Photo by Brian Paglia
Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in the country, and it’s starting to gain traction in Georgia. Clayton and Henry counties are two of the three in metro Atlanta that don’t have sanctioned high school lacrosse teams, but that could soon change.
MCDONOUGH — The day the Henry County lacrosse community has been waiting for could finally be here.
Monday’s Henry County Schools Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. is expected to be the last chance for lacrosse to be sanctioned as a high school sport for the foreseeable future.
Should BOE members vote in favor of sanctioning, Henry County high schools would join a growing number of high schools around metro Atlanta to embrace one of the nation’s fastest growing sports and remedy the school system’s compliance issues with Title IX legislation.
Should BOE members vote against sanctioning, county lacrosse supporters said it would deal a serious blow to the sport’s future in the county and maintain Henry County schools’ place in the crosshairs of Title IX issues.
Lacrosse supporters said they are optimistic about Monday’s meeting. They believe the interest among county high schoolers is sufficient to get boys and girls teams started at Union Grove High School, possibly more.
The Union Grove girls team, which has been practicing on a club level for the past season, has been the driving force behind the community’s movement to have lacrosse sanctioned in high schools.
The team plays competitively through the Henry County Lacrosse Association (HCLA). Without a high school schedule, the players are forced to play other emerging high school club teams.
But as those high schools get sanctioned lacrosse teams, the competition for HCLA’s high school girls dwindles. Local lacrosse supporters say if sanctioning is voted against, the HCLA’s high school girls would have to travel to Alabama and South Carolina to find competition.
They fear the longer term affects even more.
“These girls can be that group to champion the sport,” said Ken Loach, a coach with HCLA.
The county has been under the cloud of a complaint filed by the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center since November 2010. The center alleged that Henry County was in violation of federal Title IX law, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports.
According to the same lacrosse supporters, the BOE met with attorneys with the Office of Civil Rights in late May and seemed inclined to postpone a vote on sanctioning until it could assess the interest level across all county high schools.
There are a multitude of angles to consider for the Board — interest level, competition for facilities, region assignment by the Georgia High School Association and costs for transportation and coaching stipends.
“While we are always receptive to the growth of our [athletic] programs, any movement forward must be thoroughly planned and well thought-out prior to Board approval,” said J.D. Hardin, a communication specialist with Henry County Schools, in early May. “Anything less would not provide the stable environment in which the new activity could flourish.”