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Lacrosse finds a home in Hawaii

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    Brent Tonaki, 13, took a shot on goal during a lacrosse scrimmage last month at Kakaako Gateway Park.

The oldest known sport in North America — and one of the fastest-growing recreational activities — has found the perfect home across the Pacific.


>> U.S. Lacrosse, Hawaii chapter:
>> Aloha Youth Lacrosse Association: Alohalax.como

Lacrosse is being played here year-round, with leagues for both youths and adults. It combines elements of basketball, football and soccer, and has become a popular offseason alternative for athletes from those three sports.

No experience? No need.

Both the Hawaii chapter of U.S. Lacrosse and the Aloha Youth Lacrosse Association welcome the novice and the curious.

"It’s just a great sport," said Kingsley Wong, an AYLA coach. "It uses upper-body skills and lower-body skills, combines skills used in football, basketball and soccer.

"At some point in the game, every kid touches the ball. We always say everyone is a quarterback at some point in the game. It’s why we love it."

Wong learned about it from his son, who was introduced to it on the mainland.

"He was looking for something different and found lacrosse," Wong said. "It’s known as an East Coast sport, but it’s being played all over.

"In Hawaii, we have about 400 (youth) players, with teams in Mililani, Windward and town. We have some high school teams and we’re making a push for it to be in the ILH (Interscholastic League of Honolulu). It’s a fun sport and I like the history behind it."

Lacrosse originated with Native American tribes, most notably the Huron and Iroquois, in what is now the northeastern part of the United States and southeastern part of Canada. Played perhaps as early as the 12th century, it was often part of religious ritual as well as used to prepare for war.

Steve Blenn, also an AYLA coach, grew up playing lacrosse in Massachusetts.

"I like that it’s physical and fun," he said. "It’s a fast-paced game with a high level of running. Nothing else matches it.

"Right now, the (AYLA) is fairly new and we try to accommodate all skill levels and sizes. We’re a developmental league. We want the kids to learn the sport and have fun. It’s one of those sports that is addictive."

"We’re all about the positive," AYLA president Rudie Schaefer said. "There’s so much potential for the sport. You don’t have to play it all your life to start.

"The kids like the light body armor. It’s like being a warrior out there, wearing a helmet. And you get to have a stick. Their eyes light up when they ask, ‘You mean I get to hit them, too?’ "

The rules and requirements for boys and girls are different. Boys wear padding, while girls do not, since the women’s game allows only limited contact.

The equipment cost is about $300 for boys (stick, padding, helmet, gloves) and $100 for girls (stick and goggles).

The youth season runs March through May.

The Hawaii Men’s Lacrosse Club was established in 1989. Matches are each Sunday during the spring, summer and fall seasons, and on the first Sunday of the month during winter.

The Wahine Lacrosse Club formed in 2000. Both the men’s and women’s teams play and practice primarily at Kapiolani Park, where the 20th annual Hawaii Lacrosse Invitational is scheduled for Oct. 29-31.


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