By LAINIE ALFARO
There is a wide range of youth male lacrosse programs available to young athletes across San Diego County. But, did you know that youth female lacrosse programs are relatively new? Despite the pandemic and its regulations, Mission Trails Lacrosse Club will be starting its first female lacrosse program, led and coached by Alicia Durante.
Practices are scheduled to start end of February and conclude in May/June, while game schedules are “to be determined” at the moment. It is valid to question how sports operate in a pandemic, let alone in a completely brand new program. Coach Durante, however, is confident that there is a need in the community for this program.
Durante shared from her personal involvement in the sport as an experienced lacrosse player, coach, and parent that the resources for female lacrosse players have historically been limited. There are currently no girls programs serving the communities in Navajo neighborhoods, and surrounding areas (other than high school level athletics).
As a parent of a lacrosse player, Durante said, “I have been looking for options for my daughter to play the game for years. We have had to look in neighborhoods outside of our own to find a program,” and, “most of the girls I worked with and coached didn’t play in San Diego. They were finding unique ways to play through travel club teams or out of state.”
Mission Trails Lacrosse Club wants to end the search for female programs and make the sport more accessible for every lacrosse player. When asked why it is the right time to pilot this program Andrew O’Neill, president of the Mission Trails Lacrosse Club, explained, “Our girls program has been something we’ve wanted to do for a few years. The boys’ game and girls’ game are similar, but different sports. One of the barriers we’ve always had is finding the right person to come in and lead and direct the girls program and we believe we have right person with Alicia Durante.”
Despite having the right coach, the setbacks of the pandemic also had to be reckoned with. O’Neill explained, “2020 was tough on a lot of players. We had a few strong teams that felt they had finally worked to get to a better competition level and staying motivated for the next unknown opportunity is difficult.”
But in taking steps to move forward with reopening the boys program and kickstarting the female program, coaches remain hopeful for the future of the lacrosse programs at the Mission Trails Lacrosse Club.
“Over the last few years we’ve had tremendous growth and adding a girls program continues to show the positive impact we’re making in our community,” O’Neill said. “We expect to expand more at the elementary age groups for both the boys and girls side as the sport becomes more popular.”
More specifically, for the future of the female lacrosse program, Durante said “My long term goal is to have lacrosse programs be affordable. We are not a for-profit program. To the extent I can, I want to reduce the fees so the kids can play.”
For this opening season, registration fees range from $225-350 depending on the age group and to add onto the costs, players have to buy personal equipment like the lacrosse stick and headgear. It is clear the costs add up; but according to Durante, the reward is so much more.
“It’s the fastest game on two feet and the fasted growing program out there. Don’t be scared by the name or by being unfamiliar with it. It’s fantastic for building confidence, improving coordination, and just having fun,” she said.
As far as COVID-19 guidelines and safety precautions, Mission Trails Lacrosse Club is following the county guidelines and drafting some safety precautions of their own, tailored to the sport.
“The majority of potential risk would come as players congregate on the sidelines or within a huddle,” O’Neil said. “By reducing shared equipment and setting up our spaces on the sideline to limit close contact interaction, we feel we can safely enjoy the game together on the field again.”
But this time, boys and girls will both be represented on the field with their own programs.
For more information about Mission Trails Lacrosse Club, visit www.missiontrailslax.com.
— Lainie Alfaro is an editorial intern for San Diego Community News Group.