A condensed version of this story appeared in the Mid-Atlantic edition of the April issue of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the print edition? Become a US Lacrosse member today and help support the positive development of the sport.

Lacrosse isn’t necessarily the sport of choice among the youth in some parts of the Tidewater region, yet Tidewater Chapter president Dan Neumann hopes to change that.

Considered something of a field hockey hotbed, Neumann also competes with soccer when introducing lacrosse to the youth of the region.

“They’re separate seasons, so we can introduce girls to the sport, and that’s where TryLax has been instrumental,” said Neumann, who added that he’s a “big proponent of multi-sport athletes.”

TryLax is a US Lacrosse grant that helps US Lacrosse Member Organizations introduce lacrosse to boys and girls, ages 6-14, for the first time. It’s an affordable path, and Neumann said that was partly the draw when more than 150 new players showed up for several successful TryLax events in Virginia Beach this winter.

Two youth leagues, Southside Lacrosse and Coastal Lacrosse, benefited from the initiative.

“It just eliminates the initial barrier to getting kids out there,” Neumann said. “When US Lacrosse has removed that initial barrier to give kids and families the opportunity, we see our numbers growing — especially at the youth level.”

Neumann, who grew up in Baltimore and played lacrosse at Penn State, said the chapter serves everywhere from Williamsburg, Va., to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The diversity of the area and varying levels of economic standing have made TryLax impactful.

The benefit of the program, Neumann said, is about more than lacrosse. It’s about getting athletes involved in something more at a young age.

“I’ve been involved in sports for a long time, and I know that life is a team sport,” he said. “The more people we can get involved in team sports, the better our families are and the better our children are.”

Neumann said that the Tidewater region doesn’t have great access to coaches, so Coastal Crush Lacrosse hosted CDP Level 1 and 2 clinics at Collegiate School this winter. There are between 30 and 40 coaches certified in the region each year. Coach certification is a priority for all of the leagues.

There are still boundaries in the way of getting the sport sanctioned at the high school level despite this progress. Sandi Dittig, president of Hampton Roads Lacrosse, said Virginia Beach public schools haven’t added a new sport in almost 25 years.

Because the local club leagues are so successful, the school system doesn’t see the need to add the sport. “Many times, if you have a well-run league, the school system is reluctant to take it on because they really don’t have to,” Dittig said.

“And here we have the University of Virginia as Division I champs, and we don’t even have lacrosse in high school,” she said.

Ten of the 11 public high schools in Virginia Beach have community lacrosse clubs (some boys, some girls and some both), and Dittig said she’s working hard to make it 11 out of 11. She said there have been players go straight from club lacrosse to the college game without playing in high school, but there are benefits to playing in school that the players are missing.

“All of those kids would be eligible for the awards process,” she said. “They would be able to compete in districts and regionals. They would have the exposure. We have kids from our rec leagues go play in college every year. But we could have even more.”

There’s a benefit for the schools, too. Dittig said adding lacrosse could help bring a community together.

“When the schools do embrace this, they’re going to have a quality family that comes from this lacrosse family,” she said.