Union Grove to add girls lacrosse

McDONOUGH — Last Monday, at a parent interest meeting for starting girls lacrosse at Union Grove High School, athletic director Ralph Neeley knew he wasn’t being fair.

In the hour-and-a-half meeting, Neeley and Henry County Schools athletics supervisor Vicky Davis were explicitly thorough about the financial obligations and manual work it would take to get a program started even though they didn’t have concrete numbers.

Neeley asked the parents to consider all the information then email him back if their interest remained.

“I probably had 40 to 50 emails soon after,” Neeley said, “saying they understood the work.”

That was more than enough to convince Neeley that girls lacrosse can work at Union Grove.

Neeley said the school is waiting for sanctioning by the Georgia High School Association, which approved a special waiver to allow the school to apply for sanctioning after it missed the April 1 deadline. Neeley said he expects sanctioning to be confirmed by the end of the week.

Union Grove waited to apply as Henry County Schools and the Office of Civil Rights poured over data from surveys conducted earlier in the school year that gauged female student interest in gymnastics, lacrosse and swimming, sports sanctioned by the GHSA but not offered in Henry County.

It was part of an on-going process stemming from a November 2010 complaint filed by the National Women’s Law Center that alleged the county is in violation of federal Title IX for failing to provide high school girls with equal opportunities to play sports.

Neeley said Union Grove had been preparing to add lacrosse the past few years. Interest in the sport has grown since the Henry County Lacrosse Association started in 2009, and the Union Grove community was the epicenter. Boys and girls club teams popped up and practice across the street at East Lake Elementary School.

The urgency within the community to get girls lacrosse sanctioned built to a crescendo last year. HCLA’s high school girls club team competed in the North Georgia Lacrosse League, but it was in danger of losing competition as club teams joined the GHSA. Members of the HCLA attended a Board of Education meeting in big numbers, met individually with BOE members, invited BOE members to weekend club tournaments and kept in contact with the GHSA.

Two weeks ago, did Henry County Schools voted to add a female sport in each high school beginning in spring 2014.

So now Union Grove is getting ready. The Lady Wolverines will be coached by Channelle Desamours, a former college lacrosse player at Agnes Scott who’s been coaching junior varsity girls soccer at Union Grove. Neeley said he’ll meet with Desamours over the summer and discuss a budget, forming a booster club, playing a region or non-region schedule and a host of issues.

Much of the burden of beginning lacrosse will fall on the booster club and parents. But judging by the support Neeley saw at last Monday’s interest meeting and the subsequent emails, he isn’t deterred.

“We’ll be relying on parents to build the foundation,” Neeley said, “but I have no doubt they will come through. We’ll make it work. It’s exciting, really.”