The 2011 season will mark the 10th anniversary of Brookline Youth Lacrosse. Below is brief overview of how and why the program was started.
George Vien and Scott Hillman founded the program in 2001 in conjunction with the Brookline Rec Dept. The decision to partner with the Rec Dept was based on our shared vision of making athletics accessible to any child who wished to participate.
The philosophies that drove the formation of the program are still our basic core values for the program. Of course George & Scott both had a love of lacrosse and hoped to pass it along to a new generation of kids in Brookline . At the same time, they were reacting to what they perceived was a very disturbing trend in youth athletics. George & Scott saw the spread of multi-season select teams as detrimental to kids. They believed that it is irresponsible to pigeonhole kids based on their abilities at a young age. No one knows which kids are going to blossom and which kids are going to peak out. Additionally, given the disturbing trend of youth obesity, George & Scott felt that it was important to get all kids out there exercising and experiencing what it meant to be a team-mate. They also felt that it is important for kids to play a variety of sports. It avoids overuse injuries, keeps kids from getting burned out, and, frankly, they believed it makes the kids better athletes. There are synergies across sports that are difficult to quantify but are clearly evident.
Given the above, the league in which we participate (MBYLL) was a perfect fit for us; no scores, no standings, no A vs B teams, spring season only, and equal playing time for all to the best of our ability. Yes we want the kids to achieve and learn as much as they can but, not at the expense of their teammates. These principles are at the heart of our core values for the program.
In our first year we only had 3rd & 4th grade boys/girls. We wanted to build from the ground up. We had a total of 30 boys & girls combined. We did not play any games that first year as we wanted to teach the kids the fundamentals first.
In our second year we joined the MBYLL and starting playing a full spring schedule. We took our lumps those first few years and were often blown out as our kids learned the game. We never complained about it. We knew we weren't very good at the time but knew we would improve as the kids got experience and we built a base.
We grew by 10% per year and the program grew both in size and experience. We've been very fortunate in attracting wonderful coaches to support this growth. Charles Santry and Tommy Lee put us on the map and laid the foundation for the coaches that would follow. It wasn't long before our teams were performing right at the top of the league. However, we have never strayed from our core philosophies of inclusion and equal playing time and attention for all.
Last season we had over 300 boys and girls in the program. We had 7 boys teams (1 U9, 2 U11, 2 U13, & 2 U15) and 6 girls teams (1 U9, 2 U11, 2 U13, & 1 U15). We had over 25 wonderful coaches working with the kids. The coaches include current high school students, current college students, recent college graduates, and parents. All of them share a love of lacrosse that they wish to share with the next generation of lacrosse players.
To date we have never had to turn kids away from our program. This is in keeping with our philosophy of serving every child that wishes to play. This has included accepting kids into the program even after the first games of the season have been played. While these late registrations are less than ideal, we would hate to think that we turned away a kid that would have loved the game and benefited from it. We have always been fortunate to have just enough coaches/teams to support all the kids.
Stepping back, we'd have to say that our program has been very successful. The criteria we base this on is directly traceable to our core values. We have introduced over a thousand Brookline kids to the great sport of lacrosse. Our retention rate amongst those kids is very high. We have done so by focusing on the kids and trying to make it fun for all kids regardless of their ability or experience. As a result, our program enjoys a very good reputation. As a side benefit, some of those early participants are now excelling at their respective high schools and are even being recruited to play in college. However, what is more gratifying is that some of the kids making contributions to their high schools now were not considered athletes when they joined our program and played minor roles throughout much of their youth career. Our program welcomed these kids and fostered them year after year. In the end, we are all richer for that.
We have to relate a story that I think optimizes what this program is about. About seven years ago we were approached by a family that had a special needs child that wished to join our program. Let's call him Billy (not his actual name). Billy and his parents just wanted him to get some exercise and be part of a team. Billy never really learned to catch/throw and wasn't fully aware of what was going on in games. Nevertheless, he came to every practice/game, worked at picking up ground balls, and received the same playing time as every other player. The team was basically a man down whenever Billy was on the field. However, the kids never complained about Billy. They understood that this was important to Billy and that he was a member of the team. As the season progressed, Billy had not recorded a single stat. He didn't even have a ground ball. The entire team and parents held their breadth whenever the ball got near him in the hope that he would pick it up. And then one day it finally happened. In a game vs. Dedham the ball rolled Billy's way, he scooped it up and actually passed it to a teammate. The entire Brookline side, team/sidelines/parents, erupted in cheers and the game momentarily stopped. It was as though a game winning goal had been scored in a championship game! Of course the Dedham folks thought we were nuts. This was one of the most gratifying moments for our program.
We hope that you enjoy our program in the spirit for which it was created.