Sports sanctionings to affect local lacrosse players

The 2019 Spanish Fork Warriors lacrosse team and their coaches on a field in their uniforms. The team features players from six high schools and one charter school. (Nicole Norris)

The Nebo school district will be making a decision regarding the sanctioning of lacrosse within the district, but that decision will not come prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Nebo community relations specialist and spokesperson Lana Hiskey said that a decision will come, but there are too many implications surrounding the decision for it to be made before the 2019-20 school year begins. These implications include budgeting, fields, Title IX and filling rosters.

The Spanish Fork Warriors lacrosse team is a club team hailing from within the Spanish Fork region. Less than a decade old, the team won its first D2 championship in its inaugural season. Through efforts led by Bill and TJ James in the program’s early years, the team gained traction in the Spanish Fork area and has since seen many young men go through its program. The team now awaits an important decision that will be made by the Nebo school district — to sanction, or not to sanction lacrosse.

Jacob Green eyes the goal as he loads up for a shot. (Nicole Norris)

Though sanctioning the sport would mean the Warriors lacrosse team would have to dissolve because its player would have to play for their respective high schools, team members know this is what’s best for the sport of lacrosse in the school district.

“The only way our sport will grow is by receiving support of the high schools,” Nicole Norris, a long time Warriors parent, said. “We understand the Warriors will have to dissolve. We know it’s inevitable that it will happen, but it’s a greater good for the sport of lacrosse in Nebo.”

Though sanctioned by the state, the Nebo school district has yet to sanction the sport. Budgeting restrictions and lack of fields have been concerns for the Nebo school district since lacrosse became the 11th sport sanctioned by the Utah High School Athletic Association. Some of these concerns can perhaps solve themselves, as Norris said the Warriors have become accustomed to playing on city fields or wherever space allows them.

“Within Spanish Fork City, the youth program plays on a city field,” Norris said. “We (also) just played Bountiful on a city field. Not preferable, but an option.”

Hiskey said club teams rent city fields, but the schools won’t have fields that are lacrosse ready. Turf is needed in order for competitive lacrosse to be played at the high schools within the Nebo district, something that wouldn’t be ready by the beginning of the school year.

Attacker/midfielder Aaron Norris cradles the ball as he runs up the field. (Nicole Norris)

Without sanctioning from the school district, Warriors lacrosse would be faced with difficult circumstances. The 2019-20 school year will be the first season that other school districts will be playing sanctioned high school lacrosse in Utah. If the Nebo school district decided against sanctioning, the Warriors would lose their main competition. Games would then have to be played against other unsanctioned teams spanning from Idaho to California, which would mean travel expenses and time that neither the athletes nor their parents have.

“We have always played the teams in nearby districts because all of the teams have been club teams even if they were represented by a high school name,” Norris said. “Now that districts have sanctioned, our usual competitors will be sanctioned, but unless Nebo district sanctions this coming year also … the players from all Nebo high schools won’t have representation.”

Hiskey said one large implication that comes into play for this specific circumstance is Title IX. If a boys team is sanctioned in the Nebo district, a girls team would need to be sanctioned as well in order to fulfill Title IX requirements. This does not necessarily mean that a girls lacrosse team would also need to be created, but it does mean that an equal athletic opportunity would need to be made for girls within the district.

Jacob Green, a soon-to-be senior in high school and member of the Spanish Fork Warriors, said that if Nebo doesn’t sanction, the Warriors will be stuck playing just seven or eight teams, with most of those teams being two or more hours away. In addition, only one of those teams was a top-ranked team last season.

Jacob Green is going into his senior year of high school. Green said he hopes lacrosse is sanctioned so he can continue pursuing some of his life goals. (Nicole Norris)

“We’d only have one team with actual competition,” Green said. “The other teams, we would kind of just roll over them, and that’s not why we play the game.”

Green said his life would “totally change during (his) senior year of high school,” alongside his hopes of playing lacrosse in college if the sport doesn’t get sanctioned. He added that lacrosse is both physically and mentally demanding, teaching him lessons that he would not have learned otherwise, also teaching him how to cope with life’s difficulties.

Current BYU lacrosse player Jared Kotter is a Warrior alumnus, the only Warrior to ever play for BYU. Kotter said lacrosse is difficult in Utah because most of the major lacrosse programs are on the East Coast. Without the Warriors, Kotter’s life would have been drastically affected.

“I actually don’t know if I would have gotten into BYU on my own without lacrosse,” Kotter said. “Without Warriors lacrosse, my life would have been quite a bit different. Resilience, one, working towards a goal, even when it doesn’t work out. Learning life can be hard and you have to power through it and not complain; those kinds of things.”

With the potential dissolving of Warriors lacrosse, players from the team fear that a large part of their youth and important opportunities will be taken away from them. Sports have a unique way of teaching some life lessons — teamwork, love for the people around you, brotherhood and sisterhood and how to sacrifice for others.

Like his teammates, Aaron Norris feels a genuine love from his teammates, calling them his “family.” (Nicole Norris)

“It’s made me more disciplined,” current Warriors player Aaron Norris said. “If I didn’t have lacrosse, I don’t know what I would do. I wouldn’t have that joy and love for the sport. My lacrosse team has given me a second family. We trust each other with all our hearts.”

Losing lacrosse would mean more than just simply not having athletes on a field, players feel, but would mean life lessons going unlearned and youth being negatively affected by something beyond their control.

Hiskey said parents can help play a role in sanctioning the sport, and the best thing they can do is stay in good, constant communication with the district. She said the decision making process goes smoother and relationships are maintained between the district and parents, as well as fans of the sport, when good communication is maintained.

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