Scott Reddinger’s goals were pretty simple when he started Lockport Community Lacrosse Day in 2012.
How does he excite people about lacrosse? How does he recruit kids to want to play? How does he showcase the sport to the community?
Where Reddinger’s from, Baldwinsville, about 15 miles north of Syracuse, lacrosse is huge. Sometimes even bigger than baseball.
But when he started coaching the boys team at Lockport in 2010, four years after his Division I playing career ended at Canisius College, the school’s lacrosse program was still in its relative infancy. The Lions joined Section VI in boys and girls lacrosse in 2006 after being offered at the school as a club.
“When I came out here I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be coaching a varsity team my second year teaching,” Reddinger said on April 29 at the sixth annual event. “But when I came out, it was a new program. So after a little bit we said, ‘hey let’s try this day.’
“No one in Western New York does this, from my understanding. And it really was that way of showcasing to the youth here what lacrosse is, to get people excited and to jump-start our summer league programs.”
It’s safe to say he’s accomplished that.
In previous years, with nice weather, the event has drawn more than 500 players and fans to watch all six boys and girls varsity, junior varsity and modified teams compete at Lockport High School.
“All of our teams all play away all at the same time,” Reddinger said. “So if I’m home, the girls are away. So my kids never get to see them play. If my team’s home, my JV team’s away, so they’re never in the same spot. It’s a cool way to showcase that.”
Along with the growth has come a fair share of struggles, though.
“One of the biggest hurdles we overcame a few years ago was not having a modified team,” Reddinger said. “So getting those kids interested over at our junior high school and then coming up was critical for us. We’re starting to see that growth with those modified kids, and we’ll reap those rewards in the next few years hopefully.”
Lockport has already had years of success when it comes to developing basketball, volleyball and track and field athletes, most notably. Giving students the opportunity to start playing lacrosse at a younger age should draw more students to the sport and help them develop their skills as well.
“Lockport has very good athletes. We’ve got great sports programs here for youth already,” Reddinger said. “I think it’s hard to yank kids away from those programs early on. When parents have had their kids playing soccer from the time they were three, or they’re playing baseball from the time they’re six or seven, it’s hard to pull them away.”
If kids are deeply ingrained in one sport, that might not leave enough money in their family’s budget to have them participate in another.
“One of the things that we struggle with up here in Lockport sometimes is some of the poverty that our kids are stricken with, so we’ve always tried to find ways to get them involved,” Reddinger said. “But lacrosse can be an expensive sport at times, especially with all the required gear, so we’re at a disadvantage there.
“But right now we’re getting ready to have our second annual alumni game. We’re starting to see kids coming back. We’re starting to see older brothers passing on sticks to younger brothers, to cousins, and we know that it’s going to take time. It’s not an over-the-night process. It’s going to have to be 20 or 30 years.”
Lockport Community Lacrosse Day is certainly a fundraiser for the school’s programs to help offset some of those costs, but it’s also a date that players circle on their schedules at the beginning of the season.
“We tell our kids to come out, have fun and enjoy it,” Reddinger said. “And they look forward to it every year. In the case of today, I think a lot of our teams lost. These losses are much more disappointing to them because of the day. It’s something that they just gravitate to and look for.”
The event itself has been a win for the lacrosse program, but it hasn’t translated to much success on the field as of yet. The best record the boys team has had in Reddinger’s tenure was 6-11 in 2010. The Lady Lions went 9-6 in 2013, but have had a losing record every other season.
Still, aside from wins and losses, Reddinger’s witnessed the success this event has had on his program firsthand. Now he’s waiting for the day when his coaching counterparts create their own spin on his idea.
“I’d love to see other places do it,” Reddinger said. “Section VI lacrosse coaches always talk about Western New York lacrosse and growing Western New York lacrosse. Everything that we do is about growing the sport in our area and drawing awareness to it.
“I hope that somebody takes this idea and says, ‘hey coach, we love your idea. What did you do? How did you do it? How does it work scheduling-wise? We’d love to run the same thing.’ I hope someone runs with it at some point.”