School board gives lacrosse varsity OK
An extra room was opened in the back of the Lee County School Board room Tuesday night to accommodate more than 175 lacrosse players and their families who attended the board meeting to show their support of making it a self-funded varsity sport.
There are currently five girls’ teams and four boys’ teams in the Lee County School District which participate in lacrosse. The high schools that have both a girls and boys team include Fort Myers High School, Estero High School, Cypress Lake High School and Riverdale High School. Cape Coral High School only has a girl’s team.
Charles Cole, who provided a presentation to the board, said in the past eight years lacrosse has been a completely self-funded club sport. There are currently 200 students who are playing lacrosse at a public high school in Lee County.
“They are the leaders in their schools and in all Lee County,” Cole said due to the grade point average the students posses.
In addition, Randy Heintz, who also attended the meeting as a representative from the Estero High School lacrosse team, said 88 percent of the boys who play lacrosse graduate and 94 percent of the girls who play graduate.
“It would give this group a chance to represent their school at a varsity level,” he said.
Fifty-two percent of boys who take up lacrosse play that sport alone and 70 percent of girls who begin playing lacrosse only play that sport.
Cole said lacrosse has had a fast growth rate in the last five years, with the number gaining 11 percent every year.
“We are asking to adopt the same self-funded program,” Cole told the board. “It is time to move away from old school thinking to a broader approach.”
Cole told the board Tuesday that they have already been approached by parents and students from other schools of those interested in establishing additional teams. With additional teams it will also help keep the costs down because they do not have to travel out of the district to play.
He said the lacrosse community wants to help get the program off the ground and implement a new self-funded varsity sport without hurting the school budget.
Cole said US Lacrosse is aware and waiting for any grant requests they may have to fund additional teams in the district, which requires 20 boys or 20 girls at each additional school.
Heintz addressed the revenue that lacrosse has initiated. He said Estero High School brought in $3,460 from revenue. He said the lacrosse revenues rank second to football.
Heintz also provided ideas for additional funding, which included forming a non-profit organization to use as a financial vehicle.
Phil Simonsen talked about the current insurance policy the players have during the meeting Tuesday. He said every student athlete has a US Lacrosse membership, which covers them for an insurance policy. The membership costs the players $35.
After hearing the presentation Board Member Jeanne Dozier made a recommendation that lacrosse be a self funded varsity sport for two years and after that time the board would come back as a board to evaluate how lacrosse has succeeded. The recommendation passed four to zero due to board member Jane Kuckel not being in attendance.
She changed her initial recommendation of one year after further discussion was held with the representatives from the lacrosse community that they could self-fund the program more than a year.
“Self-funded as a varsity sport,” Dozier said, “sounds like we have a win-win here.”
As soon as the motion was passed the crowd clapped and cheered.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke said he supported the motion for the simple fact that moving the program forward this year will provide the opportunity for students who are currently a part of the lacrosse club. He said there are some seniors on those teams that deserve the opportunity to finish out their senior year on a varsity team.
“There are parents here tonight that are making a very strong commitment,” Burke said about the continued support they will provide for the program. “It would be worthwhile for us.”
Board member Mary Fischer also showed her support because she believes sports helps in motivating youths to do their academically best, along with reducing dropout rates and being a prevention tool for juveniles.
“I support the fact that kids should be able to choose the sport they want to play,” she said.
Board Chairman Thomas Scott’s only question to the lacrosse community addressed how long they thought they could support the program. He said his concern was if the district wanted to spread lacrosse out to all the schools some parents may not be able to afford the $400 to outfit the player.
“The growth of the support and moving into other schools that can’t afford to participate is going to put a burden back on the district,” Scott said. He said it troubles him of what the initial and the ongoing cost the program will have to put into play.
After hearing confidence from the lacrosse community that they could support the program, he supported the motion so he could see what they can do.