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Bloomington-Normal lacrosse reemerges post-COVID looking for more players

The Bloomington-Normal Warriors lacrosse program has about 55 athletes from ages 6-14 enrolled for the 2023 season.
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The Bloomington-Normal Warriors lacrosse program has about 55 athletes from ages 6-14 enrolled for the 2023 season.

Lacrosse is one of the fastest expanding sports in the United States, and those who play the sport say it’s also commonly misunderstood. It’s thought of as a hybrid game, simply a union of hockey and soccer to make something new.

Lacrosse, however, has a deep history, and is planting roots in Bloomington-Normal.

Illinois is a hotbed for lacrosse growth, with many powerhouse programs from the furthest north suburbs of Chicago all the way to Dunlap. This is especially evident in Bloomington-Normal. With two high school teams in the area (Bloomington/Unit 5 co-op and Central Catholic), growing the sport at a youth level is crucial for the success of those programs, and that’s just what the Bloomington-Normal Warriors are attempting to do.

The Warriors are a not-for-profit lacrosse club with boys and girls teams from first grade through high school.

Lacrosse is the oldest sport played in North America, first being enjoyed by Native American and Canadian tribes as early as the year 1100. It’s since come to be known as “the fastest sport on two feet” for its high-tempo gameplay and the speed the ball moves during play. It’s played by advancing a rubber ball up the field by passing using sticks with mesh heads, almost like nets. At the highest levels, the ball can easily move over 100 miles per hour and can be difficult to keep track of from the sidelines. It combines aspects of other sports, like the speed and physicality of hockey and the positions and tactics of soccer.

Warriors president Liz Friedrich said the most important thing is to “spread awareness” of the sport and the potential that it has. She believes that with the support of the community and more education, lacrosse could take off in the Twin Cities, and the Warriors could become one of the stronger programs in Central Illinois.

“It’s an emerging sport here,” Friedrich said. “Parents we typically find are a little apprehensive about engaging because they are not sure what this sport is.”

Lacrosse is often associated with two things: being too expensive for many people to play and lacking diversity. These are both hurdles the Warriors are trying to clear, according to program vice president Rory Nolan.

Nolan, a former wheelchair basketball player, said there's interest in making the sport into something everyone can do, regardless of physical abilities or any other factor that would make participating in the sport harder. One tactic the program uses to combat the challenges the sport faces are equipment rentals.

Friedrich said the sport must “overcome not only the access to the equipment, but also the financial burden of purchasing equipment, perhaps for a sport the child may not play for very long.”

It can cost several hundred dollars to buy new equipment, making lacrosse out of the question for many families. The Warriors attempt to counteract this by offering $50 equipment rentals for full seasons.

“The hope is, we don’t want the money to be a barrier to any of our Bloomington-Normal families,” Nolan said.

Friedrich and Nolan both hope that by offering opportunities like this, more families will choose to play lacrosse in the Bloomington-Normal area.

The Warriors seasons are played between April and May each spring. Games are played on Sundays in tournament style because of field and referee availability.

Currently the program has about 55 athletes from ages 6-14 enrolled for the 2023 season, but they’re hoping to begin to build back to pre-pandemic numbers by the time registration opens again in February 2024.

Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.