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Naturally Impactful: CRPD, Ohio Machine Collaborate On Youth Lacrosse Camps

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Naturally Impactful: CRPD, Ohio Machine Collaborate On Youth Lacrosse Camps
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This summer, 14 Columbus Recreation and Parks community centers will host youth lacrosse camps sponsored by the Ohio Machine. A grant from the local professional lacrosse team to CRPD has allowed the department to cover equipment costs and hire a seasonal employee to introduce lacrosse to nearly 280 kids across the city.

The program comes partly as a result of last year’s Urban Lacrosse initiative, a collaborative project between US Lacrosse, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, the Ohio Machine and CRPD that eventually led to Columbus’ first Urban Lacrosse Summer Clinic. According to Machine president Ryan Chenault, collaboration between all of these parties finally solidified long-held desires for some sort of youth lacrosse program in the city.

“It was about this time last year and we circled the dates around the end of July and something before our last home game of the season,” said Chenault in an email. “We said we would bring the players, Columbus Recreation and Parks said that they would handle the registrations, US Lacrosse was going to help with some presence in funding and that was the first step. It took everyone getting in the same room to discuss everything.”

The resulting conversation led all parties to focus on short and long term goals for the future of lacrosse in Columbus.

“The long-term goal is always to get some kind of youth program set up, hopefully within Central Ohio Youth Lacrosse League, down the line,” said Chenault. “But the next step is to get more instruction in the community centers and that’s what you’re seeing this year with the funding of the position and a concentrated lacrosse program in the summer.”

With funding in place, CRPD hired Joe Crawford, former lacrosse team captain at Wittenberg University, to run camps at 14 community centers in Columbus, with 20 kids participating at each location. According to Mark Stansbery, manager of CRPD’s Barack Community Center, volunteers from the Ohio Machine, the Ohio State University, Wittenberg, Olentangy High School, the Columbus Police Department and the US military are assisting Crawford as the camps operate until early August.

CRPD, the Ohio Machine, and the other parties involved hope that these efforts will advance geographic, ethnic and gender diversity in a sport that has long held a reputation for whiteness and affluence.

“We know that the vast majority of high school and college lacrosse players are white, so this will be an ongoing effort,” said Stansbery in an email. “We also know that the sport is very similar to other sports our youth are already familiar with and enjoy playing such as basketball and football. Our partnership with the Ohio Machine will help us expose youth to the sport and give them the opportunity and resources to learn the game. If we can help alleviate barriers traditionally associated with playing lacrosse, such as cost and access to resources, we will have made a huge difference.”

As much as diversity can benefit the sport, the collaborating parties intend for the sport to benefit kids, offering life lessons in teamwork, determination, discipline, and the chance to try something different.

“Lacrosse is not a well-known sport around the country,” said Chenault. “As a result of the initiative, youth in central Ohio will be presented with an opportunity to learn a new team sport and get out of their comfort zones.”

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Naturally Impactful is brought to you by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, which works to enrich and change the lives of our citizens. The column is an effort to share the story of how the pillars of Health and Wellness, Conservation and Social Equity drive the work we do. Each month the column will focus on different sections of the department using these pillars to create a positive impact on our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life along with providing basic knowledge of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, #CRPD. To find more about upcoming happenings at your Columbus Recreation and Parks, visit their Facebook pageTwitter page, or columbus.gov/recreationandparks.

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