They wear helmets and shoulder pads, but it is not football. They run around a football size field and score by getting the ball into the net, but it is not soccer. They begin play with what looks like a two-person scrum, but it is not rugby. They use sticks to control the game, but it is not hockey.
It’s called Lacrosse, and it has arrived in McPherson thanks to Virgil Lyon.
Originally Lyon came to McPherson to help jump start a new Lacrosse program at Central Christian College, only to watch the college find the cost of starting the program becoming too expensive and the choosing to disband the program before it totally got off the ground.
Lyon did not give up on lacrosse in McPherson though, and after deciding with his family that they really liked living in McPherson, he found a new job and then made the decision to begin work on starting lacrosse here in the area, while choosing to begin with kids at middle school age.
After spending time getting the idea organized, then putting in the effort to keep the initial costs down by finding enough donated equipment for up to 20 kids from area colleges, Lyon has put the plan and idea into motion.
On Saturday, Nov. 24, Lyon will be taking a group of 11 players made up of youth from McPherson and Wichita, to Kansas City to participate in a 7-on-7 Lacrosse Tournament.
“This tournament is what I call low stakes,” noted Lyon while discussing the new lacrosse program. “It will be a great opportunity for those newcomers to really get their feet wet with the game of lacrosse.”
For those unfamiliar with lacrosse, the game is normally made up of 10 players on the field – three being defensemen, three being midfielders, three being attackers and one being the goalie. The goal is set within a circle that is set within a box-lined area and each ball that makes it into the net for a goal counts as one point.
Lyon explained that lacrosse is somewhat like soccer in that the defensemen stay back guarding the team’s goal and the attackers always stay on the side of the opponent’s goal while the midfielders can travel the length of the field and help where they are needed.
Like soccer and hockey, lacrosse is constant motion and positioning while the players toss the ball around trying to set up a shot on goal. Did we mention that all the passing of the ball is done with the mesh webbing at the end of the stick that each player is carrying with them as they run the field? Hands and feet do not touch the ball.
Lacrosse is a sport that is hundreds of years old and originated from the Native American Indians and a variety of forms including field lacrosse, box lacrosse and women’s lacrosse.
Lyon played and coached lacrosse at the collegiate level and has high hopes for the future of lacrosse in the McPherson area.
“My goal is to get a club type team started here in McPherson with hopes of it becoming a sport both at the middle school and the high school eventually,” explained Lyon. “Currently there are two club teams in Andover, one in Goddard and one in Durant, Oklahoma as well as in the Kansas City and Lawrence area. I have reached out to the teams in Andover and Goddard with hopes of starting a small league in the area for the spring.”
While Lyon acknowledged that lacrosse does seem popular in the great plains, it is gaining some steam as to organizations and many colleges and universities have at least a club lacrosse team while lacrosse is very popular along the east coast schools. The NCAA Divisions I and III will have their National Championship Tournaments over Memorial Day weekend and they can be seen on cable networks such as ESPN.
Currently, the kids that have shown an interest and are committed to playing have begun practicing at Wall Park according to Lyon, with practices working on getting to know the game itself and working on the fundamentals such as the catch and throw, digging up a ball on the ground, shooting and what they call dodging or getting around defenders.
For now, Lyon has lofty goals which he feels are very reachable once people see what lacrosse is all about.
“We are planning to have a full team together to start a club games in the spring,” concluded Lyon when reflecting on his lofty goals of introducing lacrosse to the McPherson area. “Eventually I hope to see it begun as a junior varsity sport in high school within a couple of years and then by the time the current seventh- and eighth-graders playing with the club team are graduating, just maybe it will be a varsity sport as well.”
For now, McPherson folks can look at the beginnings of a lacrosse club team like they did some 35 years ago when a guy named Jerry Malone kicked off the McPherson Striker youth soccer programs that eventually led to a very long lasting, strong high school soccer program. This time the game is called Lacrosse and the guy’s name is Virgil Lyon.
Those young athletes and parents interested in trying or learning more about lacrosse can contact Virgil Lyon at either 620-798-7253 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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