BY CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
— TRAVERSE CITY --- The sport of lacrosse is booming locally, and it's spreading to girls.
The Grand Traverse Bay YMCA is set to host a series of drop-in skills clinics over the next two months and officials hope to increase their participation in the increasingly popular sport. The ultimate goal is to get enough girls interested to launch a league this spring, or at least enough for scrimmage games.
A skills class last month drew 21 girls and another, early fall session drew about 30 attendees. The YMCA will launch a six-session skills clinic running on Saturday evenings in February and March. Participants can come to one or as many sessions as they want.
"We're trying to get it off the ground," said Barb Beckett, program director for the local YMCA. "We wanted to see what kind of interest there was out there and there was a lot of interest."
The YMCA also will offer boys skills clinics at the same time. Sessions will lead up to the beginning of the well-established male youth league. Participation in that league, which began about five years ago, has quickly grown to 400 kids in grades one through 12.
"It is huge," said Beckett.
The ancient game was created by Native Americans; for those not familiar with it, play combines elements hockey, soccer and basketball. Play is on a field larger than a football field and moves very quickly.
"It's a real honorable game, not a game that is real rough and tumble," Beckett said. "It's a game created by Native Americans to show goodwill between tribes."
Women's lacrosse veteran Hilary Gessner will teach the girls clinics.
The spring outdoor sport is a Michigan High School Athletic Association-sponsored sport. It is booming downstate, where numerous high schools offer both boys and girls a chance to play varsity lacrosse.
To Beckett's knowledge, no schools in northern Michigan offer girls lacrosse, and she and the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA are determined to make a change. It may take some time to introduce the sport and then build skills, but the series of drop-in skills clinics could provide a major boost.
"We're hoping to get girls teams going," Beckett said.