Combining Sports in Lacrosse
A so-called hodgepodge is always a good thing when it comes to sports. The more action it involves, the better. Lacrosse takes aspects from a few different sports to create something fast, smart and exciting all at the same time.
“The best way to describe it is a mix between basketball, soccer and hockey, on a soccer field,” said senior Trey Toller, the team president.
The Arkansas men’s lacrosse team combines competitiveness with the teaching and learning of one of the country’s most interesting sports. They have been hard at work preparing for the 2013 season, for which practices begin Wednesday, Jan. 23.
The team was founded in 2005 and participates in the Gray River Lacrosse Conference, a 12-team club sport conference that is part of the bigger Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. With schools like Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin all fielding competitive teams, the GRLC is a quality conference to be a part of.
The team finished 3-5 last year, which was a big step over 2011’s 1-7 campaign. They have had to bounce back after some poor management nearly shut them down a few years ago, but have continued to show significant improvement each season. Arkansas’ coach, Blake Whicker, has been with the team for two seasons and has helped the team make significant strides along the way.
“The president before me turned the club around, and now we’re getting back to what we had, we’re starting to win games, and gain players and funding,” Toller said.
The team members annually pay $650 dues that help cover travel expenses and uniform and practice gear costs. The club team will have 27 players this semester according to Toller, as they continue to get bigger by the year because of increased awareness. Though many of the players on the team have had high school or earlier experience with the sport, some on the team are just venturing into lacrosse.
“We have a open policy as far as who we allow on the team, so if somebody wanted to come and play, even without any experience, they are welcome to come and play,” said Toller, who has played since his sophomore year of high school.
Toller also said that if someone has a background in another sport, lacrosse would be an easy transition, because the sport has aspects of others. If you grew up playing hockey but want to get out of the rink more to work on a sun tan, lacrosse is probably your cup of tea.
“The plays involve a lot of picks and moving around a goal, but then there’s also the running and wide-open space of soccer, and then you have the sticks and the checks and fast-paced play that you get from hockey,” Toller said.
Lacrosse, similar to soccer, has defense, attack and midfield positions, as well as a goalie. There are nine position players, but only six are allowed on one side of the field at one time, making “half-court” situations crucial to the team’s strategy, much like basketball.
Popularity has spread about the team over the last few years mostly through word of mouth, but they are now looking to broaden their horizons and open up Facebook and Twitter accounts that are tended to regularly.
The team is working on fund raisers to help alleviate the cost of traveling, as the team will visit Colombia, Mo., and O’Fallon, Ill., for away games in 2013.
Traveling with fellow teammates gives the team more of a family aspect and many of the players have built friendships through lacrosse.
“My favorite part about being on the team is probably the camaraderie I have built with many of the guys. I’ve got to build friendships with a bunch of people coming from different backgrounds,” said sophomore Stephen Valentine, who has been playing lacrosse for 10 years.
The lacrosse team has given many of its members the opportunity to try out an intriguing sport, and as it continues to grow will see more and more brighter days ahead.
“This was a small program starting out and was small last year, and this year its been expanding even more and making the team even better,” Valentine said.