Lacrosse still waiting to become state sanctioned sport

Three times in the past decade, members of the Washington lacrosse community have tried to get the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) to recognize the sport and add it to the sanctioned sports list. Once again the efforts, proposed this time during the spring Representative Assembly meeting for the WIAA, failed.

The sport of lacrosse must be added through amendments to the WIAA handbook. If each of the two required amendments had passed, lacrosse would have joined the list of activities sanctioned by the WIAA for high school and middle schools. Yet they failed. This means that Washington club teams will continue to run things as they have done in the past. Attempts to get the sport added were turned down by the WIAA Rep. Assembly in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

"Obviously, we're disappointed in the denial," said Vern Smith, president of the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association. "Boys high school lacrosse is growing by five to 10 teams a year, so we're in double digit growth and every year another state adds it as a sanctioned sport, so it's just question of time."

The amendments, one for boys lacrosse and one for girls lacrosse, had been proposed by Selah, Lakeside, Mercer Island, Issaquah, Bethel, Seattle Prep and Heritage high schools.

The proposed amendment to add boys lacrosse died on the floor after nobody in the group moved to motion. The girls lacrosse amendment was put forward for discussion, eventually failing 8-44 with one abstention.

“As educators, parents and supporters of high school sports in Washington state, we are disappointed in the WIAA for not recognizing the demand for lacrosse among students and the chance to provide girls and boys with participation opportunities,” said Gail Loveland, president of the Washington state chapter of U.S. Lacrosse.

Some of the discussion surrounding the girls lacrosse amendment included concern that if it did pass with small private schools that choose not to offer the sport, which is allowable under state rules, they would lose potential athletes for other spring sports to larger public schools that do offer lacrosse.

A representative from the Bainbridge School District said approving the girls' amendment could unintentionally place more financial pressure on schools to offer the sport, even though it isn't required to, which could ultimately take funding away from areas where there may not be as much community support. Because lacrosse has been successful as a club sport, they reasoned, pulling funding from another area where support isn't as widespread would limit student choices.

“With students from over 100 WIAA member schools now playing lacrosse, the sanctioning of lacrosse in Washington state is inevitable and a natural progression for the sport – double digit growth in six of the last eight years is too strong to ignore,” said Loveland. “We are looking forward to working with WIAA in future efforts to sanction the sport.”

Smith echoed those statements, saying that while today's outcome was disappointing, they aren't giving up.

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