“The W” has a new sport to offer the community of Waverly: soft-stick lacrosse.
Sheila Kittleson, director of “The W,” applied for the U.S. Lacrosse Soft-Stick Lacrosse Equipment Grant and was recently awarded the monthly grant. In the online application, Kittleson was required to say how the new equipment would be used.
“We would like to get more people in our community introduced to lacrosse,” Kittleson said. “We hope to eventually add a program similar to basketball or soccer that we currently offer.”
After the recent additions of jump rope and rock climbing, Kittleson said there are multiple reasons to introduce lacrosse to Waverly. In addition to generating excitement over a new program, Kittleson wants to introduce lacrosse to the Midwest, where it isn’t a popular sport.
“People really just don’t know what the sport is about,” Kittleson said. “I just think introducing our community to what the sport is will generate some excitement around the sport.”
There are a few major differences between soft-stick and collegiate level lacrosse. The sticks used in soft-stick are plastic with huge baskets to aid in catching the ball. The ball itself is soft rubber, as opposed to the dense rubber used in high school and college.
“It’s a lot more forgiving,” head women’s lacrosse coach Anna Meerbach said.
Meerbach is especially excited for the opportunities available through the grant, which provided 30 soft lacrosse sticks and balls. She said there are multiple opportunities to introduce lacrosse to younger children, including summer camps and lesson plans at the W.
“I’ve heard a lot of interest from areas such as Cedar Falls and Denver,” Meerbach said, “so if we can provide some opportunities to introduce it at a younger age, that would be awesome.”
Because of limited exposure, there are still a few problems Meerbach has to face that other coaches do not. In addition to lots of travel for recruiting and a shortage of officials, the women’s lacrosse team has five girls who have not played lacrosse before college.
Meerbach believes that the difficulties in teaching a new sport could be eliminated using programs such as soft-stick.
“We have such unique rules and situations,” Meerbach said. “There’s just some techniques you can’t cross over from another sport. Exposing them from a young age will help them once they come to college.”
Just like any other sport, lacrosse is beneficial to those who participate, said Meerbach. Lacrosse athletes get to be a part of a team and must be able to understand the tactics of offense and defense.
For many Wartburg students, lacrosse is a sport that allows them to learn something new and be successful at it.
“I’ve watched numerous girls go through this program and excel,” Meerbach said. I think at a young level it’s just one more kind of game to explore. The community of lacrosse is fun and very up-and-coming, so it’s something exciting to be a part of.”