Students at several high schools in Pasco County soon will be offered a new sport to play.
The Pasco County Lacrosse Alliance (PCLA), a nonprofit organization, recently announced an agreement with Pasco County Schools to manage the transition of high school boys and girls lacrosse from a club sport to a Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA)-sanctioned sport, beginning with the 2018 spring season.
For the upcoming 2017 season — slated to begin in February — the high school teams will play at the club level in the Florida Gulf Coast Lacrosse League, a subsidiary of US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body.
The initial three-year contract between the PCLA and the Pasco County School Board has targeted the following schools for initial Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) certification: Anclote, Land O’ Lakes, Mitchell, Sunlake, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and GGG high schools. GGG is the yet-unnamed high school in Wesley Chapel.
The agreement is similar to a three-year pilot program approved for 10 schools in Hillsborough County in 2014.
Essentially, it calls for the PCLA to manage operational costs (uniforms, protective equipment, refs, travel, coaching stipends), while participating schools provide field access and gate workers.
David Mazursky, president of the PCLA, estimates equipment and operational costs for the lacrosse organization will total about $15,000 per school. Whatever funds aren’t covered through sponsorships will trickle down to players in a “pay-for-play” model.
According to its website, the PCLA is looking to set the registration fee in the same arena as Hillsborough County’s, which decreased from $390 to $320 over the past three years.
“We’ll have to charge a fee because there’s costs for transportation, referees, and when you become FHSAA, the head coach has to be a paid position,” Mazursky said.
Certain equipment — uniforms, helmets, protective gear — will be loaned to players. Other types of gear — stick, cleats, socks, gloves — will have to be furnished by players.
Ideally, every school’s boys and girls team will have enough participants to reach the FHSAA-limit of 25 players, Mazursky said.
“I actually don’t think we’re going to have any problem getting enough kids,” he said. “I think you might get a lot of football players that want to do something in between the spring and fall football,” he said. “You’ll get kids that don’t make the soccer team or don’t make the basketball team.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is funding, in general, and then finding and locking in corporate sponsorships to help keep registration fees low.
To help transition first-time players, the PCLA is hosting a series of free player clinics from September through December. The first clinic is Sept. 18 at 8 a.m., at Seven Springs Middle School, 2441 Little Road in New Port Richey.
“The goal of the clinics is for kids who haven’t played to really understand what the game is, and really get them hooked on it,” he said.
“I’m sure we’ll be able to do that,” he added.
In Florida, the sport has grown rapidly over the past several years. According to the National Federation of High Schools, the state saw a 70 percent increase in participation to 8,603 players from 2008 to 2013.
Moreover, about 150 Florida schools are currently sanctioned to play for state titles in both girls and boys lacrosse.
“The exposure has been much better,” Mazursky said. “As we get it into more high schools…it’ll grow from just purely a club program to something more prominent.”
The PCLA president noted that transitioning from a club sport to an FHSAA-sanctioned sport is critical to expanding lacrosse’s reach to adolescents in the area.
“There’s a lot of interest at the youth level, but when kids realize they don’t have a high school sport, then they quit,” he said. “As a club sport, you don’t feel like part of the high school — you’re not in the yearbook, you don’t get a (varsity) letter.”
Note: Parents and students can go to PascoLax.org for more information. Donations to help fund lacrosse for one of the selected teams of choice can be made at: PascoLax.org/donations-per-team.html.
Companies interested in sponsoring their local schools can contact Eric Handman at for more information.
Published September 7, 2016