Fighting through the pain of being tired usually runs through lacrosse midfielder Owen Barkes’ head during games.
But Barkes does not let fatigue get in the way of his fun.
The St. Peters seventh-grader loves running the field as a midfielder, using his stick to knock the ball away from his opponent on one end while getting a chance to shoot the ball for a potential goal on the other end.
Unlike the offensive and defensive players, who usually stay on one side of the field like soccer, the midfielders’ responsibility is to haul up and down the entire length of the field to help attack and defend.
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Lacrosse is a stamina-taxing sport no matter the position on the field, and this fast-paced back-and-forth nature of the game has drawn many Columbus kids to pick up a stick.
Multiple kids who began playing the sport for the first time with the Columbus Lacrosse Club have ended their high school careers with college scholarship offers. An organization that started nearly seven years ago with a handful of kids playing pickup games on the Northside middle school football fields has grown to about 140 players across five teams in three different age groups.
The club has doubled its participation every year for the past five years and now has three high school teams in Columbus East, Columbus North and a North junior varsity. The club also has under-14 and under-12 youth teams.
The Canadian national sport is believed to be the fastest growing sport in America, and the Indiana High School Lacrosse Association has added around 10 high school teams in the past two years, bumping the state total to 48.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association requires 50 percent of the state’s schools to pick up lacrosse before it can become an official IHSAA sport. Lacrosse is 152 schools away from making that mark, but more youth are continuing to gain interest each year.
Leaders of the Parks Department are even taking notice in the amount of kids who are gravitating toward the sport. Lacrosse Club commissioner Andrew Jerman was informed that many discussions at the Parks Department conferences are centered around accommodating lacrosse.
“We’re a force as a sport. We’re a force to be contended with,” Jerman said. “I’ve talked with coaches and administrators in other (sports) programs, and they’re like, ‘Oh you’re with the lacrosse club, how are you guys growing so much?’ That seems like all we hear.”
Lacrosse was originally known as stickball by the Native Americans who played the game in the St. Lawrence Valley to toughen up young soldiers for war, along with recreational and religious purposes. French Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf named it lacrosse after witnessing the game, and it started to progress in the Canadian area in 1834 when the Native Americans gave a demonstration in Montreal. Canadian dentist William George Beers created a set of rules, including reducing the number of players, and 150 years later, lacrosse is being played by more than 600 men’s and women’s collegiate teams.
Multiple players in the club’s high school team have said playing lacrosse uses a combination of skills that are acquired from other sports, which allows new players to catch on quickly. The Columbus Lacrosse Club has drawn many hockey players to the sport, and Jerman finds it interesting that a large number of professional hockey players have played lacrosse in the past.
Columbus also has many kids who have never played an organized sport until they decided to pick up a stick. There is not a specific body type that is needed to excel at lacrosse, so players like eighth-grader Zach Schnapp-Brunnemer are able to succeed in the sport.
“He’s a small kid, so basketball and football are out for him,” said Zach’s mother, Amy Schnapp-Brunnemer. “(Lacrosse) is one of those sports that it doesn’t matter what your size is, you can still excel. So it has given him this amazing confidence … I’ve seen him progress, and because everybody’s kind of starting out on the same playing field, everybody is learning along the way.”
Amy Schnapp-Brunnemer fell in love with the sport when she was introduced in college and has had all three of her boys take up the sport since then. The Schnapp-Brunnemer family has been with the lacrosse club since it started when Zach’s two older brothers joined after Amy found out about it in the newspaper.
“Once you watch it, you’ll never want to watch another (sport) because it’s so fast and it’s so intense,” she said. “Everything else seems boring.”
The talent level over the years has grown for the club. The high school programs currently are ranked in the state’s top 25, about 10 spots higher than a year ago.
The top 16 teams at the end of the season advance to the playoffs, and Jerman believes that both the North and East teams have a chance at making it this year. If the club continues to grow like it has been, Barkes could be playing for one of the best lacrosse teams in the state by the time he reaches high school.
Equipment Needed: Lacrosse stick, pads, helmet, cleats, gloves, rubber ball.
Youth starter kit: $40-$70, includes everything but helmet.
Helmet Price: $85-$115
Number of players on field per team: 10 (three defenders, three midfielders, three offensive men, goalie
Game length: Four 14-minute quarters.
Basic rules/guidelines: Each team must keep three players, plus the goalie in defensive half of field; three players must stay in the offensive half; three midfielders can roam as they please.