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Brainerd latest Minn. school to add lacrosse, joining Duluth, Grand Rapids; Moorhead, Alexandria mulling option

In this 2015 file photo, Brainerd’s Kyler Walczak (2) gets past a Duluth defender during a Lacrosse game at the Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service

BRAINERD, Minn. — High school students will have a new varsity sport to try out this spring in Brainerd.

The Brainerd School Board approved offering lacrosse as a varsity sport for boys and girls, starting with the spring 2018 season, during a meeting Monday, Oct. 9. The club sport will now be offered as a Minnesota State High School League sport.

Charlie Campbell, activities director at Brainerd High School, said it’s doubtful the teams could play a full 13-game schedule this spring, but more than half the schedule could be filled. An MSHSL waiver lets teams with an already full schedule add an extra game with a new program, to help the new program get on its feet.

For students already involved in the sport, this change validates their participation, Campbell said. But the bigger question involves students who don’t already play lacrosse, he said.

“I’m curious to see some of the excitement that’s maybe going to start,” Campbell said. “People that aren’t aware or maybe become aware because it becomes an official, school-sanctioned sport.”

The boys lacrosse program would need about 18-20 participants for a varsity team. Figures for the girls lacrosse program would be a little higher, because girls lacrosse has more players on the field than boys lacrosse. The programs would start with a varsity team and add a junior varsity team as participation grows over time.

Participation numbers in the first year will serve as a guide for when junior varsity teams could be added, Campbell said. There may be too many players for one team, but not enough for varsity and junior varsity teams.

“I think my issue is what does participation tell us about the number of levels we can offer?” Campbell said.

Monday’s action was the result of parents and interested students asking the district about adding lacrosse as a varsity sport, Campbell said, and the district responding to that interest and feedback.

“It’s a really neat day, to be able to say we’re expanding our programming,” Campbell said. “And not just to expand our programming, but to do it in a way that people are asking for it to be expanded.”

In October 2016, Rocori High School announced it would be moving from club lacrosse to offering lacrosse as an MSHSL activity, according to a memo from Campbell. Grand Rapids High School and Duluth have made the same transition. Moorhead High School and Alexandria Area High School are evaluating the same issue.

These changes make it tough to schedule games with other club lacrosse teams. State high school league bylaws prohibit MSHSL teams from scheduling scrimmages or games against club teams.

Cost estimate

A previous cost estimate from Campbell assumes the teams will play a full regular season schedule of 13 games and head and assistant coaches will be hired. It assumes coaching stipends of $5,233 for the head coach for the first year and $3,420 for the assistant for the first year.

Revenue could be generated from $250 per student activity fees and $6/$4 gate fees charged to spectators. Student activity fee revenue would reduce the district’s financial commitment to a little more than $10,000 per gender. Compared to other activities, lacrosse would be one of the least expensive programs in terms of net cost, which would be $371 per participant.

The estimated budget includes $250-$350 per year for equipment purchases. Past donations from the Brainerd Sports Boosters result in minimal startup equipment costs. Some of the equipment could be shared between the boys and girls teams.

The budget estimates two coaches for each program, but depending on participation and availability, one coach could suffice in the first season.

Fast lacrosse facts

Since 2010, BHS has offered boys lacrosse through the Minnesota Boys’ Scholastic Lacrosse Association. Since 2011, girls lacrosse has been offered through the Minnesota Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association.

According to the MSHSL, there are 98 MSHSL girls lacrosse teams with 3,598 participants and 103 MSHSL boys lacrosse teams with 3,535 participants. The MSHSL also noted lacrosse is the 10th most popular sport for girls nationally.

In 2017 at BHS, 26 boys in grades 8-12 participated in lacrosse, while 45 girls in grades 8-12 participated in lacrosse. Since 2013, participation numbers have steadily increased.