Wednesday September 21, 2011

WILLIAMSTOWN -- The push for a high school lacrosse league started 10 years ago as a youth program and "a vision," according to Jeff Stripp. Tuesday night, that vision became reality at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

In a unanimous vote, the seven-member regional school committee became the latest to approve the addition of lacrosse as a varsity high school sport for both boys and girls. As has happened in a number of meetings across the Berkshires in the last year, the vote was met with cheers from jersey-wearing players and supporters in attendance.

Stripp, a co-founder of the Berkshire County Lacrosse Association and the coach of Greylock's boys club team, was the center of attention following the committee vote. Between handshakes, high-fives and hugs from supporters, he said he was pleasantly surprised by the unanimous vote.

"You never know," Stripp added. "The school's up against a lot [with] finances and other decisions, but we've worked really hard. We've done our homework. We got the support from the [athletic director], principal and superintendent going into this."

Stripp, Greylock Athletic Director Lindsey Von Holtz and school Principal Tim Payne gave a brief presentation to the committee, which had requested more financial information after a presentation in the 2010-11 school year. In the presentation, a projected budget was presented, as well as three funding scenarios which will now be considered by a finance subcommittee -- full funding by the school, full funding by a booster club or shared funding with the possibility of user fees.


Advertisement

"It really came down to cost," said Robert Ericson, the school committee chair. "Everybody was impressed with the lacrosse program. There were a lot of people who came forward to testify on behalf of the program and say how great it was for their kids.

"The big problem was the original costs were around $49,000. That was equal to the whole athletic budget. It was a non-starter; we had to get the costs down to something reasonable, and they did."

With the addition of Mount Greylock, Berkshire County now has seven high schools which will offer varsity lacrosse in the spring. St. Joseph's was the only MIAA-sanctioned varsity program last year, and only for boys. The Pittsfield Schools added boys and girls programs at the city's public high schools in May, followed by Wahconah Regional in June, Hoosac Valley in July and Lee just one week ago.

The next step for the county's athletic directors will be to form an official league for the new programs, and to set up a league schedule. The ADs will meet with school principals and MIAA representatives Thursday, with the next official ADs' meeting on Oct. 7.

"We'll start to talk about co-ops," Von Holtz said. "Before we can do a schedule, some of the girls programs need co-ops to be successful."

Mount Greylock is not one of those. The program's numbers, according to Von Holtz, are good enough that there is no need to take on other schools' players.

Pittsfield and Taconic will field a co-op girls program for two years before splitting into separate programs. All co-op proposals must also be approved by the MIAA.

Payne spoke briefly during the presentation, but offered his support to the lacrosse contingent.

"Lacrosse is a growing sport in the Berkshires," he said. "It has finally arrived. ... As a principal who sits on MIAA boards ... obviously, our families want to participate."

Now that the BCLA has no high school club programs to run, its focus will shift to promoting the sport in youth programs, as well as aiding the new high school varsity programs financially.

"This is Phase Two, as far as I'm concerned," Stripp said. "We've got a really good base here in Williamstown, and we're going to work hard to help spread [the sport] where there's a lack, which is in the youth programs at all the different districts."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6254.