Pleasanton Lacrosse Club's new junior varsity team is up and running, in short, because one Lax-loving dad from Castro Valley happened to come to town three years ago to run errrands.
“One weekend, I headed over the hill, probably to get something at Home Depot or get a shake at In-and-Out Burger or something, and I stumbled upon a Pleasanton lacrosse league registration sign,” said Dave Adams, Castro Valley resident, coach and founder of team Lightning.
Lightning, for boys in grades nine, 10 and 11, is a junior varsity-level team and the newest addition to the popular Pleasanton Lacrosse Club (PLC). With 24 players, Lightning just finished its first season.
“The team is for kids who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t play with a high school,” said Adams. His son's high school in Castro Valley lacks lacrosse.
Lax-playing boys and girls of Pleasanton have, at their disposal, the boys' PLC, the Pleasanton Girls Lacrosse Club, plus heavily supported junior varsity and varsity teams at both Amador Valley and Foothill high schools.
But that's not the case for some surrounding communities, such as Castro Valley, where there is no lacrosse — the dilemma facing Michael Adams, 15, who played club lacrosse in Pleasanton as a middle-schooler.
But entering Castro Valley High School this year as freshman, Michael, and his lax-playing pals, were out of playing options until Adams stepped up and launched Lightning.
“I knew he’d do something about it,” said CVHS freshman Patrick Lavin, 15, a Lightning defender. "He’s a can-do kind-of-guy.”
PLC board member Rory Manley, a founding father of Pleasanton lacrosse and coach at Amador Valley, said tapping Adams to launch the new PLC team was a no-brainer.
“David has the insight, the passion, and the wisdom,” said Manley, plus years of experience.
Adams grew up playing in his home state of Maryland and for his alma mater Stanford University.
Adams coached his kids' Castro Valley soccer teams, until the fateful weekend three years ago when he discovered, by happenstance, that his favorite sport was flourishing one town away.
After being introduced to Manley and Pleasanton lacrosse, Adams jumped in, bought lacrosse sticks for his son and a friend, and coached Pleasanton league teams for the next two years for 7th- and 8th-grade boys.
While it sometimes seems “new” to Californians, lacrosse is actually the national summer sport of Canada, practically an East Coast tradition, and has roots dating back to Native Americans, who played with sticks made of leather and a rock for a ball.
Lacrosse ranks as the nation’s fastest-growing sport, with high school participants more than doubling in a decade, from 74,000 in 2000 to 160,000 in 2010, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Going back two decades, that growth is more than 500 percent, according to the NFHS.
In California, the sport has shown serious growth, with high school participation tripling since 2002 when 4,000 boys and girls played on school teams, to more than 12,000 statewide in 2010, NFHS data shows.
But the lacrosse boom is not uniform throughout the East Bay.
In fact, there is a wide swath where no lacrosse exists that runs from San Leandro south to Union City, including Hayward, San Lorenzo and Castro Valley, according to the National California Junior Lacrosse Association, the regional umbrella group. An NCJLA map of leagues and teams shows the void.
That bald spot would actually extend south to nearly Campbell, except a new league sprang up last year in Fremont.
The Fremont Spartans Lacrosse Club is tapping youth from Fremont, Newark and Union City. Organizers hope to have a high school-level club team in place next year, and are offering summer clinics with the city’s parks and recreation department for boys and girls ages 5 through 18 years old.
A team like PLC's Lightning is key to expanding playing opportunities for regional teens.
"My son and his friends were loving the game, wanting to play a sport in high school, but were out of options within the PLC (as) it ended at U15," Adams said. "Rory encouraged me to start a club team."
“They all loved it,” he said of his players, who hail from Pleasanton, Castro Valley, San Ramon, Danville and Orinda.
Lightning, meanwhile, did not have the winningest of seasons in its debut, but Adams said that was OK and expected as it was a novice team going up against more experienced contenders.
“Year one is always a bit ugly to watch,” he said. “But by year two, the game develops ‘flow.’”
Since some players are new recruits, Adams teaches what he calls a skill-set, six-pack:
(3) throw right-handed;
(4) throw left-handed;
(5) throw standing still;
and (6) throw on the run.
“Once you get that,” Adams explained, “which can be mastered with a stick, ball, a wall and ideally a friend or two, you are set.”
Registration for summer league play — including the new JV level — is underway at the PLC web site at www.pleasantonlacrosse.com