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Lacrosse on rise, has youth league in Tri-Cities area

Tanner Cook • Updated May 27, 2017 at 12:12 AM

What is the oldest sport native to North America yet is the fastest growing sport amongst both the youth and the collegiate ranks? The answer is lacrosse.

In the Tri-Cities area, there is a co-ed youth lacrosse league that ranges in ages 6-15 and there are currently four teams. They are based in Bristol, Va., Greeneville, Johnson City and Kingsport. There will be a new team, based out of Elizabethton, added next season.

The founding organization is the Northeast Tennessee Sports Association (N.T.S.A) and it is run entirely on volunteers for coaching staffs and boards. The league originally wanted to bring ice hockey into the area.

“The best way to describe lacrosse that I use is that it is the turf play of soccer meets the speed and physicality of hockey meets the ball movement of basketball,” said NTSA Board President Mark Bodo.

The mission of the NTSA is to provide no-cost and low-cost athletic opportunities to the youth of Northeast Tennessee to get them active and improve their overall well-being. This includes an equipment loan program. The organization equipped 164 players last season. The organization has many goals including offering diverse programs to the youth and empower a new generation through sport.

Who does the NTSA serve? It serves eight rural counties in northeast Tennessee, 42 percent of kids that are on free or reduced lunch, 17 percent kids that are considered obese, and $33,795 per capita income. In other words, anyone can participate in this youth lacrosse league.

Lacrosse is truly a fast-paced sport and is quite different from the traditional sports like football, baseball and basketball. The games in the youth league are played in two 20 minute halves while in high school and in college, the games are played in four 15 minute quarters. A lacrosse field is basically a soccer field in terms of width and length.

A goal is scored when the ball goes into the opposing teams net and the techniques required to score are run exactly like a basketball play. There are 10 players (per team), including the goalie, on a field.

The speed and physicality of hockey comes in when the players are allowed to stick-check other players, but in the youth league the rules have been modified to not allow as much hitting and minimize injuries. In four seasons, there has been no serious injuries in the league and no reported concussions.

The league is all developmental, so there is no league championship. However, in the upcoming season, the league plans to become a national organization for lacrosse. The national governing body is United States Lacrosse and the league plans to become the National Youth Lacrosse Association.

“Our goal is to help grow the game quicker,” Bodo said. “One of the issues that is occurring and is also in every sport is finding parents to get involved to take ownership of the programs. The administrative side is always a challenge. I am a volunteer and I do not get one penny. The reward is so much greater than I would ever get paid because we’re providing kids an opportunity to get out, be active, be healthy, and find a sport that they like.”

The coed leagues run from March until late May. The girls only league runs from August until late October. ETSU also has a lacrosse program whose season runs from September all the way until late spring. If you would like more information on the NTSA and lacrosse in the Tri-Cities, go to www.ntsasports.org.

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