A Non-Profit Youth Asset

Call To Action Concerning High School Lacrosse Sanctioning

On behalf of the Board of the High Sierra Lacrosse Foundation and the High Sierra Lacrosse League (collectively, High Sierra Lacrosse), we wish to thank you for your interest in the game of lacrosse. This Call to Action is intended to provide you with some information concerning the development of the game in the region and invite you to attend the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, February 27 starting at 2 pm to express your support for high school lacrosse in our region. The Trustees will be considering a policy change that may have a dramatic effect upon high school lacrosse in our region. The board meeting will be held in the boardroom in Washoe County’s Central Administration Building located at 425 East Ninth Street Reno, Nevada 89512.

Lacrosse’s Origins in the Region

In 2005, Andrew Haas, a teacher at Galena High School, formed a high school lacrosse club for Galena student athletes. Coincidently at the same time, a lacrosse program was initiated in Truckee. In 2006, two students started a third club comprised primarily of Reno High School student athletes. These three clubs/teams became the original nucleus that has now developed into 11 boys’ high school and 9 girls’ high school teams and more than 1,300 athletes in the League’s youth programs. High Sierra Lacrosse has high school teams located in Reno, Sparks, Fallon, Minden/Gardnerville, Truckee, and North Tahoe.

Formation Of High Sierra Lacrosse Foundation and High Sierra Lacrosse League

In 2007, a group of far-sighted lacrosse lovers formed a foundation to help grow lacrosse in our region—the High Sierra Lacrosse Foundation. Since that time, the High Sierra Lacrosse Foundation has donated more than $243,000 in need-based grants, gifts and loans to help lacrosse flourish in the region.

In the early days, the Foundation and the League operated under the Foundation’s nonprofit corporation. This enabled the League to operate and help create a stable infrastructure for lacrosse to prosper in the region. A few years ago, the Foundation and the League executed a Memorandum of Understanding, separating their functions and creating separate, non-profit entities and Boards of Directors.

The Foundation is concerned with raising and disbursing funds to help grow lacrosse both in the short and long term. It relies on volunteers to staff fundraising events during the summer and fall. In contrast, the League’s primary function is to administer the activities of teams, registrations, scheduling, officials and play of the game during the various seasons and travel teams for tournaments. The League has an enormous task that is performed by a dedicated group of volunteer Board members and their key volunteers.

Lacrosse Nationally

Since US Lacrosse first surveyed national lacrosse participation in 2001, the number of players has grown from just over 250,000 to the current total of 826,023, an increase of over 225 percent over a 15-year time frame. In 2017, US Lacrosse’s annual participation survey indicated that the number of youth players, nationwide, had topped 450,000 for the first time ever, and that based on its collected data, lacrosse remains the fastest-growing team sport at the high school and collegiate levels. The recent participation report in California is consistent with findings from around the country. Over the last five years, the number of schools nationwide sponsoring lacrosse at the high school level has risen 27 percent.

High School Lacrosse In Reno/Tahoe

When lacrosse first began at the high school level in Reno, its supporters tried to work with the local school administrations to obtain fields, solicit players, use logos, etc. The schools at that time refused to allow field usage, school names, or recruitment on campus. Nonetheless, the high school clubs continued to grow in athlete participants and number of clubs.

High Sierra Lacrosse, foreseeing a day when they would try again to be part of the WCSD, mirrored its high school league on NIAA’s eligibility requirements. Lacrosse spread from school to school through the incubation and eventual spin-off of teams. As high school lacrosse became more robust, the various teams experienced substantial resistance from coaches of other sports who provoked fears that lacrosse would steal athletes from their teams or that lacrosse teams harbored ineligible players. Eventually, these myths were shown to be false resulting in many high school teams earning the respect from their respective school’s administration. Nevertheless, many high schools felt their hands were tied because the district had not created a formal policy of how each school was to interact with the clubs.

Each team, their parents, their coaches, and their players worked tirelessly to appease each administration in hopes of obtaining as much recognition as possible with each school. Some schools like Spanish Springs and Reed are fully integrated with their school as if they were a NIAA sport. Other schools are held at arms distance, required to pay field usage fees, and are treated as entirely separate group even though the team is comprised of student-athletes from their school. Finally, there are still other schools that fall somewhere in between.

High Sierra Lacrosse has had numerous meetings with WCSD concerning a standardized policy for all teams. At the request of the then WCSD employee in charge of athletics for the district, Mr. Brian Rothe, High Sierra Lacrosse prepared a proposal. We have included that proposal with this call to action in case you are interested. More recently, we met with Mr. Stallworth, Mr. Rothe’s successor, who informed High Sierra Lacrosse that he too was interested in working with lacrosse to create a path towards standardization of how schools interacted with the clubs. Mr. Stallworth represented to us that we would first have to be sanctioned by WCSD upon terms the district thought acceptable before lacrosse could apply for NIAA sanctioning.

Mr. Stallworth also represented to us that the NIAA sanctioning would require compliance with Title IX. As described by Mr. Stallworth and other district representatives at the meeting, this would require absolute gender parity on athletic programming commensurate with the makeup of the student body at WCSD. Specifically, there could be a boys’ JV program only if the girls also had a JV program at each school. Although both boys and girls’ teams are growing at a robust pace, boys’ programs often have enough athletes to field both JV and varsity teams. However, most girls’ teams do not have that same ability. We expect this to change as girls’ programs continue to flourish and grow at both the youth and high school levels at rates faster than the boys. At the moment, we recognize an imbalance and, as defined by Mr. Stallworth, we could not meet the Title IX requirement without reducing the number of High School boys’ JV teams. Ultimately, Mr. Stallworth prepared a memorandum outlining a pilot program for lacrosse in the WCSD. That memorandum is also attached to this call to action.

Why is this important? The WCSD board is contemplating taking steps that will push all high school teams farther from their schools. It would require additional fundraising and would create additional burdens for each high school team. The WCSD appears to be acting in fear of getting sued even though each player and team is afforded adequate insurance coverage through US Lacrosse. WCSD’s actions would result in losing much of the progress achieved by High Sierra Lacrosse over the last 12 years.

Call to Action

If you are available, we ask for you to attend and voice your support for finding a workable solution for high school lacrosse players in the Washoe County School District. We believe there is middle ground that should satisfy the athletes’ desire to represent their school and be recognized for it. At the same time, using the system that has worked for over ten years, we can continue to provide a quality product for our high school student athletes at no cost to the Washoe County taxpayer. Normally, District-sanctioned clubs are provided transportation, a considerable expense. Instead, we would propose to continue with self-transportation. We would welcome the requirements of a faculty sponsor/advocate, school verified eligibility, concussion testing, and pre-season physicals. The District would have to forego the field rental fees that they have been generating from high school families. The League and Foundation would continue in their missions.

We ask for you to attend the WCSD Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, February 27 from 2-5 pm if you are available and support high school lacrosse in our region. The sanctioning issue will be on the agenda and we encourage you to make your opinions heard in advance of and during the meeting. High Sierra Lacrosse is ready, willing, and able to meaningfully work with the WCSD in a way to ensure the goals and interests of the student athletes are best served. We hope that you will adopt the position that we have advocated: The Washoe County School District must develop and adopt a reasonable procedure for high school lacrosse teams to achieve sanctioned club status in Washoe County. When we have achieved parity in gender participation and are operating in all WCSD schools, we can then consider taking the next step to NIAA sanctioning.