Lacrosse is a growing sport in Colorado and in Steamboat Springs.
Three years after starting a high school program, Steamboat launched a middle school program this spring with the hopes that those who pick up a stick in middle school will want to continue the sport once they become freshmen.
With 35 boys out in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the middle school program is considered a success.
"I'm not at all surprised in the numbers," coach Neill Redfern said. "It's a fast game and a really fun game that combines elements of other sports but is still its own unique sport."
The power behind successful Front Range lacrosse programs is their feeder programs: their JV, freshman and middle school teams.
If lacrosse players have developed stick skills by the time they reach high school, varsity coaches such as Steamboat's Bob Hiester can spend more time teaching the players about the sport rather than teaching the athletes how to pick up a ground ball.
Take Redfern, for example. He got his first lacrosse stick when he was 6.
"As it becomes part of your body, you have a huge advantage," Redfern said.
The middle school teams played their first tournament of the year last weekend in Avon. Club programs are popping up in Vail and Grand Junction, which is good news for Steamboat Springs, as it seeks opponents closer to home.
The seventh- and eighth-grade team played Evergreen twice, while the sixth- and seventh-grade team played a team from Eagle and a team from Avon.
"It went well," Redfern said. "I think everybody learned a whole lot. I'm a big believer in playing as an instrument of learning. These teams were big and a lot more physical. All in all, some of the stuff we had been working on we applied."
The middle school teams are hosting a lacrosse tournament this weekend at Emerald Park. The tournament begins Saturday and continues Sunday.
Steamboat's sixth- and seventh-grade team opens with Columbine at 4 p.m. Saturday. The seventh- and eighth-grade team hosts Columbine at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The teams will play two 20-minute running halves.
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