By Elissa Freed
Cass Tech sophomore Amir Allen helped bring the first-ever lacrosse team to the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
Allen, who had played lacrosse before, approached vice principal Todd Henderson and principal Lisa Phillips about starting a team. He wanted to start a program at Cass Tech, making it the only public school in the city of Detroit with a lacrosse program.
Henderson coached lacrosse before, at Avondale High School in Rochester Hills, so he knew the value of the sport and how fun it is.
Allen brought representatives from Detroit Youth Lacrosse, an organization created by the Chandler Park Conservancy to introduce elementary and middle school students to the game. They met with Henderson to create a proposal, help the school start up the program, and help find people who could help coach our team, which was one of the most important things he needed.
Henderson joked that he faced three challenges on the quest to bring lacrosse to Cass Tech: “Money, money, and money.”
“We didn’t have any funds to start the program so we had to find a way to get equipment for our players,” he said. “We did used equipment drives, and other local programs had kids donate their used equipment.
“We needed sticks, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves. In addition, goals. Then we also applied for a grant from U.S. Lacrosse, and they gave us a grant, which helped go towards buying helmets for the team. We also had another donor who helped us buy our remaining equipment and uniforms.”
Another big challenge was drawing in athletes to a sport nobody played before.
“One of the biggest challenges is when athletes are really good at one sport, they can be hesitant to try another sport where they’re not going to be as skilled at first,” he said. “But we have a lot of guys who have jumped in, joined and were willing to take a risk, and they’re having a blast playing lacrosse.”
The lacrosse team started the recruitment process with Learn to Play Lacrosse Clinics, putting up fliers and making announcements for students to come and try.
The lacrosse coach is Liam McEllroy, who coaches for Detroit Youth Lacrosse. McEllroy, known to the players as Coach Mac, is a former high school lacrosse player.
Cass Tech has two players with previous lacrosse experience. To teach novice players, you have to first put a stick in their hands and start teaching how to catch and throw, to learn how to move with the ball, and to dodge and shoot.
Thus far the team has won two games out of six played, which Henderson said is a huge accomplishment. The team’s goals for this year are to get out, to compete and to get better, and to recruit more members for the team.
One of their home games was at Chandler Park High School in Harper Woods, but most were on the road at other schools.
The lacrosse team’s goal for the 2019-2020 school year is to keep growing and increase its competitiveness. Recently, the school implemented a girls’ lacrosse club. Several girls have shown interest and are coming to the lacrosse clinics, learning how to play and hoping to be on a competitive team.