Players get to the field just in time for the violet haze of twilight to blanket the sky. The lights at Helen McCall Park sleepily blink to life and for the next sixty minutes, it’s war, or more accurately, the little brother of war.
This is lacrosse. Sixty minutes, ten players per team, one objective: to win.
When I first heard of 30A Lacrosse from a local middle school student, who wagered it was the most challenging sport to play, I wasn’t aware South Walton had a lacrosse club. To the untrained eye, lacrosse, with its helmets, sticks, and narrow goals, shares a kinship with hockey, had hockey been birthed in the summer heat. Indeed there is an indoor version of lacrosse known as box lacrosse that is colloquially termed “hockey without ice.” Field lacrosse, which is played in Southern states, has its roots in Native American stick-ball games spanning back centuries, when it earned the moniker “the little brother of war” because it was often used to resolve conflicts between tribes.
With newly established high school teams, and 14U, 12U, and 10U club teams, 30A Lacrosse Founder Jamie Hansen took a minute to explain the sport’s success in South Walton.
30AKCM: What sparked your interest in lacrosse?
JH: My son started playing [when we lived in Colorado] and one of the dads decided to start a lacrosse league for beginners. We had a good mix of experienced and beginning [players], and I fell in love with the sport. Not only was it fun to watch, it was even more fun to play.
30AKCM: After moving to South Walton in 2014, what led you to start 30A Lacrosse?
JH: We started the 30A Lacrosse Club in the summer of 2015. Another dad [and I] from the Destin Rockets decided to give it a go because many of the kids in South Walton wanted to play, but their parents did not want to drive into Destin for the practices all the time. Not to mention, South Walton was missing out on a great spring sport…I knew with the athletes in Walton County, lacrosse would be a very successful addition.
30AKCM: What was the initial reaction?
JH: The sport is so unknown to this area that some people actually thought it was cricket. I had to assist nearly everyone who registered with equipment and the rules of the game. However, once their kids played, and they got to see how exciting the game [was], the parents and kids loved it. The club did not take off right away, but we did double in size in just one year.
30AKCM: What was that first year like?
JH: The first summer, we had only boys showing up to our shoot-arounds and clinics. We were not able to get the girls’ program off the ground. We would have a couple girls show up and then never see them again. In the spring of 2016, we had just 20 boys registered, so we rolled back in with the Destin Rockets for the spring season.
30AKCM: How did you gain momentum for a sport so few people recognized?
JH: The response from the kids was overwhelmingly positive, so I kept at it, and ran clinics all summer, and had free shoot-arounds. This past fall we ran a Fall Ball league and had 62 kids registered. The 30A Club played in their first-ever tournament. It was exciting to see! Almost every one of those kids came back and registered for the spring season. We will have our own teams this spring, and I have nine girls registered right now.
30AKCM: How long does the season last?
JH: The season in Florida runs from January through April. In the northern states, it starts in February and ends in May. We try not to play year-round because kids need to go out there and play other sports…Once April comes around, our season ends and we take a few months off. I will run some shoot-arounds for fun, and possibly a clinic or two in the summer, but nothing more. In the fall, we do a short four-week Fall Ball season followed by a seven-versus-seven tournament. Fall is a great time for beginners to come out and give it a try because we keep it low-cost.
30AKCM: What is the cost to play?
JH: This year, spring registration [was] $199; we run Fall Ball for $50.
30AKCM: What is the travel range for club games?
JH: This year, our farthest trip is to Mobile, Alabama, [and] I imagine a trip to Tallahassee is in our future as the club grows.
30AKCM: Do you expect to see lacrosse’s popularity expand along 30A?
JH: I saw the enormous growth of lacrosse in Colorado. When my son started playing in second grade, only a few of the high schools had lacrosse. When we left Denver in 2014, every high school had lacrosse, there were youth organizations everywhere, and the town had two professional lacrosse teams—the Denver Outlaws and Colorado Mammoth… Next year, we are going to see real growth in this county because there are now two high schools with lacrosse teams, Seacoast and South Walton.
30AKCM: Do kids have a future in lacrosse beyond club teams?
JH: I talk to college coaches at least once a week. Just this week I was contacted by a…university lacrosse coach. She wanted a copy of the schedule so she could come see a game. All you have to do is a Google search for “new college lacrosse” programs and check out the website called “The Growth Blog.” The person who runs the site does a great job keeping up with new programs.
30AKCM: Wow, you talk to recruiters once a week? What are they looking for in an athlete?
JH: When I talk to these coaches, they all tell me the same thing: they want a kid who has contacted them to play lacrosse at their school. A motivated kid who reaches out to them is much more intriguing than a coach calling them. Ultimately, the students control their own destiny. If they like the kid enough, they will call me and ask me about their on-the-field habits and practice habits.
30AKCM: Where can we catch a 30A Lacrosse game?
JH: There will be a tournament in Destin at Morgans Sports Center on April 8th and 9th. Our 30A club teams will be participating in that tournament.
Want to know more about the sport the Iroquois nations called “the Creator’s game?” Follow 30A Lacrosse Club at facebook.com/30ALacrosseClub, or visit www.eclightning.com.