“Hey, do you want to throw with me?”

Those eight simple words, uttered by high school lacrosse players who volunteered as fall ball youth coaches in the Herndon-Reston Youth Lacrosse league, were more precious than gold to the league’s younger players.

Students from Herndon High School and South Lakes High School were among the tutors for a five-week fall ball series, designed to provide skill development opportunities while utilizing the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, a pathway provided by US Lacrosse.

Having high schoolers as instructors was a way to tie together the local lacrosse community, said HRYL boys’ commissioner Carl Cassani.

“The younger kids would just light up with the interaction from the high school players,” Cassani said. “The high school players were very enthusiastic, and they were great role models.”

Established in 1996, HRYL is a developmental youth lacrosse club for boys and girls from kindergarten through ninth grade. Participants live in the Herndon High School and South Lakes High School pyramids. In addition to the spring season, HRYL runs fall and winter clinics and scrimmages.

The HRYL girls’ division was an early adopter of the LADM and has offered small-sided games for its U10 and U12 players for the past two years. Cassani borrowed the concept for the boys’ division this fall and leveraged the local high school players to help introduce the alternate play paradigm. As a certified US Lacrosse Level 3 instructor, he started the fall season with a formal training session for the high school players.

“The girls have had a lot of success with LADM, so we wanted to make a big push on the boys’ side this year,” Cassani said. “We did the training so that the high school players would be comfortable with the modified format and help make it a fun experience.”

The high school instructors showed up for each Saturday’s 90-minute clinic wearing their game uniforms. They started by guiding the younger players through some of the LADM drills — Messy Backyard, Penny Tag, Cross the Pond and others — and ended with small-sided scrimmages. About 40 boys’ players and 30 girls’ players of all ages participated in the fall training.

“This was the first time we’ve had more boys than girls in fall ball,” Cassini said. “They loved it because they all got lots of touches. We had a great fall.”

Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road from HRYL’s home base, lacrosse is also taking hold in one of Fairfax County’s elementary schools. US Lacrosse recently awarded a physical education grant to Providence Elementary, providing plastic sticks and balls along with a curriculum guide for the teachers to use.

“It’s so great to introduce the kids to a different sport because it puts them all on a level playing field,” said Linda Poor, the physical education instructor who coordinated Providence’s grant application. She noted that Providence is a Title I school with a largely diverse school population.

Now in her fifth year at Providence, Poor applied for the grant based on her prior experience at another county school. She also received a US Lacrosse grant while teaching at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. 

“The kids love it,” Poor said. “In addition to playing in class, they would request to borrow the equipment during recess so that they could keep playing and improving their skills.”

US Lacrosse hopes kids who discover the sport in physical education class will then join local leagues. Cassani’s HRYL program is a member of the Northern Virginia Youth Lacrosse League, which consists of 24 lacrosse clubs in the region. 

“The US Lacrosse grant is all about the power of community,” said Jon Stehle, a Fairfax City council member who coaches a girls’ team in the Fairfax Police Youth Club. “I can see the return on investment. The US Lacrosse grant is expanding the pool of players and actively building the lacrosse community from the ground up.” 

Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

Providing every athlete the opportunity to enter, enjoy and excel by learning and playing lacrosse in a way that’s best for each stage of growth and development.

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