BANGOR, Maine — Gayle Middleton is an enthusiastic proponent of lacrosse, youth lacrosse in particular.
Rich Trott is more reserved but no less eager to see Eastern Maine Youth Lacrosse blossom this year.
While Middleton, her husband, Jeff Silverstein, and Trott have most of the preliminary work under control, there is one major piece remaining.
“I’m excited,” Middleton said earlier this week. “Now we just need kids.
“We’re throwing a party and we just need people to come.”
While technically not a party, the three think it’s a fun sport.
Lacrosse is played with 10 players on a side with three attackers, three midfielders and three defenders and a goalie. The field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide, and the goal is similar to a soccer goal but 6 feet high and only 6 feet wide.
Players use webbed sticks to toss a hard rubber ball to each other until they find an opening, then try to whip the ball past the goalie, who has more padding and a stick with more webbing.
“I’ve played all the sports and lacrosse has little pieces of all the sports,” said Trott, whose father, Dick, was a youth sports coach in Brewer for many years. “Lots of the plays are like basketball, the field is like soccer, a little rough like football …. Any kid who has any athletic pursuits will like lacrosse.”
For interested boys and girls from grades three through eight (or ninth grade if not yet 15 as of Aug. 1, 2011), it all starts with free skills clinics open to all youths and registration from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 14-15, at the James F. Doughty School gym on Fifth Street in Bangor.
“When they come, the kids can go to the skills clinics while their parents ask questions,” said Middleton.
There is no restriction on where the players can come from, according to Middleton.
“If they’re willing to [make the] drive, we’ll take them,” she said.
For those who decide to register, it will cost $75 for the season — $25 at the time of registration to enroll the child in U.S. Lacrosse (a requirement for insurance purposes) and the remainder before the opening game.
Trott believes they’ll get the players, who will be split into three age-group levels (grades 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8).
“Once they show up, it’s going happen,” he said. “They’ll be hooked immediately.”
Practices will start indoors in March before moving outside as soon as weather permits. Games, usually two on Saturdays, against teams from central and southern Maine will start in late April and continue to mid-June. Home games will be played at the Union Street Athletic Complex.
The Silverstein, Middleton and Trott were hooked in last year after the previous coach accepted a new job last spring and moved away. The parents knew Silverstein had helped out and they asked him to coach. The couple knew it would be more work than that.
“Somebody has to come up with finding games, figuring out insurance, get fields, communicate with people,” said Middleton. “We knew we knew how to do it.”
That’s how she became head of Eastern Maine Youth Lacrosse.
Trott, a former lacrosse player who had also helped before, heard what they were doing and joined them.
“So Rich became coach, which was great, and my husband got to help, which he enjoys more than coaching,” said Middleton with a laugh.
The three quickly put together a program, collected enough players for a grades 7-8 boys team and scheduled games. About 25 boys took part, 15 of them playing regularly on the team, and the others — fifth- and sixth-graders — practicing.
“We never got critical mass of any other age group,” said Middleton, “so we only scheduled that [grades] 7-8 team, but those fifth- and sixth-graders showed up every week for practice.”
It’s that attraction to lacrosse that they hope to find in their two days of clinics and registration. They also will be available to register players during two days of clinics conducted by Husson University on Feb. 20-21.
The Husson connection is a key one for Eastern Maine Youth Lacrosse.
“It’s really helpful that Tim [Murphy, Husson coach] has agreed to hold coaching clinics,” said Middleton, who noted that the group has used Husson’s Boucher Field for practices if no one else is using it.
Murphy believes some members of the men’s and women’s teams will volunteer as assistants.
Just as helpful is that Husson donated equipment — helmets, gloves, sticks and pads — to the club. Husson’s gear will fit older boys and girls and supplements the equipment (20 sets each for young boys and girls plus two goalies) that EMYL acquired through a grant from US Lacrosse.
“From a numbers standpoint, I can’t tell you how important it was,” said Trott. “… For parents to justify paying a couple hundred dollars for equipment for a sport their kid may not like or pursue is a pretty big obstacle, in our minds.”
Further pursuit may be the biggest challenge since the closest high school teams are Camden Hills in Rockport and Messalonskee in Oakland.
Ezra Frost, 15, of Bangor thought last year was going to be his final one in youth lacrosse, but an age-rule change means he gets one more year.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good year,” he said. “… I don’t want it to end.”
So the ninth-grader is trying to keep the ball rolling.
“I’m trying to [create] a club team for Bangor High,” said Frost, who already has signed up players.
“[If] we have more people stirring the pot like Ezra,” said Middleton, “we’re in good shape.”
UMaine women to host event for youth girls
Adventure Girls, part of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, has set up a two-hour tour and skills session with the University of Maine women’s hockey team from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at Alfond Arena in Orono.
It’s designed for girls in grades two through six.
The Black Bears will talk about their experiences in becoming college hockey players, give a tour of Alfond Arena and then conduct an on-ice skill session.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to Jeff Silverstein as Jeff Middleton.