As coach of the first public-school lacrosse team in Northern Virginia, W.T. Woodson's Jim Daly arranges transportation, schedules opponents, locates fields, recruits assistants (or goes without) and performs all the other duties usually undertaken by the athletic director.
W.T. Woodson, Lake Braddock and West Springfueld now have the only public-school lacrosse squads in suburban Virginia. They are considered clubs, and, therefore, are not subsidized by the schools. Daly, Lake Braddock's Bud Mayo and Howie Thomas of West Springfield would like to change that status.
Daly played the game while growing up in Annapolis and as a student at the University of Maryland. He teaches at Woodson during the day and in Richmond two nights a week. Weekends, he has classes to attend. He is not paid.
"Lacrose requires speed, stamina, quickness, agility and coordination, all the skills that are the essence of sport, said Daly. "And it is a sport for thinking. The action is fast-paced and impromptu. It requires a mature mind."
Yet, the high school version of the sport has not attained varsity status in Virginia.
"The athletic directors just don't want to spend the money," said Daly. "Besides, its another activity for them to undertake. Sometimes I think they're more concerned about themselves than about the community."
"Lacrose tears up field worse than any sport," said Woodson athletic director Bill Caudell. "The community can get real upset if you tear up the football field. And with 14 spring sports, where else can you put them?"
Lake Braddock athletic director Bob Carson added, "We're practicing right on top of each other right now; it's unreal. When the parents come to me and say they want varsity lacrosse, I tell them to get on the school board to buy us 10 or 12 acers. Then I'll show them what I can do."
And Lacrosse is expensive. From helmet to shoes, it costs at least $100 to equip a player. Busing is $50 a trip for the visitors, while the home team pays $50 for officials.
But Caudell hopes to draw his fellow athletic directors out of their financial shells.
"Lacrosse can be a money-making program and I'm out to prove that this year," he said. "I'm keeping a separate budget and were going to at least break even. Then I can show my budget to the other schools.'
Detractors of lacrose cite inexperienced coaches, a limited number of players, lack of community interest and the possibility that adding another sport would detract from existing programs.
The only Northern Virginia youth program (outside of private schools) is conducted by the Braddock Road Boys Club, where Chick Heaton is the lacrosse commissioner.
"We're fielding two teams for kids in fifth through 10th grades," he said. "We're received quite a bit of community support, basically because they're fascinated by the game," he said.
"We limit our teams to about 25 boys each but could easily go over 30. Right now, we have a waiting list. With more fields and coaches, we could add seniors and girls squads,"
Despite the lack of feedder systems, coach Mayo sees no problem with attracting players at Lake Braddock. "It's amazing," he said. "I have 67 kids that pay $75 out of their own pockets for dues, sticks, and physicals. If we were a financially subsidized sport, I'm convinced we'd get 150 kids out."
Woodson cocaptains Mike Mahoney and Rob Oliver are representative of recruits to the game.
"I started late in my eighth-grade year,' recalled Mahoney. "It was totally different from any other game I'd ever played. If you just show someone the game, the combination of contact and finesse, he'll love it."
Oliver entered W.T. Woodson intent on playing football. And last season, he gained more than 1,000 yards at fullback. He was a late lacrosse convert.
"My freshman spring, I went out for soccer. Sophomore year I treied track, but I found that boring. Three of my neighbors were always throwing a lacrosse ball around, so I joined in. It's a great sport, full of continous action and plenty of contact."
"Students need good athletic opportunities," argued Daly, "and they will grasp at new chances."
Mayo said "there is an interest in lacrosse. We have to reinforce that interest."
Woodson and Lake Braddock have strong clubs and are probably ready to go varsity.
But before any one school can make that step, others must be ready to join in. Lake Braddock's Carson explained, "We could say it was a varsity sport, but we couldn't treat it like the others. We need to play schools within our own district and play for championships. I don't want to schedule all private schools."