Why Lacrosse is one of the Fastest Growing Sports in the Lowcountry



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South sits down with Christian Harris, owner of Lowcountry Lacrosse Savannah, to discuss the rise of lacrosse in the lowcountry, its history, and how we play it a little differently down south.

SOUTH: At the recent State of the City address, Mayor DeLoach talked about promoting after school sports as a way to help reduce crime in the city. Is this something you've noticed in your work, or something that you're looking to become a part of?

Christian Harris: I'm actually really glad you asked this question. Myself and one of my coaches for the youth rec league, Billy Groves, went to the first meeting that Copie Burnett of the Savannah Dawgs put on when he invited us and a few other local youth sports organizations to speak with city and county council members: Pat Farrell, Julian Miller, Helen Stone, and a few others. We had representation from travel volleyball, track and field, baseball, football and lacrosse at that first meeting.

Our ultimate goals were (1) to convince the city that we needed to drastically improve the field spaces that exist now for our youth, (2) that with the population growth, more fields will be needed to accommodate (not only our youth, but the opportunity to host tournaments that will draw thousands of visitors and revenue to the area) and (3) that the investment in the city's facilities will help to slow the spread of crime throughout the city by providing a safe environment where kids can play competitive sports and stay out of trouble.

For one thing, lacrosse in the Coastal Empire has had a massive growth spurt: from the spring season of 2015 to the spring season of 2016 (which is the regular lacrosse season) we had 50% growth in participation for boys and 35% for girls; that growth was partially due to a field change - we always used the Landing's fields for lacrosse and when we moved it to a central location at Daffin Park, we boomed. Therefore, we believe that with more facilities there will be more youth sports' participants; the old adage, "if you build it, they will come" comes to mind and the philosophy is certainly true with lacrosse.

Second, we travel to lacrosse tournaments all over the southeast. We've sent teams to Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte, and as far as Baltimore. These tournaments can draw close to a hundred teams from all over the country; with 20 players on a typical roster, that would be 2,000 players and their families coming to a city for a weekend to patronize hotels, restaurants, tourist centers, etc. It seems to me that Savannah has a lot of untapped potential in the youth sport tourism industry; however, there are those from the Chamber who understand the potential and the need, but are hesitant to go in depth about Savannah's deteriorating fields and it's rampant crime.

Last, I have an education background. I taught in Title I schools in Denver for three years before switching careers and getting in the lacrosse industry with both feet (I was always a coach); I understand the need for after school programs and especially for athletics. I have known students, that had it not been for their eligibility being jeopardized, would not have pushed themselves in the classroom to compete on the field or on the court to earn their graduation credits. Furthermore, after school programs will keep kids out of trouble no matter what, but we can't put all of our effort in one basket, as I understand the previous superintendent did; neglecting the student-athletes for those in the arts.

 

SOUTH: In your opinion, what are the biggest reasons for the growth of lacrosse in our area?

Christian Harris: Lacrosse has been and is the fastest growing sport at the high school and youth levels for nearly twenty years in a row; give or take a year or two that rugby outpaced. It is a fast, action packed sport that contains aspects of hockey, soccer, basketball and football all rolled into one. Major League Lacrosse player and Hall of Famer Kyle Harrison says, "Lacrosse has taken off because it combines the hitting of football, the speed of basketball, and requires the endurance of soccer." It is a finesse sport that allows contact, not the collision contact that football has; it is the fastest sport on two feet, outrunning the soccer players; it is back and forth like hockey and high scoring like basketball. It is, in my humble opinion, impossible to be bored! Not only for the players, but for the fans too. Savannah is prime to embrace lacrosse and I think our growth is only just beginning.
 

SOUTH: Why do you think that lacrosse has stood the test of time, and has it adapted at all over the years? Do you think that Northerns play the game any different than Southerners?

Christian Harris: Lacrosse is a sacred game; the Native Americans call it "the Creator's Game" and believe it is a gift for us to play, and a gift for the creator to watch us play. There is a ton of history and respect that goes into lacrosse, which I think makes it extra special. I have a tiny bit of Chickasaw blood in me, and I take great pride in the fact that the Chickasaw of Tennessee also played a version of lacrosse, called Toli; Tewaaraton and Baggataway are other names used by the northern Iroquois and Chippewa, respectively.

