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When Peter Trent joined the robust Carrollton Parks and Recreation Department as senior athletic coordinator last fall, he was surprised that lacrosse was not among the sport offerings.
As a transplanted New Yorker, he was fairly confident that the fast-paced sport would offer significant allure within the suburban community of Carrollton, located about 50 miles west of Atlanta along Interstate 20.
“This is a very pro-recreation area,” said Trent, who initially moved to Carrollton in 2000 to join the University of West Georgia baseball team. “We have anywhere from 800-1,000 kids actively involved in our programs across all sports.”
With established boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams at Carrollton High School, Trent also knew that a youth feeder program would be a welcome addition.
Unfortunately, the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was still negatively impacting the rec department’s participation numbers and seemed to indicate that the timing for a new sport might not be right. But that didn’t stop Trent, who convinced his superiors that youth lacrosse should be added to the department’s menu of offerings.
“Our overall numbers have been down, but people are starting to come back,” Trent said. “I just figured lacrosse should be started. The question was whether we could make it happen.”
Some online research led Trent to resources offered by USA Lacrosse, and he soon got connected to Lou Corsetti, USL’s regional director for membership & regional development.
“Lou led us in directions we wouldn’t have known about,” Trent said.
The first step was organizing a local clinic to gauge the interest among players, ages 8-14. With support from CHS’s JV boys coach Zack Amoroso, Trent and Corsetti were able to welcome 55 youth players to a clinic in early February at the local indoor facility. Many of Amoroso’s players assisted as clinicians.
The turnout, which also included about 10 girls, exceeded Trent’s initial expectations.
“We knew that there would be a base of families that wanted to play, but I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Corsetti connected Trent with the Metro Atlanta Youth Lacrosse Association (MAYLA), which made room for three new teams from Carrollton. This spring, Carrollton is sponsoring boys’ teams at 10U, 12U, and 14U, with about 60 players across the three teams. Trent leveraged some of his contacts within the community to find qualified coaches to lead the teams.
“Getting into MAYLA was great,” he said. “Half of our kids are first-time players, and they are excited, and they are improving. They are holding their own against the more experienced programs. It’s going well.”
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the work continues to keep building a strong foundation. Trent has initiated an equipment loaner program to offset costs for some of the new players, and he is looking into a FLEX6 program to accommodate some of the youngest players. Kids as young as 6 and 7 years of age have shown interest.
Developed by USA Lacrosse, FLEX6 is an adjustable and non-contact version of the game played on a smaller field with a softer ball and fewer players.
“Things are happening with the Carrollton program,” Corsetti said. “They have a lot of younger kids who are eager to play.”
The relationship with Amoroso’s high school team is also growing.
“They hosted a youth lacrosse night at one of their games this spring that was really exciting for our kids,” Trent said.
While most of the start-up obstacles have been overcome, Trent knows that continued growth could bring additional challenges. Finding more coaches and overcoming field space shortages will need to be addressed to support the addition of more teams.
“There are some things that we can’t control yet, like the lack of field space, but we’ll get there,” Trent said. “Right now, all of our games are away games. Eventually, it will be cool to host some home games.”
Nevertheless, the successful launch has Trent motivated for the future, with the addition of at least one girls’ team also in the plans.
“I think we can double our participation numbers for next year,” he said.
There’s great satisfaction in seeing the lacrosse foothold in the community.
“It’s all coming together,” Trent said. “We are seeing the kids get hooked on lacrosse, and the parents love knowing that their kids are happy and having fun.”