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Article updated: 9/19/2013 11:32 PM

Naperville lacrosse clubs want official team status

By Marie Wilson

Naperville girls lacrosse players who change in bathrooms instead of locker rooms and have nowhere to store their equipment but classrooms or cars are asking Naperville Unit District 203 to make their teams an officially sanctioned sport.

Girls and boys lacrosse teams at both Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools are club sports, run by boards of volunteer parents and privately hired coaches. The clubs have existed since the mid-2000s, and parents are saying now is the time to give them official school and district backing.

"It's exploding as a sport. It needs to be recognized as such," parent Derke Price told school board members Monday.

If 40 girls lacrosse teams and 65 boys teams are sanctioned by their districts by Dec. 15, the Illinois High School Association will run the first state championship series for the sport in the spring, IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said.

The IHSA first offered to run a tournament in spring 2011, but the minimum number of teams to trigger a tournament was not reached. With 38 girls teams and 52 boys teams signed on as of this week, Troha said the IHSA is "cautiously optimistic" the first lacrosse state champions could be crowned next spring.

"There is a little bit more momentum maybe this year in comparison to last year," he said.

Price said that's why lacrosse parents and players feel some urgency behind their request for school-sponsored sport status.

"We want to be in the count," he said. "We ask you take the action necessary so these two schools are recognized as team sports."

The Illinois High School Lacrosse Association currently runs postseason tournaments for lacrosse and says it has 84 participating teams, not all of which are interested in or able to become school district-sponsored. If the IHSA does not run a state series in the spring, the Lacrosse Association plans to host A-Class and B-Class tournaments.

District 203 spokeswoman Susan Rice said staff members first will study what costs the district would incur by taking on two lacrosse teams at each high school as official sports. She said costs may be challenging to calculate because equipment -- especially helmets -- fields, facilities and travel all may factor in. Plus, the district already approved its budget for next year.

Troha said school support is necessary for a team to join a possible lacrosse state series, as is a commitment to follow IHSA regulations about sportsmanship, academic eligibility and season time limits.

"By our rules, that doesn't mean there has to be any financial component to it," he said, adding teams can remain privately funded as long as they have school backing.

If the district moves forward with considering lacrosse as an official sport, converting both boys and girls squads would be considered at the same time to retain the balance of athletic participation among the genders required under Title IX, Rice said.

Lacrosse players said they also want official sport status to increase the recognition, playing conditions and support they receive at school -- from the type of tassels athletes receive at graduation to game times and locations and the ability to more cheaply hire athletic trainers.

"Girls lacrosse does not get any help with locking up our equipment, although we could argue that we have plenty to carry around," Naperville North lacrosse player Carly Shisler said. "It's inconvenient for everyone. We change in the bathrooms, we have to carry our valuables to the field and hope they don't get ruined by any rain or snow."

"I think Naperville should be on the leading edge," Carly's father, Wayne Shisler, said, "of setting the example and make lacrosse a sport."

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