The number of boys and girls throughout California participating in high school sports has been steadily increasing over the last five years and is at an all-time high in 2017.
The California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees all high school athletics throughout the state, announced Tuesday that lacrosse saw the largest percentage increase over the last year among both girls and boys.
Some Sacramento area coaches, parents and players attribute the increase in participation to more visibility of the sport and growing concern over concussions and major injuries in sports like football.
"My parents growing up always said I couldn't play football,” 17-year-old Sacramento Lacrosse player Trevor Thompson said. “I always wanted to play because all my friends played growing up and [my parents] just never let me. They're happy I found something that's close to it but not quite as severe as football is."
Cathy Reed started Sacramento Lacrosse in 2012 after the sport piqued the interest of her and her son Tyler. When Reed started the youth association there were only two teams for boys as old as 14. Five years later, Sacramento Lacrosse has teams up to the high school level for both boys and girls.
"When I saw lacrosse for the first time I didn't know anything about it,” Reed explained. “It's such an addictive sport I started a club and every year our club has grown by at least one team.”
Reed’s son Tyler is preparing for his freshman year at Colorado State University-Pueblo where he was offered an athletic scholarship to play lacrosse. He played soccer and baseball growing up and participated in football, wrestling and water polo throughout high school but found his passion in lacrosse. Although he has suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear playing the sport he loves, he says the risk of a torn ligament pales in comparison to a traumatic brain injury like Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“Since lacrosse isn’t head to head contact you have the relief that you’re not going to have [traumatic brain injury],” Reed said. “Even though an ACL tear can be repaired mental damage is much harder to recover from than a sprained ankle or a torn ACL.”
His mom, who has become an advocate for local lacrosse says the inclusion might draw more athletes to the sport. Her dream would be to see every high school in the area field a team.
"The players are any size. You have really small players, really big players which is great for kids,” Reed said. ”If you can hustle and play hard and have a lot of dedication you can play lacrosse."
Throughout the state a combined 7.40 precent or 1,245 more participants (940 girls, 305 boys) joined the sport from 2016. While the number of participants in the state continues to rise, the number of high schools that field CIF lacrosse teams is surprisingly low for the Sac-Joaquin Section which represents nearly 200 Northern California high schools.
According to the section’s website, there are only six high schools (Bella Vista-Fair Oaks, Casa Roble-Orangevale, Davis Senior, Granite Bay, Oak Ridge) that field both girls and boys lacrosse teams. Sacramento’s St. Francis has a girl’s lacrosse team while St. Mary’s-Stockton, Jesuit-Sacramento, and Lincoln-Stockton field only boy’s lacrosse teams.
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