The game up north is different only because of how long is has been around. Lacrosse in general has been around for a thousand years (it truly is North America's oldest sport); the French-Canadians first saw it played in the late 1600s and called it la crosse because it looked like the Natives were using a bishops' crosse. Up until the 1970s, lacrosse sticks were cut from a single tree and made by an almost shaman type figure; in the 70s with the era of plastics, the sticks were standardized, patented and lighter. In the late 90s, sticks made a revolutionary change in being able to control the ball better, a term called "off-set", and now we have carbon fiber shafts as light as 5 oz, and heads as light as 4.3 oz while still being able to withstand the force of hard checks from opponents. The past ten years has seen incredible advances, thanks in part to the growth of the game on a more national scale.

From Western New York to the Massachusetts Bay area, and the Hudson Valley/Fairfield County in Connecticut (where I grew up) to the Baltimore harbor has been the hot bed of lacrosse for decades. Lacrosse in the northeast is faster, it has more skilled and higher IQ players compared to those that are a bit more physical in the south stemming from the football culture, and a slower, or more "laid back" style of play in the west; the skills and IQ will certainly change with time. However, there are two things that are true for every team; ground balls win games and defense wins championships.

 

SOUTH: What upcoming events/activities do you have that people can get involved in?

We have year round opportunities; the spring season for K-8th grade boys and girls; summer travel teams with tryouts in April for 8-18 year old boys and girls; a local summer camp hosted by the Head Coach of Army, Joe Alberici in the second week of June; fall ball opportunities for beginners and dedicated players K-12; indoor box lacrosse (5v5 in a concrete hockey rink); and a camp every MLK weekend.

We are three weeks into our spring season and have had a very successful Lowlax Kick Off featuring all of the areas youth teams, club high school teams, varsity high school teams, and four Division II college teams. It has been a ton of fun to see the growth and be a part of the team of passionate people down here that are helping to promote it. We certainly can't wait to see what is else is in store as we #growthegame.

To stay up to date with all the newest, upcoming events in the south, follow South magazine here.

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Events Calendar

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Scenes of the South

Grand Opening of Edgar's Proof and Provision

In a town renowned for its spirited libations and tall tales, Edgar’s Proof & Provision offers lush libations and chef-inspired small plates on East Liberty St. in Savannah. With year-round front porch seating, Edgar’s P&P delivers southern hospitality at its best! Savannah's newest restaurant, Edgar's Proof and Provision, had its grand opening on Thursday June 22nd inside the Hilton DeSoto hotel on Liberty St. Edgar's Proof and Provision will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. It's open from 6:30 a.m. until midnight with a perfect view of the historic district, spread out over three levels. "The service is always smiling and fun and friendly and everybody's saying how locally centered that we are here in Savannah, that we are here for the locals and we want everybody to come back and have a good time," says host Kolin Podell. Residents are encouraged to check out Proof and Provision soon because another new restaurant is in the works!

Horizons Savannah’s Summer Sizzler 5K

The Horizons Savannah’s Summer Sizzler 5K took place on June 24, 2017 at the J.C. Cannon Fields on Wilmington Island where dedicated runner came out to support Savannah's kids! Guests enjoyed a summer race and cool down with watermelon and summer fun, and 5K participants received a special gift. This race was organized in order to benefit Horizons Savannah, a transformative experience for youth in Kindergarten through the 8th grade focused on helping low income students close the achievement gap through academic support and confidence building. This 6 week summer program helps struggling students gain the academic skills and confidence needed to stay on track in school. Horizons Savannah serves over 200 students annually on three campuses: Savannah Country Day School, St. Andrew’s School and Bethesda Academy.

June Andaz Salon featuring Tiffani Taylor

Andaz Savannah's monthly salons are events that deliver cultural experiences for guests and neighbors, encouraging creative inspiration through evocative content and spirited discussions with local influencers. Each Salon event is designed to imaginatively impassion guests through a new experience, and to connect them with like-minded individuals, ultimately sparking creativity. The events reflect the passion and vibe of the local community while connecting travelers with kindred spirits and artistic minds. June's salon featured local artist Tiffani Taylor, an American painter who resides in Savannah, Georgia and Paris, France. She is best known for her rich, textured paintings and original pottery.

