WESTPORT, Conn. Staples High School coach Paul McNulty has been one of the most influential drivers in generating interest in the Westport Police Athletic League 's lacrosse program.
Numbers swelled to nearly 300 boys last spring, and the bantam division for boys in first through third grade grew by a staggering 95 percent, with 89 boys playing last year. The girls program is also growing.
There are many reasons for the growing interest in Westport. McNulty is one of them, said Police Athletic League coach David Schaefer.
Here he is the high school coach, and he comes down to teach second- and third-graders how to play lacrosse, Schaefer said. He gave out lists of 86 ways to tell a boy or girls theyve done a good job. Hes always trying to reinforce the positive.
"Were are aligning ourselves with the fundamental beliefs of the high school program so we can foster consistency in our teaching and training.
Making inroads in the crowded youth sports landscape, particularly in Westport, is no easy task. There is baseball, soccer and even a Police Athletic League-sanctioned spring football program. Children in first through eighth grade are eligible to play in Westport, and the older age groups also have travel teams.
We try to create a different combination of internal and external experiences, with house and travel games, Schaefer said. We found at some levels, we got our butts kicked. At other levels, we were able to compete. We have some fantastic athletes.
"The great thing about the league is the kids get a lot of attention.
Lacrosse can be a difficult sport to pick up for young players because of the hand-eye coordination involved in passing and catching.
Its a lot harder, Schaefer said, to throw a lacrosse ball than it is a football.
Westport models much of its training after Darien, one of the most successful programs in the nation, Schaefer said. Westport incorporated winter training this year, and the support of the parents has been instrumental, he said.
We try to involve everybody, Schaefer said. Most of the coaches are dads of players, and parents are coming out to support them. They are surrounding the field on game days.
More information about the girls and boys programs is available at www.westportpal.org.
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