After Valley completed its first season as a JV team back in 2009, Zach (Zielonko, Valley’s head coach) and I started laying out plans for developing lacrosse in central Iowa. We both recognized the importance of youth lacrosse, but also knew that our complete lack of funding was a major hurdle. Unfortunately we had to put any sort of solid youth program on the back burner and focus on building the high school program.
In the next couple of years, Zach conducted free annual youth clinics through the YMCA and West Des Moines school district as part of our agreement with both entities in exchange for their support of the high school team. I intermittently held a few free clinics around the metro for players of all ages. We even sent a crew to a major Boy Scouts event.
Last year, we finally established a bank account for the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association and started fund raising for the benefit of boys lacrosse in the metro. Thanks to several donations, we were able to meet Valley’s needs with enough money left to allow us to finally start a youth program. As luck would have it, Adidas decided to pull the plug on their contract with the Henson Group. The subsequent liquidation sale allowed me to pick up 15 sets of lacrosse equipment and even more sticks at ridiculously low prices. A few local players, mostly associated with Valley, donated old lacrosse helmets.
Since a handful of boys already had their own lacrosse equipment, CILA launched our first youth program with roughly 20 boys in seventh and eighth grade and another 20 in fifth and sixth grade; both groups were divided into three squads. Each group rotated between drill stations and games over a two hour period once a week last summer. The younger boys played non-contact chumash while the older boys played a modified hybrid of field and box lacrosse (with no goalie). It successfully introduced the sport to several boys, but everybody involved wanted more.
Before summer was out, Zach and I started working on plans to increase the scope of the boys program. Interest exceeded our available resources in 2011 so we knew to expect even more boys this year. This meant that we needed to obtain even more lacrosse equipment, so we applied for the US Lacrosse Equipment grant. Zach had previously applied for the grant, meant for players in new and developing areas, in 2008 when the Valley program evolved from an intramural event into the team we know and love today. The grant was denied. Using the demographic information for my neighborhood (CILA’s headquarters) in the city of Des Moines rather than the suburb of West Des Moines, we had high hopes that the 2011 application would be approved. Once again, the US Lacrosse grant rejected Central Iowa.
The second denial left us devastated. Realizing that the odds of another liquidation were slim to none, we started examining our options. Fund raising is unreliable, but we would follow the same course as last year with the hope of obtaining enough money for a few more sets of gear and a couple of lacrosse helmets. We could keep the numbers low once again, but that would be detrimental to the sport’s growth in central Iowa. Players could be required to provide their own lacrosse equipment, but it is hard to justify throwing down that much money in a down economy for a sport that most parents have never heard of, let alone played.
Just as we began losing hope, an angel appeared. Tracy Higginbotham contacted me about an endeavor her son, Adam, and teammate Ted Glesener were undertaking. Members of the West Genesee lacrosse team decided to take an active role in spreading the game of lacrosse. They scoured the internet for programs in new and developing areas and reached out to us.
As we know, most laxers accumulate gear over the years and it sits unused. The West Genesee players decided that this made little sense. Their plan, Higginbotham explained, was to hold a lacrosse equipment drive for current players and alumni. The equipment drive is this Sunday.
Denver City Lax in Colorado joins the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association as proud recipients of this team’s remarkable generosity. We are thankful that Adam, Ted, and their West Genesee teammates love the game enough to take this initiative. These gentlemen truly embody the spirit of the game. They are true growers of the game.
From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of boys in central Iowa, I want to thank Adam, Ted and the entire West Genesee lacrosse community for this gift. We will put this gear to great use and a whole generation of first time laxers will be able to learn to love the sport as much as we do.
Official Press Release:
Two West Genesee Lacrosse Players Create Original Equipment Donation Project
to Benefit Two Western Lacrosse Teams
Syracuse, New York: Two West Genesee Varsity Lacrosse players have created an original community service project to help spread their love for the game out west.
On Sunday, April 22, 2012 from 1 – 3 p.m. in the West Genesee High School lower gymnasium, West Genesee Varsity lacrosse players Adam Higginbotham and Ted Glesener are conducting a special original community service project. The “West Genesee Lax Goes West: A Lacrosse Equipment Donation Event” will benefit the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association and Denver City Lax. Both teams are in need of used equipment to outfit boys in their communities who want to play the sport but don’t have the funds to purchase the equipment.
“We know there is a lot of used and good condition equipment in the homes of current and past West Genesee lacrosse players so we hope current 7th – 12th grade male lacrosse players, former West Genesee players and their families will donate any used lacrosse equipment in their garages or houses,” states Adam Higginbotham, a junior at West Genesee High School.
After conducting online research of regions in the United States with limited lacrosse presence, Higginbotham and Glesener discovered Central Iowa Lacrosse Association who has been introducing lacrosse slowly since 2008. “The interest in the sport is growing, but equipment is simply not available. The generous gift from West Genesee will allow us to expand our youth lacrosse program and offer additional opportunities for more boys in the Des Moines area.” stated Adam Edgington of Central Iowa Lacrosse Association.
The second organization benefiting from the project is a more established program in Denver, Colorado called Denver City Lax. Rod Allison of Denver City lax is excited about the project, “We actually follow West Genesee out in Colorado because of their lacrosse history and tradition. Equipment donations make it possible to bring lacrosse to under-served neighborhoods in Denver. We will have almost 200 kids on the fields this year who need equipment to play the sport.”
Ted Glesener, a junior at West Genesee High School and co-creator of the project said, “We are asking current and past players to contribute gently used/good condition equipment including sticks, heads, helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads and gloves for these two teams.”
The donated equipment will be shipped and paid for by the John Pepper Memorial Athletic Fund, Inc.
To give back to anyone who donates equipment, Higginbotham and Glesener are hoping to have some current and past college players tied to Central New York lacrosse at the event from 2:30 p.m. to give current players lacrosse tips. The tips will be followed by a raffle drawing of a handful of great lacrosse items. “We know how appreciative the two teams will be of the equipment donation so we want to give something back to the community who supports this event and our interest in spreading the game of lacrosse out west,” states Higginbotham and Glesener.
For more information or questions on the program, contact Tracy Higginbotham at 315-708-4288 and Loretta Glesener at 925-200-2946.