Love the Wine You're With June

South Magazine and 39 Rue de Jean - Savannah host an evening of Power Networking and Fundraising on the third Wednesday of each month to raise awareness and funds for non-profit organizations. This event is free to attend. Coastal Pet Rescue is the charity for June and guests were invited to bring along their dogs and enjoy a night on the patio featuring, delicious regional wines and exceptional appetizers prepared by the culinary team at 39 Rue De Jean. Each glass of select wine will be priced at $7 and for each glass purchased, $1 will be given to the non profit. A Cash bar is also available for those who prefer beer or Spirits. Due to inclement weather, the event was moved inside to the Oyster Room at 39 Rue De Jean instead of its usual location outside on the patio, but we still had a great time! See you next month!

The JCB Mud Fest Mud Run June 2017

Hundreds of excited competitors came out to the JCB Mud Run and Dig and Ride events on June 20th to test their strength against the elements. Attendees had to endure 100 Degree heat to complete the 5 mile course made up of over 30 obstacles on this hot Savannah afternoon but everyone in attendance had one focus only - Finishing the Race! The event was once again an incredible success and 100% of race proceeds were donated to the children at The Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development. The Lady Bamford Center was created through a joint partnership of JCB, the City of Savannah, and The United Way of the Coastal Empire. The Center opened on October 16th, 2007 and is operated by Wesley Community Centers of Savannah, Inc. The Wesley Community Center has a long and distinguished history of serving the needs of working mothers and minority families in the community.

Father's Day Unity in the Community Camp Festival

Every 3rd weekend of the month, Unity in the Community of Savannah hosts free public events on River St. that bring the community together. Unity in the Community is a nonprofit organization that promotes and hosts free, family-friendly culturally diverse events to give back to the Savannah community. The events feature handcrafted ethnic arts and crafts, home-based businesses, and community nonprofits. Entertainment is provided by churches and other local individuals and groups.

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12th Annual Savannah Mile

Hundreds gathered for the 12th Annual Savannah Mile presented by the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire that honored our fallen first responders, their families, and our military heroes. The one mile course down Drayton Street from the south end of Forsyth Park to Broughton Street has heats for every fitness level and age group. Our elite first responders and military runners competed for the Full Gear * All Out Flag in the heroes heat in full gear (30 additional pounds). The family friendly Family Fun Run/Walk allowed anyone to participate, including strollers, wheelchairs, and our four legged family members. The Memory Walk had the surviving family members of our fallen first responders walk the mile in remembrance of their loved ones.

Chicago Bears After Party

Members of the 2006 Chicago Bears NFC North Championship team came to the coastal empire on Saturday, May 20th for a fundraiser and promotional event through the The Adrian Peterson Foundation and Wilmington Island Wishes. Players competed in a charity golf tournament at Bacon Park Golf Course during the day, followed by a visit with fans at Britania Pub from 2:30-5:00pm, a gathering open to the public. Former football stars scheduled to attend include recent College Football Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, the all-time leading rusher in NCAA Division I-A history from Georgia Southern University, former Pro Bowlers Mike Brown and Charles Tillman, former All-Pro Alex Brown and Anthony Adams. Tillman was the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. The Adrian Peterson Foundation is a non-profit organization which spotlights speech impediments and stuttering problems. In 2012, Peterson published the book “Don’t Dis My Abilities”. He is an accomplished inspirational and motivational speaker.

SCAD FASHWKND Runway Show 2017

Guests of this past weekends SCAD FASHWKND experienced wonders like the SCAD Savannah Runway Show, a juried celebration of fashion featuring premier SCAD School of Fashion senior and graduate student collections. Attire for this outdoor event was casual chic, and guests were invited to wear springtime ensembles that showcase their own personal style. Following the show, guests had the opportunity to purchase select garments and accessories created by SCAD alumni. This event was presented as part of the inaugural SCAD FASHWKND, the university’s most anticipated sartorial event of the year, held in Atlanta and Savannah.