The growth of lacrosse in Henry County takes another big step this weekend.
The county will play host to the 2012 Georgia Southern Shootout tomorrow and Sunday at North Mt. Carmel Park in Hampton, bringing 100 teams from across the country to try to qualify for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions in December.
It’s the first time Henry County has hosted the event, and it comes in the midst of a growing urgency among the county’s lacrosse community to get the sport sanctioned at the high school level.
Tom DeBole, organizer of the Shootout and owner of Copperhead Lacrosse, a club organization based in Atlanta, said a bigger venue was needed to accomodate the event’s growth after two years of playing it in Gainesville, Ga.
But, DeBole also said the event’s move to Hampton was a show of solidarity from the metro Atlanta lacrosse community.
“We want to support girls lacrosse in Henry County,” DeBole said.
2012 Georgia Southern Shootout
What: Lacrosse qualifying tournament for Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions in Florida in December.
When: Saturday and Sunday. Games start at 8 a.m.
Where: North Mt. Carmel Park, in Hampton.
Price: Free admision for all spectators.
What’s at stake on the field is eight automatic bids for the Tournament of Champions, which markets itself as the only true national championship for club lacrosse in North America. It will be held on December 29-31 in Tampa, Fla.
Boys and girls teams will start play at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
What’s at stake off the field is dollars for the county and the sport’s reputation.
DeBole said he continues to get calls from people looking to make hotel reservations.
“It’s a huge economic impact for Henry County,” DeBole said. “If you try to get a hotel in that area, there are no rooms. It’s literally booked.”
DeBole’s Copperhead organization, which offers recreation, middle school and elite travel lacrosse, will have teams competing in the Shootout.
The organization primarily features players from Coweta and Fayette counties. But the first players from Henry County joined two years ago, according to DeBole, and they’re having no problem competing with players from areas where lacrosse has been well-established.
“We have [Henry County] kids who are pretty good,” he said. “The level of play is absolutely increasing and that’s evident by these kids playing on an elite club level.”