Sports writer Brian Paglia
Sanctioning lacrosse as a high school sport has stalled in Henry County.
So lets get it moving again.
It’s already moving across the country. Participation has exploded in the past decade.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) compiles data on participation in high school athletics, and according to the NFHS, in the 2000-01 school year there were 74,225 high school boys and girls lacrosse players.
By 2010-11, that number had soared to 170,610.
Georgia has been growing right along with the rest of the country.
Back in the 2000-01 school year, there were 487 high school lacrosse players and 36 high schools with lacrosse teams in the state, according to the NFHS.
By 2010-11, that number had soared to 4,501 players and 119 high schools.
Now, there’s a chance for Henry County to keep the sport growing.
The effort has been underway to get a girls lacrosse team out of Union Grove High School sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association. The team is already there playing as a club sport. The potential head coach is already there teaching in the school.
But Henry County Schools hasn’t acted.
They have good reasons. School budgets are strained. Athletic programs are too. High schools would have to juggle another spring sport with limited facilities, more transportation costs and four more coaching stipends.
The Board of Education has expressed interest in getting lacrosse in high schools, but it wants to go through a thorough research process to make sure its done right.
But that’s starting to make things complicated and drawn out. Henry County Schools has been working with the Office of Civil Rights due to a November 2010 complaint filed by the National Women’s Law Center that alleged the county is in violation of federal Title IX law for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports. Reports have gone back and forth and back and forth. It’s a necessary process, but a tedious one.
And a frustrating one for county lacrosse fans.
Even more so for those girls at Union Grove.
They are ready to play, but all they can do is wait.
Henry County Schools shouldn’t wait too much longer.
They shouldn’t wait to conduct surveys on lacrosse interest at every high school in the county. Not a single metro Atlanta county with high school lacrosse has sanctioned the support only after it determined each high school had sufficient interest to form teams.
They shouldn’t wait until Union Grove’s club team is the only one left while the rest of metro Atlanta’s club teams join the GHSA ranks, forcing them to find competition in Alabama and South Carolina to stay afloat.
They shouldn’t wait until Eagle’s Landing Christian starts a lacrosse program. The private school’s administration has had early discussions with members of the Henry County Lacrosse Association (HCLA) about what building a lacrosse program would entail.
Instead, Henry County Schools should recognize the impact athletics can have on young women.
According to the American Association of University Women, studies have shown that girls who participate in some kind of sport have higher self-esteem, better grades and higher graduation rates. They are less likely to use drugs, be suicidal, smoke or have a negative body image. They are more likely to vote, volunteer in the community, follow the news and be productive members of society.
Henry County Schools probably has this information already, and they probably need even more information to make a truly responsible decision for the county’s school system.
But even after all the information is gathered — all the facts double checked, all the surveys counted, all the reports returned — there should be no doubt on the next step.
Henry County Schools needs to sanction lacrosse as a high school sport.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t wait too long.
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter? Follow him at @BrianPaglia.