University City

Lacrosse reaching for more young players

Greg Carter thought: If it worked in New York City, certainly it could work in Charlotte.

An advocate of introducing lacrosse to an underrepresented group, Carter had lived in Charlotte just two years before he realized there was something missing. Carter found lacrosse being played but curiously found few minority players participating.

Carter acted quickly and submitted a grant proposal to U.S. Lacrosse, the sport's national sanctioning body, to establish an affordable program for youth in Charlotte's urban communities. The result is the Charlotte Condors, a program with boys and girls teams in the under 11-year-old age group.

The Condors teams completed their inaugural season in July but coaches will be conducting clinics in August so current players can improve their skills and so the program can raise awareness among prospective players.

After program leaders recruited players by visiting schools, holding meet-and-greets in front of department stores, and spreading the news by word-of-mouth, the Condors took to practicing and playing at Revolution Park in February. Twenty-six boys and 17 girls joined the program.

U.S. Lacrosse's First Stick grant program provided all the equipment the Condors needed: sticks, helmets, goggles, collapsible goals, etc. Aside from a registration fee, players didn't have to purchase anything.

Once the program was established, Carter stepped aside when it came to coaching. Despite having no lacrosse experience, two parents, Jeremy Ardrey and Jackie Duncan, volunteered to serve as head coaches of the boys and girls teams.

"My wife gave me a gift," said Ardrey. "It was a DVD on coaching and playing lacrosse. She says you really need to watch this. That's what I did for two weeks. And I got on line and learned the game. After that, it's been fun."

Duncan added that she learned the game by watching the boys team's coaches and online videos. One of her greatest challenges was teaching the rules to her players who were also brand-new to the game.

The Condors played against established teams from the Charlotte region including Lake Norman United, Cornelius-Huntersville, and Fort Mill. Ardrey says his team "ended up winning half of them."

"My family has no experience playing lacrosse," said Jeremy's 11-year old son, Sterlyn. "I just wanted to be the one in my family playing lacrosse. I love it because it's a very physical sport, just like football and rugby. That's what makes it fun."

Sterlyn's 10-year old sister Kym played on the girls team. It was not as competitive as the boys but the winless Condors scored a season-high six goals in their season finale.

The boys team wrapped up its season in June by participating in the U.S. Lacrosse Laxfest in Raleigh. The Condors were winless in the tournament but they impressed enough coaches, referees, and tournament officials that the team took home the event's Sportsmanship Award, which made Coach Ardrey proud.

The Condors clinics, conducted by the program's coaching staff, started on Friday and will continue on Fridays, 6:30-8:00 p.m., through Aug. 26 at Hawthorne High. All equipment will be provided but budding players may bring their own stick if they have one.

The Condors have recently formed a partnership with 1st Touch, a Charlotte program designed to lure minority youth to sports such as soccer, so that it can share its federal non-profit status.

"The sports are the lure," Ardrey said. "The real purpose is relative to addressing issues like obesity, excelling in academics and leadership. We want to make sure kids within urban community ties, those that are less fortunate without the resources others have, are included."