BY JEREMY SHERE
Although Bloomington is first and foremost basketball country, other youth sports programs—especially soccer, baseball, and football—hold their own. But the fastest-growing sport in town is also among the newest: lacrosse.
“Since we started the Bloomington Outlaws middle school program [in 2009], it’s really taken off,” says Jay Jessmer, former middle school lacrosse assistant head coach. Currently, Jessmer is the assistant head coach for the Outlaws’ junior varsity and varsity combined North-South high school programs, which began in 2004 and will split into North and South teams next year. “Kids would see us practicing or playing, come up and ask, ‘What sport is that?’ and before you knew it they’d show up and join the team.”
Known as the “fastest sport on two feet,” lacrosse is a game of Native American origin played ten to a side, with a goalkeeper and nine position players. Using long-poled racquets with basket-like mesh “heads,” players run with and pass a hard rubber ball with the objective of whipping it past the opposing team’s goalkeeper.
The sport has taken off nationally over the past few years, with middle school, high school, and college programs mushrooming around the country. In Indiana, lacrosse is especially popular in Indianapolis and other cities in the northern part of the state and is quickly gaining traction in the south as well. As of 2013, the Bloomington middle school team consists of 25 to 30 kids (girls are welcome), while enough high-school-age players are available to field both junior varsity and varsity squads.
Part of what makes lacrosse so appealing, Jessmer says, is that it’s in many ways a combination of other popular sports: Like ice hockey, it involves intricate passing and behind-the-goal play; like soccer and basketball, there’s nearly nonstop movement; similar to football, lacrosse is a contact sport with body checking, requiring players to wear helmets and shoulder pads (although blows to the head are expressly forbidden and heavily penalized).
In Jessmer’s experience, anyone who gives lacrosse a try inevitably becomes hooked. “My wife, a born-and-bred Hoosier, had never seen a lacrosse game until she met me,” says Jessmer, who hails from lacrosse-crazy upstate New York. “Now she’s obsessed with it.”
For more information about the Bloomington Outlaws lacrosse programs, contact Jay Jessmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.