BERLIN — A little more than three years ago, Gary Richins and a group of interested parents set out to establish a year-round lacrosse program that would have strong ties to the community. The notion was to give as many kids as possible access to a sport that has become wildly popular over the last decade, especially among younger children in the area and the Coastal Lacrosse Club was born.
One of the greatest barriers to the sport for most kids is the price of getting outfitted. A basic setup can cost more than $200 which is a not insignificant amount just to see if a child takes to the sport.
Another barrier is that, aside from the hardcore fans, lacrosse isn’t a big part of the public sports consciousness. Teaching kids of all ages to understand and appreciate the game requires knowledgable and dedicated coaches as well as parents willing to be involved in the process.
These were the main challenges Richins and the other early members of the club faced as they began their inaugural season. Three years on, the Coastal Lacrosse Club has grown each year, retaining many if not most of its participants and continuing to attract new kids to the sport each year.
Although the traditional lacrosse season in March-May, the club decided to begin offering a skill-heightening clinic program each fall. More recently they began a shortened indoor season over the winter.
While they had hoped — and continue to try — to secure an indoor facility in Worcester County, the reduced availability of indoor gym space sufficient to the groups size meant their indoor lacrosse season was played this year at the Crown Sports Complex in Fruitland.
But throughout one of the most important parts of the program was finding a way to help fund kids who were interested in playing but didn’t have the financial means to get involved. Each year the club officials pooled their resources to offer as many scholarships as possible for interested students.
It was the club’s dedication to the inclusionary aspect of their program that helped them win a $15,000 grant from the Humphreys Foundation to continue further expand on and improve the sports life in the area generally.
The grant will be used to purchase equipment for both current participants and potential scholarship applicants.
Richins said that rather than worry too much about how to establish criteria for kids interested in a scholarship, the club officials elected to use the school’s free and reduced lunch model. Any child eligible for free or reduced lunch is eligible for a scholarship.
Of course, unlike lunch there can only be a limited number of applications accepted, but as the number of participants continues to grow, Richins is confident that the club will attract more donors and therefore be able to offer a greater number of scholarships. Plus, once a child is outfitted, the cost of participation drops pretty significantly.
In addition to expanding their scholarship program, the Coastal Lacrosse Club expects to invest bout $3,000 in exercise and training equipment to give coaches better tools to help teach kids the game and work on and improve their fundamentals.
The club also hopes to purchase a defibrillator and have it installed at the Worcester County park that acts as their practice and home field during the season. Beyond purchasing the defibrillator they will use the grant funding to send both their coaches and coaches from the Berlin Little League, Dolphins Football, Beach Lacrosse and others to be trained on using the equipment.
Although the spots for the winter season, which begins this weekend, are filled, Richins said that the club is already accepting applications for spring lacrosse.
Anyone interested in participating in the program can get a registration form from their website coastallacrosseclub.com. The website also has contact information for anyone willing to make a tax deductible donation to the club.