Lacrosse goes public at T.C. Williams

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Lacrosse goes public at T.C. Williams
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At T.C. Williams High School enthusiasm is growing for lacrosse while a game once almost exclusively linked to private academies makes inroads at public schools across the country. 
    
About 60 students will don helmets and pick up crosses for the Titans boys squad this year under the watchful eye of head coach and former collegian lacrosse player Michael Mulherin. 
    
Some of them have come with years of experience under their belts. Others have never picked up a lacrosse stick, Mulherin said. 
    
I would say it seems like about 40 percent of the kids that play didnt play until they showed up at T.C. Williams, Mulherin said. There is still a large number that have and thats what so unusual. Normally, its either nobody has played or everybody has played.
    
Those figures should change in coming years, and to Mulherins advantage. A 2009 survey of the sport conducted by Baltimore-based US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the game, found youth participation has grown from about 125,000 active players in 2001 to 297,271 just before the decade ended. 
    
The sport has taken off in Minnesota, Florida and California as well as in the traditional hotbeds of lacrosse: New York, New England and Pennsylvania, according to the report. 
    
Its not news to T.C.s girls lacrosse coach, Caroline Van den Berg, who has watched as more and more students try out for a spot on her squad. 
    
For a time, the sport was dominated by private school power houses like [St. Stephens and St. Agnes], but as the sport has grown, public schools like Ridgewood, in New Jersey, have started to gain recognition for their success, Van den Berg said via e-mail. The sport is growing very quickly, and I think T.C’s program has benefited from that growth. Lacrosse is now pulling some of the top athletes away from traditionally stronger sports like soccer.
    
First played by American Indians and later adopted by European settlers, lacrosse shares a likeness with basketball, soccer and field hockey, she said, which means student athletes can pick it up quickly.
    
Lacrosses quick pace and physicality raises its profile even higher among his players, Mulherin said. 
    
Talking with them, they all enjoy the fast pace of the game, they like the physical contact, he said. There are a lot of guys who are multisport athletes: football players, basketball players, guys who run track.
    
Still theres a hefty price tag facing anyone who wants to take up the sport. Equipment costs can run up to $700 or $800 per person, Mulherin said. At T.C., strong support from the school and the lacrosse boosters club means most of the pads, helmets and sticks are taken care of ahead of time, he said. 
    
Lacrosse hasnt overtaken traditional American high school sports, but its definitely growing and Mulherin has a front row seat. 
    
Its still not the most popular sport around, he said. Its not taking over the sports world in necessarily every school, but its definitely on the rise.

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