Youth lacrosse: Equipment loaner program brings in new players

John Jay Youth Lacrosse was able to increase the enrollment of its youngest players thanks to a new equipment loaner program the organization introduced in April.

More than $10,000 worth of equipment was loaned to 70 boys and girls in kindergarten through fourth grade this year.

The loaner program was born from a chance conversation between a JJYL board member and a prospective player’s parent in a local coffee shop.

“A mom mentioned that she was hesitant to sign her son up, because he had quit other sports. She didn’t want to invest in the costly gear, only to have it relegated to a closet,” said Frank McMahon, president of JJYL.

This sparked conversation among the JJYL board about how to help grow the game in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district, especially among the younger players.

“The board and I thought we could raise enough money to buy new gear to loan out,” said McMahon. “If the kids liked lacrosse, their parents could buy the gear at the end of the season. If not, they could return it for no charge, and we would then loan it out to someone else.”

A few phone calls later, the equipment loaner program was born. Board member Nick Daniello worked with Lacrosse Unlimited to offer discounted pricing on new gear. John Jay Youth Lacrosse, thanks to a special fund-raising effort and an anonymous donor, purchased new gear for both girls and boys in grades K-4.

Interested parents could sign-up their kids for a free fitting session. Boys got a helmet, stick, shoulder pads, arm pads, and gloves. Girls, who require less gear, got a stick and eyewear.

“In our first season, it was an overwhelming popular program,” said board member Tom Boniface, who helped oversee the distribution of the gear. “We had just seven kindergartners join us in 2015, and that number grew to 27 in 2016, with almost all of them participating in the loaner program.”

Overall the K-1 program nearly doubled from 27 kids in 2015 to 51 kids in 2016.

“We got so big we had to create two teams,” Boniface said.

Parents with kids who were new to the sport liked the idea.

“We were hesitant to invest in equipment only to have our son lose interest after the first couple of practices, so the loaner program really made the decision easy for us” said Jason Bishop, whose first-grade son Colin had never played the game before. “Now he is so hooked on the game we are buying the gear so he can practice over the summer.”

Bishop is not alone, as more than two-thirds of the players who participated in the program will purchase their equipment at a discount, thanks to the deal struck with JJYL and Lacrosse Unlimited.

Many parents cited other benefits of the program too.

“The loaner program was great because it provided our son with what he needed to get started in lacrosse. Having never played lacrosse myself, I was unsure about finding the right equipment, with the right fit and features,” said Steve Halsey, whose son Kyle is in first grade. “This program made it easy. I saw it as being no different than renting an instrument for the school orchestra. In the end, we purchased the lacrosse equipment so that he can continue to play into the fall.”

“I honestly think this type of program makes it easy for busy parents to get ramped up in any sport, rather than having to spend an extra day shopping for gear at various stores or online. Most sports send a checklist and you’re on your own,” said volunteer parent-coach, Frank Hourigan, whose son Matthew is in kindergarten.

“This program is a no-brainer for youth lacrosse,” said McMahon. “The more kids we can get out onto the field to teach the basics of the game, to have fun, and to learn the respect and discipline that comes with team sports, the better off the league, the schools, and the district will be.”

JJYL will offer the program again in 2017. Anyone who wishes to donate to the cause should contact [email protected] Donations can be monetary or gently used equipment (no helmets).

john jay youth lacrosse

The John Jay Youth Lacrosse K-1 lacrosse team practicing at Increase Miller Elementary School on June 3. Nearly two-thirds of the players on the team took advantage of the league’s equipment loaner program. — Photo by Frank Hourigan

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