Getting their kicks

Lacrosse gaining popularity locally

Oldham Lacrosse Club introduces area players
to this centuries-old game

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(October 2005) BUCKNER, Ky. – One of the oldest games in North America is now gaining popularity in Oldham County. Interest is so high among many middle and high school age players that the Oldham Lacrosse Club has been formed. These students enjoy a sport that was developed by Native Americans as early as the 15th century.

Ahren Eisenmeng & Ben Murphy

Photo provided

Ahren Eisenmeng, left,
and Ben Murphy are members of the
Oldham Lacrosse Club, which has boys
and girls teams with members
from all three area high schools.

A high school girl’s team was formed five years ago. It already has won three out of four state championships. A high school boy’s team was formed two years ago. Members are from all three county high schools, with 30 varsity players on a team. Twenty players also come from Oldham County middle schools, said Brummal Murphy. Murphy’s husband, Jim, is assistant to the boy’s coach, Stu Bailey.
Lacrosse is a “fast paced game,” said Bailey, who is originally from Baltimore. He compares it to basketball, with lots of high-scoring action. “When you get on the field, you’d better be ready to play,” he said.
Bailey is a great facilitator, said Murphy. He is president of the Kentucky Lacrosse Association, an independent group that he helped organize in 1998. It is not sanctioned by the state but sponsors teams if there are not enough players to form their own school team. Bailey has enjoyed playing lacrosse in the past and thought Oldham County could benefit from such a sport.
Lacrosse is similar to football, hockey and baseball, all rolled into one. The objective of lacrosse is to put a 5-ounce, hard rubber ball in an opponent’s net with a long-handled stick that has a triangular pocket at the end, while keeping an opponent from doing the same to you. Goals are at both ends of the field.
Ten positions comprise a game of lacrosse for the boy’s team: goalie (1), attackmen (3), midfielders (3) and defensemen (3). The girl’s team has two additional midfielders. In previous centuries, games were played by as few as 100 players or as many as 1,000 and lasted two to three days, from sunrise to sunset. Lacrosse was played by Native Americans not only for recreation but to settle tribal disputes and toughen warriors for fighting.
Jesuit missionaries from France first encountered lacrosse in the 17th century. Huron Indians played a game with sticks reminiscent of the crosier (la Crosse) carried by bishops as a symbol of their office. In the early 1800s, white settlers in Montreal took up the game, and it became Canada’s national sport. Canada introduced the game to the United States, England, Ireland and Scotland.
All Oldham Lacrosse Club members live in Oldham County and practice four days a week. Lacrosse is an “in-between sport,” said Murphy. It fits nicely into the school schedule as an alternative sport at a time when other sports are not offered, she said.
The Oldham Lacrosse Club’s home game field for the high school team is located at North Oldham High School Stadium. The middle school home field is at St. Frances School in Goshen. Admission to games is free.
The field for the boys’ teams is 110 yards long with goals 80 yards apart. The girl’s field measures 120 yards long with goals 100 yards apart. The girls play a slightly different game, said Bailey. Their games are not as physical, and they do not need to wear the padding and helmets that the boy’s team wears.
“It’s a different game, rule-wise,” said high school girls coach Greg Dillon. The girl’s games are played with safety in mind, with little body contact. There is much more strategy and finesse in their game, said Dillon.
Dillon played lacrosse while in college in New England, and he also played the sport with Bailey in the early 1980s. Bailey’s daughter, Brittany, and Dillon’s daughter, Katie, have both taken up the sport.
Katie Dillon said lacrosse is “unique. No one really plays it. It gives me a chance to have different relationships with girls from different schools that I wouldn’t normally have.”
Sign-ups are held in the winter months, and an indoor league plays at the Buckner YMCA. Practice begins in February, with games scheduled March through May. The state championship is usually held the week before Memorial Day.
The Oldham County team plays in the Kentucky Lacrosse Association High School Division. For the past six to seven years, this Division has had regular leagues at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville. In 2004, middle school players had to move to the high school division to continue playing, and were assigned to teams willing to take them, which meant they had to play for other schools. Certain schools, such as Eastern High School, had their own teams.
The players provide their own equipment and pay a league entry fee of $160, said Murphy.
This fee covers uniforms, field maintenance and membership in the U.S. Lacrosse Association, the governing body of the national game. For teams to be legal, the coach and players must be members of this association.
The sport is really “growing on a collegiate level,” said Bailey. He hopes that more parents will get involved from a coaching aspect. He sees coaching as one of the biggest holdups of the game; not enough people are familiar with the game to assume the role of coach, he said.

• For more information, contact Stu Bailey at (502) 228-5825
or stu.bailey@insightbb.com, or Greg Dillon at milwgpd@aol.com.

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