By JASON DILL
BRADENTON â It looks like a tennis ball, but smaller.
Itâs slung around until the right person gets the pass at the top of the key.
And then ... wham!
A rip-roaring shot finds the net.
The goal is just one of many the high-school aged lacrosse players are sure to tally at the Manatee Police Athletic League each time they scrimmage.
Itâs all part of a nine-week recreational program that Scott Kallins, Mick Ferrucci and Ken Cowles run for a minimal fee that allows kids from Manatee and Sarasota counties a chance to play lacrosse.
âWe wanted to provide an opportunity for our kids that would not be in conjunction with a commercial enterprise,â said Kallins, the head coach. âWe wanted something that could be affordable and something that could still be within the parameters of what this type of hockey arena will allow us to do from an educational and instructional perspective.â
Lax, the shorthand the sport is known by, has grown rapidly in recent years and found its way to the Sunshine State where high school clubs have popped up around the area.
Sarasota Military Academy is at the forefront of the program, but players from Saint Stephenâs, Lakewood Ranch and IMG Academy take part, too.
And every Monday and Wednesday night, the players can be spotted from 1st Street West as you trek north toward Manatee Ave. in the outdoor hockey rink at Manatee PAL.
The scrimmages that normally take place are just one aspect that gets the players back into the lacrosse-mode, since the high school season runs in the spring.
Heck, even NFL legendary running back Jim Brown played the sport at Syracuse (N.Y.) University â and many arguably consider him the best to ever play the game.
âThe guys like to be outside,â said Ferrucci, who is an assistant coach. âThey just get out here; get some fresh air and throw and catch. We give them a little bit of instruction, but I mean most of it we just break them up into four teams and they play ... itâs not a practice, itâs not a league. Itâs just an opportunity to get the stick in your hands.â
Lacrosse is a national sport in Canada, and itâs eerily similar in certain skills with ice hockey, the Great White Northâs other national sport.
Itâs those comparable tendencies that hooked Saint Stephenâs Alex Runde.
âI love the physicalness,â Runde said. âEven when a goalie can get a hit, thatâs pretty awesome.â
Matt Xirinachs isnât going to be around come the spring â heâs at IMG Academy for a semester before going back to Saint Anthonyâs in Long Island, N.Y., to finish his senior season.
âUp in the northeast, they are basically born with lacrosse,â Xirinachs said. âLike, if youâre going to play lacrosse, youâre going to start at a younger age. Youâre going to start in middle school or elementary school â third grade, fourth grade. Well, (down) here the first time you are going to be playing is probably going to be your freshman year in high school or your sophomore year or your eighth grade year in middle school.â
The program costs $50, which covers equipment and usage of the rink twice a week.
For more information, call Ken Cowles at 954-4443 or visit www.smalacrosse.com.
Read more: http://www.bradenton.com/2010/10/19/v-print/2664507/lax-is-becoming-a-ye...
IMG Academy Headlines
By JASON DILL