There's a new sport coming to the Cottage Grove Athletic Association (CGAA) this spring as lacrosse was just approved this offseason.
"We are so excited to be introducing this sport to the CGAA," said Shay Cleary, the president of CGAA Lacrosse. "We can't thank the board members and the different programs for their continuous support in getting us to this point. This is a great thing for our community."
Lacrosse has been a growing sport over the last few years and the Minnesota State High School League approved boys' and girls' lacrosse as a sanctioned sports before the 2007 spring season. Since it's a fast growing sport, the CGAA wanted to approve a lacrosse program to provide a place where kids can learn and grow before they reach high school.
The lacrosse program for Cottage Grove was run by the city, not CGAA, for the last 10 years. Shawn Grams, the vice president of CGAA Lacrosse, said she appreciated the support of the city, but the switch to the CGAA is a step in the right direction.
"The city of Cottage Grove helped this sport grow over those 10 years and we couldn't thank them enough for their support in our program," Grams said. "The nice part with the CGAA is that we can fundraise for different items. That will be nice to allow us an opportunity to raise money throughout the season each year."
Lacrosse was brought up in September of 2018 at one of the board meetings for the CGAA and it was approved as a sport in January of 2019. It's been a learning process for Cleary and Grams as the inaugural season comes up in a couple of weeks.
Since the switch to CGAA, the number of participants this season has almost doubled.
When lacrosse was with the city last season, it had three teams total, and 45 total players on those teams. The registration for the inaugural year with CGAA has been a huge success.
The CGAA program will have seven teams combined and 97 total players this season. There will be four boys' teams and three girls' teams.
"We were really happy with the turnout and registration for this season," Grams said. "We almost doubled our numbers from last season and we couldn't be more excited about having more players learning this sport."
On the boys' side, there will be two 14-U teams, a 10-U team and an 8-U teams. Since there's no 12-U team this season, Grams said those boys had the choice of either going up or dropping down to play with a different age group.
On the girls' side, there will be a 12-U team, a 10-U team and an 8-U team. They are hoping to continue building and developing a 14-U team.
The program has had "try lacrosse for free" nights and it's allowed kids to come out and see if lacrosse is a sport they would enjoy. The number of participants increased tremendously this offseason and the CGAA was excited to see the numbers increase for its first year.
"We wouldn't be here without the help of other sports in the CGAA and their board members as well as local companies around the community that show support in us," Grams said.
The lacrosse program has received a lot of help from other programs within the CGAA as well as the other lacrosse programs in the East Ridge Athletic Association and the Woodbury Athletic Association.
East Side Lacrosse has given the program lacrosse sticks for their "try lacrosse for free" nights and have also helped with getting uniforms done for this season. Fleet Farm has provided shooter shirts that go underneath the uniform for each of the players, and Hy-Vee has provided cookies and drinks for the youth nights at both the boys' and girls' high school games.
Both Cleary and Grams were beyond excited to hear that Scott Leonard and Greg Rinzel were liaisons for the board. Leonard is the girls' varsity head coach and Rinzel is the boys' varsity head coach for Park. They understand this program is a feeder system for the high school program and they are doing anything they can to make sure these players understand the sport in the best way.
High school players have also come out for different events and practices to help the younger players.
"It's great to see the high school players supporting the CGAA and the lacrosse program," Cleary said. "The boys and girls both come to different events and practices and it put smiles on the younger players' faces as well as the varsity players, too."
Cleary and Grams are both excited for the upcoming season and the only thing they are looking for are coaches. They need a handful of coaches to help with the basics of lacrosse.
Overall, the CGAA Lacrosse program is looking forward to a season full of strong teams, good friendships and fun seasons.
"We want the kids to have fun and enjoy the sport of lacrosse," Grams said. "We want to teach the sport the right way and we're excited to see this program continue to grow in the future."