Back in the spring, as I walked along the athletic fields near Lakewood Ranch in search of a local youth soccer team, I noticed sticks being waved in the air.
They didn’t look like hockey sticks or tennis racquets. The sticks had a net on the end, and the players scurrying around the sun-baked field had masks covering their faces.
Lacrosse? In Manatee County?
That’s right, it was the Lakewood Ranch Lacrosse Club.
Florida is a hotbed for many sports, football first and foremost, but there’s always room for another sport to garner some attention. And lacrosse could be that sport. It’s played at a fast pace. Plenty of scoring is involved, and it can be very physical.
The Lightning, a club team based in Lakewood Ranch, have been around for seven years and play in the A-division of the West Florida Lacrosse League.
Last year, they finished with a 6-5 record playing against teams such as Tampa Jesuit and Tampa Plant.
Lacrosse is a game most anyone can play. If you play football or basketball, the transition can be pretty smooth.
“I think it’s a good combination of a bunch of different sports,” coach Jamie Carver said. “You have the full contact and hitting like you would have in football. But then you have the finesse of the passing and picking like you have in basketball.”
To make things even better, you don’t have to be the biggest or the fastest to be good at it.
Take Doug Snell for instance.
Snell is 5-foot-7, 170 pounds and plays cornerback for the Lakewood Ranch football team. He may not stick out to you on the football field, but he’s college material in lacrosse. And he’s making the most of it.
Snell has scholarship offers from Lenoir Rhyne College, Wingate University and Limestone College, to name a few. He attended the Dixie Top 150 camp in North Carolina in July and won the midfield MVP award and was selected as the MVP of the Jacksonville University camp as well.
“I play football to stay in shape for lacrosse,” said Snell, a senior at Lakewood Ranch. “I fell in love with the sport. The only sport I used to play was football, and I needed something to do. I picked it up in middle school and kept with it.”
Carver, who played at the University of Maryland and now works at Out-of-Door Academy, said the Thunder is starting a team this coming season.
“Maryland and New York are really the hotbeds for lacrosse,” Carver said. “We’ve seen a huge growth in the sport in the past several years from coast to coast.”
So if you are strolling out east and see sticks with nets waving in the air, stop by and get familiar with a different type of sport.
Ryan T. Boyd, sports writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7017.