Sasha Chunchukov races up the field for the Lady Knights lacrosse team.FILE PHOTO

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) announced in December that the sport of lacrosse would become a TSSAA sanctioned sport beginning in the next classification cycle.

Set for the 2021-2022 season, many schools across the state including Sumner County have already began the process of reaching out to students and parents to gauge interest in the sport and to see if it would be beneficial for certain schools to field a team.

“This is very good for the sport of lacrosse,” Pope John Paul II lacrosse coach Bob Paige told Main Street Preps. “Our program here at JPII is well-supported and well-funded and I hope that schools across Sumner County follow because lacrosse is a great sport that teaches many life lessons.

“For the public schools in Sumner County, the resources allocated to them should greatly increase as these schools embrace the sport.”

Currently, JPII is the only school in Sumner County that supports both girls’ and boys’ lacrosse.

The Knights play in the Private 2 league, which is for schools that have an enrollment of 650 kids or fewer. The Knights currently play only Williamson County public schools.

“I think this is going to be a great thing for our county,” JPII Athletic Director John Dempsey said. “I would love to play other schools in our county and I think it would make for a great rivalry game; it is always fun to play against kids that you know.”

One of the main issues facing schools with the addition of lacrosse as a team sport in Sumner County is logistical. Where will teams play? Where will teams practice? Who will fund the equipment? The sport is not a cheap put-together by any means.

The first thing needed would be facilities. It only makes sense that the county fund a facility that all schools can use.

There is already a county-wide track that is used and a county-wide rugby field that is in the process of being built, so why can’t the county build a lacrosse field?

In reality, a 110-yard long playing field that stretches 60 yards wide is needed for a lacrosse field. So, basically another football field that can be widened by just five yards would need to be constructed.

There are plenty of playing surfaces that fit that description across the county – mainly Drakes Creek Park and Memorial Park -- both located in Hendersonville.

If you want to keep the park in Gallatin, both Triple Creek and Municipal Park are options to explore as well.

“All of our home games are played right here at Memorial Park in Hendersonville,” Hendersonville Spartans club president Greg Mitchell said. “It’s moderately a regulation size for high school lacrosse and the city has worked wonders with us to fit high school lacrosse games on these fields and that has worked well for us.”

The Spartans have been around for the last 12 years in Sumner County, pulling student athletes from all over the county and even Robertson County.

“Historically, we have drawn kids from Hendersonville, Beech, Station Camp, Merrol Hyde, White House, Gallatin and even Robertson County,” Mitchell added. “We have averaged over the last several years anywhere between 20-30 kids on both the girls’ and boys’ side.”

Sumner County has been very active in recognizing sports that may or may not be as widely popular, but the sport of lacrosse is fast-growing and it is only a matter of time before parents and kids start asking when and where they can practice and play.

“In my eight years being involved with the boys’ teams, every year we are getting families that are relocating to Sumner County from other states that have the sport of lacrosse and their kids want to play,” Mitchell said.

“This also applies to our middle schools as well. I get emails weekly from parents of kids anywhere from second to fourth grade that relocate and have interest in the sport. There is no down that when this becomes school-based it will grow based on the interest we have from families moving here.”

Once lacrosse becomes school-based, many feel that the Hendersonville Spartans club team will dissolve, but Mitchell isn’t worried about that, saying he expects the teams to not only continue, but to excel.

“We don’t anticipate the boys’ teams from stopping because we have the middle school team,” he added. “We have a vision for that to continue for training and introductory resource for those that want to play in high school.

“When it does become school-based that will not be a sad day for us. We are more interested in the growth of the sport across the state. That has been the main emphasis being the leaders that have helped push the TSSAA to sanction the sport.

“We want to give the sport a bigger platform through the establishment of school-based teams. It will be good for our players to have the option to play for their respective schools.”

Lacrosse is played during the spring season, and Mitchell says that he has no doubt that city leaders will work diligently to get all the logistical problems resolved in a timely matter.

“In all my years involved with the Spartans, we have enjoyed tremendous support from the city of Hendersonville,” he said. “The city has supported our efforts to practice and accommodate what we needed to continue the sport. There is no doubt in my mind that they will continue supporting the sport as they have in the past.”

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