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History of lacrosse in the SCV

The sport grew quickly from its modest beginnings in the SCV

Posted: July 14, 2013 9:31 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2013 9:31 p.m.

What started as a small-scale attempt to bring lacrosse to Saugus High School over a decade ago has blossomed into a Santa Clarita Valley-wide growth spurt.

In 2001, Saugus High student Greg Brown created the Saugus High School club lacrosse team, acting as a player/manager in an effort to play a sport he loved.

Brown set up a lacrosse demo on campus which saw about 50 to 75 kids show up, according to former Saugus head coach Steve Tyson. About 30 of those kids stuck with the team.

Tyson stepped in to coach the team during that first season, and loved it so much he decided to start SCV Lacrosse in an effort to grow the sport in this valley.

After numerous attempts to get the sport sanctioned at the CIF level at Saugus, Valencia and Golden Valley — all of which had club teams run by Tyson — the final hurdle was cleared last season by West Ranch High School.

What began as one club team at Saugus has grown over the years to include two lacrosse organizations, SCV Lacrosse and the Santa Clarita Wildcats, club teams at Saugus, Hart, Valencia and Golden Valley, and the valley’s first CIF-sanctioned team at West Ranch.

“It was just Saugus High School players that first season and what I did is I coached the team and then opened it up to other players from other high schools,” Tyson said. “I was just Saugus High School coach for their club team and I figured ‘Gosh, this valley has no lacrosse, and there’s good athletes here and there,” he added.

So he decided to create SCV Lacrosse in 2002.

He said he’s seen cyclical reactions to the sport, with years he’s had as many as 14 teams, and others he’s only been able to field a few.

But he’s never stopped trying to grow the sport.

A youth program joins the fold

The addition of the Santa Clarita Wildcats youth lacrosse program four years ago further helped to grow lacrosse in the valley, as the organization was able to utilize its administrative experience with youth football to help build a lacrosse program.

The Wildcats have grown from 25 kids in its first season to about 125 this season, along with two youth girls teams.

“We run a football organization and we saw a lot of our players didn’t have anything to do in the spring,” said Wildcats President Matt Flynn. “We found out about lacrosse and thought it would be a great thing for them to get involved in.”

While interest has skyrocketed for the Wildcats, coaching has been an issue for the organization.

“What’s hard to do is find the coaches,” Flynn said. “Everyone played football and baseball, but to find someone who played lacrosse is very tough.”

The Wildcats organization operates with all volunteer coaches, and Flynn reports seeing interest grow among local youth as the sport continues to grow at the high school level — West Ranch High School became the first Santa Clarita Valley school with CIF-sanctioned lacrosse last season and Hart and Valencia appear right around the corner.

“I do see that,” Flynn said. “These kids that weren’t going to play football or baseball, they have an option of sport to play at the high school level. Some of these kids are now playing lacrosse year-round. Two years ago they didn’t know anything about it.”

The next step

While the hope is the success at the high school level will continue to grow the sport at the youth level, the Wildcats know that sustained success will come when the sport grows from the bottom up.

To that end, Wildcats Youth Lacrosse Coordinator Robert Willcox, who is also the junior varsity lacrosse coach at West Ranch, is hoping to team with the local YMCA to start a developmental lacrosse program for children aged 6-8.

“I just want to see the sport grow,” Willcox said. “They understand (the sport will grow) once we can teach little kids and their parents. We’re going to start with the YMCA — it will be throwing and catching and not a lot of investment in the equipment.”

One thing that could help continue the sport’s growth, according to Willcox, would be the addition of more youth organizations in the valley. While there are plenty of options for youth in sports, such as football, baseball and basketball, lacrosse is limited to the Wildcats so far.

The hope is that through more options, and showcasing the sport to younger kids, it will catch on with the fervor that baseball and football have in the valley.

“I think it’s very important, especially, the key there is we are not the East Coast and people have heard of lacrosse but they have no idea what the rules are,” said John Torres, SCV Wildcats Vice President of Operations. “The sooner we can introduce lacrosse to the youngsters and their parents, the better we can expose them to the game and expose them to the fun and the safety, as well. And that’s what we want, to expose the parents too.

It’s come a long way

Still, the sport has come a long way over the years, and now the Santa Clarita Valley looks as though it will have at least two CIF-sanctioned teams next season.

That’s a far cry from the early days of SCV lacrosse

“Oh gosh, I put in all the groundwork,” Tyson said of the early years. “Where there was practically no one, I carried business cards with me and anytime I saw kids at Walmart or the mall, I’d hand them out.

“Now we’re hitting the inside of the bell curve. We’re seeing some exponential growth. We’re seeing a lot more interest. I’ve had where I thought I was hitting the bell curve and the growth crescendoed a little bit and it peaked out when you get the word from the district we’re not going to do it. ...

“I’m glad (West Ranch) stepped up to move things through at the CIF level,” Tyson added. “I just didn’t have the political prowess to do what they did, and had they not showed up we might not have things moving in the way they are.”


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