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Lacrosse to AAHS?

Michelle Flaten

Discussion has started among Alexandria school district faculty about the possibility of adding boys and girls lacrosse programs in the future.

The sport, which takes place in the spring for both boys and girls, is growing in Minnesota in the past few years and now has over 80 schools participating, according to the Minnesota State High School League website.

"The sport of lacrosse in Minnesota has grown in popularity over the last, I'd say, at least five years, even beyond that," Alexandria Area High School Activities Director Robert Brakke said. "And so there are some teams in our conference that now compete in lacrosse, and I think that momentum has come to our town a little bit, and I think people want to grow that."

The charge for lacrosse in Alexandria is being led by Michelle Flaten, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Discovery Middle School. After growing up in Moorhead, Flaten moved to Washington for college and lived there for 14 years. During her time there, she played club lacrosse at college and coached girls lacrosse for a high school team.

She would love to see Alexandria as one of the schools that offers the sport in the spring.

"We think it's definitely possible," she said. "I think there's enough interest from students and from parents. I think also the growth of lacrosse down by Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Sartell, even the Fargo-Moorhead area, it's kind of only a matter of time before it gets here."

While lacrosse programs may be in the future locally, there are several necessary steps that need to be in place to make it happen. Flaten took the first this past summer with a small camp for boys and girls in grades 4-8.

"We had pretty regularly about 24 kids, and it was pretty short notice that we did this," said Flaten. "And the kids liked it. They seemed to enjoy it. I think it would do very well."

One of the pressing obstacles in making this a reality is the lack of someone at the helm of the potential boys program, Flaten said. She hopes there is someone in the area with an interest in coaching lacrosse who would be willing to take on the challenge of a new program, since she would be busy on the girls side.

The process is in its very beginning stages. Brakke said there is nothing yet in the works at the school district and, financially, new activities are "always a hurdle," but Flaxen and others involved are taking baby steps toward seeing if it's feasible in the future.

"We actually had some kids sign up that wanted to be a part of a lacrosse club," Brakke said. "I don't know if anything happened with that, but there's definitely a lot of kids interested. When it comes to actually going out for the sports, I don't know what the numbers would look like at all yet. I think what they're trying to do is get that interest in that middle level so we can grow it into a high school program eventually, which obviously I think is a great way to do it."

Brakke and Flaten both agree that boys and girls programs should both be added at the same time to allow for strength in numbers for fundraising and to comply with Title IX rules.

The extent of most students' exposure to the sport is from lacrosse units in phy-ed class and an intramural lacrosse opportunity that Flaten said hasn't garnered much interest. Once a boys coach is in place, her plan is simply to get the word out to students who might be interested in participating. The interest gauged at that point will determine just how fast a track this process is on. The program may be a couple years away, or it could be 5-10 years away if it does come to fruition at all.

"This is something that's kind of on the backburner," Flaten said. "We'd like to see where it would go and if it can go anywhere."