This is one of series of articles counting down the Top 20 Stories of Philly lacrosse for 2010
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/16/11
The growth of lacrosse in the Philadelphia region’s inner-cities continued to rise at a strong pace in 2010.
Thanks to the efforts of LEAPS, the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association (PLA), Tina Sloan-Green and the Black Women in Sport Foundation as well as the Public League, many more city players of all ages were introduced to the sport or playing on youth, middle school and high school teams.
The biggest news of the year was that six boys’ and six girls’ teams competed in the first Public League season. The year concluded with a league tournament as George Washington claimed the league championships for boys and girls.
The boys’ teams are George Washington, FitzSimons (the only school that started playing in 2009), Northeast, Audenried, Mastery Charter-Shoemaker and Delaware Valley Charter. The girls’ teams included George Washington, Delaware Valley Charter, Girls’ High, Mastery Charter-Shoemaker, Northeast and Mastery Charter-Pickett In 2011, it is expected that two more teams will be added for boys and girls.
Eric Gregg is the Co-Director of the LEAPS program, a second-year non-profit dedicated to building lacrosse in the inner-city. Gregg and fellow Co-Director John Christmas as well as Director of Operations Billy McKinney worked with more than 400 boys and girls and ran clinics in seven locations. Six of the locations were in Philadelphia and one was in Wilmington. They also worked in 30 Philly high schools, providing training to physical education teachers in the art of teaching lacrosse.
In all, LEAPS has worked with more than 250 teachers in professional development classes and clinics, in conjunction with Tina Sloan-Green and the Penn men’s lacrosse team. Also, the PLA has outfitted many of the teams with equipment and donated more than $30,000 over the past two years to help maintain the Middle School program and get the high school league started. Two of the PLA key players have been Cathy DiAgnizio, who actually coached one of the Public League girls’ teams last year, and J.B. Bowie.
The PLA has been heavily involved in the push to get lacrosse programs in the city for a long time, in fact. The PLA helped fund the Middle School programs with Public league athletic director Rick Howard five years ago and has been a driving force in supporting the expansion to the high school.
Gregg said the combined efforts of all parties are showing in many ways.
“One of the things we’ve learned as the program has grown is that we’re not just educating kids, we’re educating entire families,” Gregg said. “Parents are now seeing the benefit of playing lacrosse. It’s not just getting kids to try a healthy new activity. They are seeing this as a viable opportunity for higher education.
“The other thing is that all the kids are on a level playing ground since almost all are playing for the first time. So everyone is equal. And now we are seeing girls come out to play. We’re partnered with Tina Sloan-Green and we see that girls want to play.”
Gregg mentioned that Northeast senior captain Veasna Kim was the first Public League player to compete in the Philly showcase. “He was thankful for the opportunity,” Gregg said. “Public League kids are starting to realize there could be something for them. It used to be you thought you had to go to Ryan or Penn Charter to play lacrosse in high school if you lived in the city, but now you can go to your own high school and get the chance to play.”