The game of lacrosse has never been seen as one of the more popular sports in this country, much less the state of Alaska.
But don’t tell that to the members of Anchorage Lacrosse, because on the AT&T Sports Complex field, the game is thriving and growing with every goal scored and body check dealt.
In what started as the informal games here and there five years ago, the club rode a rollercoaster to get to where it is today.
“It almost died a few times,” Clayton Beethe said, vice-president and league player. “Just over the past couple years it’s become more formal.”
Anchorage Lacrosse has greatly expanded since its early days.
“It’s gone from three on three out in the park to now, where we have over 40 guys on some nights,” Beethe said.
Beethe is referring to the Tuesday nights at AT&T when the men’s league takes the field for two hours. A typical two-hour session usually entails a 15-20 minute warm-up period to start.
But after that, the game is on full display with players throwing their lacrosse sticks in the middle and are randomly placed into their team for the night.
From that point on, it’s game on for the rest of the night.
The game of lacrosse was originated by Native Americans within the US and Canada. According to legend, the game was used to settle conflicts, heal sick tribe members or prepare for war throughout the tribes.
Today, lacrosse has a bigger market in New England states as well as Colorado, Florida, and Texas. The development of the game is steadily on the upswing as more and more are playing the fast-paced, hard-hitting game that takes a similar look to some other more popular sports.
“It’s a close combination of soccer, hockey and football,” summed up Tim Vottis, a man who doubles as club treasurer and youth coach on top of playing for the men’s league alongside Beethe.
In what started as just a men’s league, Anchorage Lacrosse has grown and now features a women’s league as well as a youth league for 8-16 year olds. The men’s league is also planning to have the Anchorage Bush Pilots Lacrosse team travelling to the San Diego Lacrosse Tournament in April.
“15 eager souls are going down there to represent Anchorage in the first out-of-state lacrosse showing ever,” Vottis said with a hint of triumph in his tone.
One thing the league has benefitted from is the crossover of local hockey players. They trade in their curve-bladed hockey stick for the netted lacrosse stick and skates for cleats. These players tend to be some of the quickest learners and swiftly make their way up the ranks on the teams in terms of gaining skills.
Take, for instance, young Dylan Zobel. The new youth lacrosse player found the game to be very similar to hockey. The defenseman on the ice has quickly become a solid middie and attack (lacrosse positions similar to midfielders and forwards in soccer) on the field.
And isn’t it fitting that the multi-sport athlete can easily find what he likes in the new sport.
“You get to knock people over and stuff,” Zobel said with a smile.
Dylan’s father, Tim Zobel, reiterated that this was an easy transition for his son to make due to the similarities.
“It’s pretty similar to hockey out there. He likes running around and he loves the contact,” Tim Zobel said.
Perhaps another reason is the extreme difference in price between the two sports. Compared to some of the ridiculous amounts players and parents dish out for ice time in town, the $60 to join Anchorage Lacrosse is a steal.
These fees are helped out big time, according to Vottis, to gracious volunteers and help of the AT&T Sports Center, who reduced the turf price for the league.
Without the help of both sides, it would be very hard for the league to grow, especially during the winter months when membership drops a bit. The advertisement on the website and flyers has also helped bolster the number of players.
Nathan Kowalczk, one of the newest players in the men’s league, was intrigued when he saw one of these flyers when going to his soccer game. Kowalczk said that it didn’t take long for him to get attached and it made even easier by the guys in the league.
“The guys (took) me in day one and you get to play right away,” Kowalczk said.
Comments of this sort can only bode well for the bright future for the Anchorage Lacrosse league.
Why not get on the bandwagon and get in the game? Come on out, there’s always room for more.
Grab a stick, some pads and a helmet and put your skills to the test in this…well, maybe one of the guys can help us out here when describing Anchorage Lacrosse.
“In one word: awesome,” Kowalczk said.