Girls’ lacrosse coaches Rick Reidt and Andrew Lecker know this: Lacrosse is growing the fastest in the Midwest. So last summer they decided to spur the sport’s growth even more.
The result was the STX Minnesota Shootout girls’ lacrosse tournament, held this weekend at Stillwater High School.
“There’s not a tournament like this in Minnesota,” said Reidt, who coaches the Ponies girls’ lacrosse team and the Stillwater Minnesota Lacrosse Club. “Minnesota is still not known as a strong lacrosse hotbed.”
More than 400 players and coaches on 22 teams in the U13, U15 and U19 divisions are in town for the inaugural tournament, which consists of pool play and a championship format. Many are metro teams, but six are from out of town, including teams from Chicago and Milwaukee.
Lecker and Reidt have bigger goals than just holding a tournament.
“We want to grow the game in Minnesota,” said Lecker, tournament director and the girls’ lacrosse coach at Cretin-Derham Hall. “It’s an absolute positive thing for the sport.”
They also want to grow the sport among east-metro communities. They have built up programs for younger athletes, too, which have room for kids as young as pre-school age. With children starting sports like soccer and hockey at young ages, they want to be able to give kids a jump on lacrosse, too, Reidt said.
“We’re trying to get kids with a stick in their hands at a young age,” Lecker said.
Having a local tournament lets athletes compete without a significant financial burden. It can cost $1,200 to $1,400 for a Minnesota lacrosse player to attend an East Coast tournament, Lecker said, compared to about $100 for the Shootout.
It definitely helps financially, according to Tami Crawford, whose daughters Elle and Olivia play for Cretin-Derham Hall and took part in the tournament.
“More than that I think it’s helping put lacrosse on the map in the Midwest,” Crawford said. “It’s creating a huge awareness that this sport is definitely infiltrating the Midwest, and most specifically with the girls.”
Samantha Houle, who will be a senior at Stillwater, plays for the club and high school teams. She’s traveled all over the country for tournaments. She likes that the shootout expands the lacrosse community and gives local families a chance to watch STX Minngames.
“Having it be so close to home, that way my parents can watch me play in a higher level,” Houle said.
U.S. Lacrosse Association also has a stake in the shootout.
“They’re using this tournament as a classroom on the field,” said Reidt, who added that a lack of lacrosse officials and experienced coaches in Minnesota is holding back the sport.
Twelve metro-area umpires attended the Stillwater tournament to be trained at a high level of play, according to Holly Souza, North Central Region Chair for umpires for U.S. Lacrosse. Part of the training included working some tournament games, providing key experience.
It’s been a struggle to get qualified umpires, Souza said. When she moved here 22 years ago from out East, she said, there were only two adult women’s lacrosse teams.
“Now, it’s bloomed to third- and fourth-grade teams,” she said. “That’s crazy. Like, hundreds of teams.”
But many umpires here hadn’t played before.
“We’re just now getting umpires that have played the game,” Souza said.
Lecker and Reidt hope to make the shootout an annual event. They’ve already received a lot of support from local club teams and the community.
“It’s all about getting noticed,” Lecker said. “It’s all about playing the game.”