It’s a conversation that seems to creep up from every year: When will the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recognize lacrosse as a school sport?
After all, participation in the sport seems to be growing. So what’s the holdup?
“The obstacles we’ve heard are essentially concerns about field space, trained coaches and officials, and then just the dollars and cents of how to fund it,” said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA.
Fair enough. But this shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.
“At our league meeting and our annual coaches meeting, they indicated the WIAA was looking to add another sport in 2018,” said Gig Harbor lacrosse coach Marc Kemp. “They had their eye on lacrosse. … The reality is, if you look nationwide, it’s just a matter of time before lacrosse is a sanctioned sport here. It will sort itself out. It’s booming across the country, various universities are adding it. Women’s programs are adding it all the time.”
But it’s not that simple, according to Gig Harbor High School athletic director Bob Werner. The biggest obstacle with adding lacrosse is Title IX.
“By law, we can’t bring on another boys sport,” Werner said. “We have to bring on a female sport. We let the lacrosse folks know that.”
So Gig Harbor and Peninsula would likely have to bring girls lacrosse on board first. But the girls lacrosse program in Gig Harbor isn’t big enough yet to support two separate teams at both high schools. Even if the schools brought the girls programs on first, it would still be an uphill battle to bring the boys on board.
“We have 404 girls (participating in sports) and 514 boys,” Werner said. “If we bring on any sport, we have to close that gap. Bringing both boys and girls lacrosse doesn’t solve that.”
That’s the No. 1 issue at play here. So why doesn’t the school just get more girls to play sports? Again, not that simple.
“I don’t have a good solution for it,” Werner said. “How do we add more girls programs? It’s a law, it’s pretty clear.”
They’ll likely need to get creative. The district sends out a survey every couple years, asking what sports parents would like to see offered that aren’t currently. Among the responses Werner has seen is badminton. Whatever the schools decide to do, closing the gap for Title IX is the biggest obstacle to adding lacrosse.
The last time the WIAA discussed lacrosse a few years ago, the sheer number of spring sports was a major talking point.
“The issue of financial resources and impact on other sports that would be going on, such as baseball, softball, soccer, track and field,” Colbrese said.
If the schools are able to clear the Title IX hurdles at some point in the future, Werner would like to see it added as a winter sport.
“It would shift problems around, we’d have to go until 8 at night (on the fields),” Werner said. “It would bump community users. We’ve been working through it. … spring time is the worst time to offer a sport.”
Kemp recognizes the Title IX issue, and knows the girls lacrosse program will have to grow in Gig Harbor before anything can happen with the boys.
“From what I understand, it’s critical,” Kemp said. “Until that happens, we won’t get the boys teams in. Girls lacrosse is an awesome sport so I’m all for it.”