Earl Hall is a big believer in the power of lacrosse.
“Lacrosse does not have any physical requirements like some sports, other than a child’s ability to provide a good effort and have a big heart,” said Hall, who is president of the board of the Liverpool Youth Lacrosse Association. “Lacrosse is fast-paced, high scoring and a little physical, which kids love. There is a uniquely strong friendship that players develop among themselves and their families that is difficult to describe, but inevitably occurs no matter where you play the game. Kids will find they may one day be able to play for Liverpool High School and compete in Section III, which is arguably the best high school girls and boys lacrosse in the nation. The sport, along with good grades, will open up many educational opportunities at various universities or colleges which might not be available had the student not played lacrosse, and I’m the poster child for that.”
Hall, a former Liverpool High School lacrosse player (class of 1985), has been coaching for LYLA for seven years. Founded in 1996 by Phil and Lucy Van Horne, the Liverpool Youth Lacrosse Association aims to provide all kids in the Liverpool school district in kindergarten through eighth grade with the opportunity to learn how to play lacrosse. The league, which includes about 350 boys and girls, is associated with the Upstate Lacrosse Association (ULA), which has approximately 4,500 kids playing lacrosse. Following the ULA philosophy, LYLA is an instructional and developmental league which focuses on teaching the kids basic fundamentals of the game while making it fun.
“LYLA is powered by our volunteer coaches, most of whom played lacrosse and love teaching the game,” Hall said. “And of course the parents, who sacrifice their time and money in an effort to have their child play lacrosse.”
Former LYLA players include Team USA gold medalist Adam Fullerton, University of Florida goalie Mikey Meagher and Harvard starting midfielder Jennifer VanderMeulen.
Through its partnership with the Liverpool Central School District, LYLA is able to use district facilities to train its participants in the game. They also work with Syracuse University; the college’s lacrosse teams and coaches host the league’s annual “Gotta Believe” lacrosse clinic in the fall in memory of longtime supporter Dan Spillett, who passed away from cancer in 2005. The free clinic typically draws 125 boys and girls from Liverpool.
Right now, Hall said LYLA is preparing for its annual winter camp, which begins Sunday, March 11. The camp, which is designed for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, will go on for six weeks and takes place the Syracuse Indoor Sports Center on Hopkins Road. The boys will go from 2 to 3 p.m. while the girls will go from 3 to 4 p.m. Immediately thereafter, the outdoor season begins around the third week of April and will continue through the third week of July, with games beginning June 15 and 16 at SUNY Cortland. The Shane Lynch Memorial Opening Weekend is in memory of Liverpool High School lacrosse player and former Le Moyne College lacrosse coach Shane Lynch, who died in 1998 at the age of 28 of cancer.
Registration forms were distributed through the Liverpool school district in January, but they can also be found at the LYLA website: liverpoolyouthlacrosse.com. Walk-in registration is from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6 at Willow Field Elementary.
Hall encouraged any family with a child in the Liverpool school district interested in playing lacrosse to sign up for LYLA. He noted that he was able to secure a valuable starter package for equipment for both boys and girls this year.
“There is no other lacrosse league for Liverpool kids to join, as every youth lacrosse league that participates in the ULA only accepts kids who live within their own school district,” he said. “LYLA is not a club program and we do not play year-round. Club programs are available to kids, but typically they are for older players who want to play in competitive tournaments in the summer and fall. The beauty of LYLA is a child may play in LYLA while also playing for a club or travel team not associated with LYLA.”
Hall himself played on the Central New York team in the 1984 Empire State Games, scoring the game winning goal against Long Island in the championship game. He was a four-year letter winner on the Syracuse University lacrosse team, winning two national championships in 1988 and 1989 as a midfielder. He said he’s a prime example of a difference the sport can make in a child’s life.
“Players will get out of lacrosse what they put into it, which means each experience will be different for every kid,” Hall said. “I hope they find the game to be fun and exciting while also enjoying the time they get to spend with their newfound friends.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.