some in the elite division, which includes groups of teenagers, will travel to Atlanta, Charlotte and Birmingham.

The Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., Birmingham, Al, tournament group for the youth division may travel to tournaments in Nashville, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Birmingham. However, there are other programs for children and teenagers who do not wish to travel as well as a lacrosse introduction program. Smoky Mountain Lacrosse has a men’s summer league, which plays in Farragut as well.