Roberson Middle School in Houston, Texas is not your typical public school. 

As a “school of choice” in the Spring Independent School District, students must submit an application to attend, and must join one of the school’s four communities: STEM Engineering, Law Enforcement, Performing Arts, or Environmental/Agriculture.

Serving students in grades 6-8, the non-traditional school accepts applications from fifth graders throughout the district. There are about 850 applicants annually for 300 slots at the school. 

Against this background, Roberson has not traditionally offered many options in athletics. In fact, until recently, its only competitive team was wrestling, which had been established through a grant from the JJ Watt Foundation.

In 2016, Ernest Webb, a physical education teacher at the school since it’s opening in 2009, decided that a spring sport was also needed as an additional outlet for students. 

“I wanted to use sports to teach kids that hard work pays off,” Webb said. “At the same time, I wanted them to be aware of something other than football, basketball, and soccer.”

Recognizing the growth of lacrosse in the region, Webb accepted the suggestion of a colleague to add boys’ and girls’ teams. Through the JJ Watt Foundation, once again, initial funding helped to get both programs established. But more help was needed.

In 2017, Webb applied for and received a US Lacrosse First Stick Grant, designed to assist new and developing youth and high school teams. The equipment and resources further prepared Roberson’s teams for their first competitive season in the Greater Houston Youth Lacrosse Association (GHYLA) in 2018.

“That really helped a lot,” Webb said. 

But Webb knew there was still a gap in meeting the needs of the approximately 50 boys and girls players. Some were able to afford the needed equipment; others were not. That’s what brought Webb back to US Lacrosse in 2018 as an applicant for the Urban Lacrosse Alliance (ULA).

The equipment package option through the ULA provided more sticks, cleats, helmets and goggles. New uniforms were the icing on the cake.

“This grant made it easier for all the kids to have everything they needed,” Webb said. “It made a big difference for us.”

Roberson is now in its second competitive season as a GHYLA member and providing the outlet for its students that Webb envisioned. Some of the players are already planning their next step, playing at the high school level.

“Our kids want to compete and play against other teams,” Webb said. “They are really passionate about lacrosse. They’re having fun.”

The 2019 application cycle to join US Lacrosse’s Urban Lacrosse Alliance will be open through May 15. Urban Lacrosse Alliance members receive resources and benefits from the sport’s national governing body to support local game development efforts. All applicants will be notified of their status by June 1.


Urban Lacrosse Alliance

The ULA provides resources to support lacrosse introduction and development in underserved areas.

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