High school lacrosse: UHSAA, lacrosse proponents debate sanctioning the sport in Utah

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 5:45 p.m. MDT

Those rules include, among many additional items, limited team membership (students can only play on one team of a particular sport during the high school season), the age rule (students are ineligible after they turn 19 or play four years), scholastic expectations (a minimum 2.0 GPA and no more than one F) and all transfer rules.

As it stands, the ULA presides solely over girls and boys high school lacrosse in much the same way the UHSAA governs. It has an executive director in Lisa Schmidt, program coordinators over girls lacrosse and boys lacrosse, a handbook of regulations, and a board of directors that dictates policy.

"All the policies that Utah Lacrosse has — the scholastic requirements, the dead time rules, the boundaries and transfer rules — we tried to model after the UHSAA," Elder said. "They are not always exactly the same, but sometimes they are word for word."

Elder added that ULA intentionally followed the UHSAA so that when the time is right for lacrosse to become sanctioned, the lacrosse community will not have to make many changes to slide into the UHSAA structure.

Aside from the handbook, Elder noted that one of the major factors impeding another formal proposal is the same reason the UHSAA implemented the moratorium: financial impact.

"Sanctioning comes with additional costs to the UHSAA and the schools," Elder said. "Some teams could disappear because of the added cost."

The UHSAA pays for venues, officials and other details that go into running all state-level competitions and all member schools pay dues to the UHSAA at the beginning of each school year for the sports and activities it offers to its students. Those dues are in addition to the cost of facilities, officials, travel and other items schools must cover to run their programs. The total costs amount to approximately 2 percent of the overall budget for a school.

“It’s a very low amount,” Cuff said of the 2 percent, “and yet the importance of education-based activities and what students learn from those activities is, I feel, one of the greatest investments a school can make.”

The next question, Cuff said, is in which season would lacrosse be played?

Both the girls and boys programs currently play in the spring. That, however, conflicts with golf and softball for girls and baseball, soccer and tennis for boys, and track and field for both genders. Fall has additional complications, including the most popular boys sport in football.

Thatcher’s daughter, Hanna, was a four-year starter for Olympus lacrosse and his older son, Mason, has participated in both lacrosse and football at the school. With experience in both sanctioned and non-sanctioned sports, Thatcher’s family has seen the primary differences between the two setups on the ground level.

The greatest difference?

“Access to resources.”

Thatcher said finding some of the same resources that sanctioned sports receive as school-sponsored activities has posed the greatest challenge. Those struggles include access to school weight rooms as a team, traveling on school buses, having enough knowledgeable officials, and even finding a place to play.

“Finding fields is a constant struggle,” Thatcher said. Elder agreed, saying: “The growth of the sport has even been slightly inhibited by the lack of green space.”

Cuff stated that, by being a member of the UHSAA, schools are often more apt to support teams with facilities. However, not even all sanctioned events take place on school grounds. Many soccer and softball teams, for example, compete at fields not located on school property.

Thatcher added that, as the club sport has grown in popularity, support from the Olympus administration and Titan community has also increased. As the new Olympus High was being built, he was part of a parent group that successfully lobbied for lacrosse field lines to be added to the turf football field.

As more and more students get involved with lacrosse, approaching the UHSAA with another proposal seems likely.