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High School Lacrosse Grows in Popularity

The sport of Lacrosse has experienced significant growth in Gwinnett County over the past few years, and a few local coaches are bringing Snellville up to a more competitive level.

Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in Georgia, according to Coach Dusty DeStefano, owner of MIH Performance Training in Snellville. 

“Lacrosse is basically throwing and catching a ball with a stick while you're moving,” DeStefano explained. He and his staff currently train members of the Brookwood High School Lacrosse team during the off-season. His company launched in August of 2010, and is helping athletes reach peak performance. 

“A lot of times high school coaches aren't allowed to interact with the athletes when they're not in season,” DeStefano, or Coach "D" continued. “That's where our services come in handy.” 

DeStefano's background and education is in exercise science, and he said this is something he's always had a passion to do. He conducts training at the South Gwinnett Athletic Association. His company also trains students for soccer, and hosts conditioning camps during the summer.

The 2011-2012 spring season will be Brookwood's second season with an official lacrosse team. At the high school level, it is a spring season sport, but plenty of training takes place during the off-season. 

"The growth of the sport has been phenomenal," said Kristopher Muir, Brookwood High School's lacrosse coach. "It's had between a 200-250% growth over the past 10 years."

There are 75 varsity lacrosse teams across Georgia this year, whereas there were only between 10 and 15 ten years ago. Brookwood's team began as the North Georgia Lacrosse Team, a club team. This year, they are adding a junior varsity team.  

Each team has 25 players. The girls and boys teams have very different rules, ranging from the size of the team to the type of equipment they use. The boys team is more physically oriented, requiring the boys to have helmets, elbow pads, gloves and shoulder pads. The girls wear eye goggles and carry a stick.

"It's very competitive to get on the team," Muir said, noting that about 50 boys tried out last year. "We have players that make the team with zero years of experience if they work hard."

Lacrosse was originally a Native American sport, according to Coach Muir, and the game was played on fields that were miles long. At the end of the game, there were sacrifices.  

Things aren't quite as intense nowadays, but the sport is still very challenging.  

“You have to be in shape to run up and down the field,” DeStefano said. “It's a very physical sport because there is contact involved, and it's fast moving as far as athleticism.” 

During training, they work on speed, agility, and strength. It's a combination of the skills required in basketball, soccer and hockey. According to the Brookwood Lacrosse website, “Lacrosse offers the speed and power of football and hockey and the endurance, agility and strategy of soccer and basketball.” 

There are 62 lacrosse chapters across the country, with more than 300,000 members. 

Austin Kinkade, a trainee of Coach DeStefano's since June, considered himself more of a football guy before he got hooked on lacrosse. 

“My friend started asking me about lacrosse, saying, you would be so great at it!” Kinkade said. “My first season was around the beginning of the year, in January. You gain upper and lower body strength by running, passing, tossing, hitting people with Lacrosse sticks.” 

He has appreciated the extra time spent training with Coach DeStefano. “He's a great coach, does a lot of drills and constantly helps people that may need help.”  

Coach Muir sends his team to train with Coach DeStefano.  

"We encouraged all of our players to use them in their training because they are professionally run and geared toward Lacrosse athletes," Muir said.   

Muir has high hopes for the team this coming season.  

"We had a lot of peaks and valleys [last year]," Coach Muir said, "and are looking forward to improving."  

Muir's goal is to build the Brookwood lacrosse team into the most successful lacrosse program possible. With his enthusiasm and dedication, and Coach DeStefano's physically challenging conditioning program, he seems likely to succeed.  

For more information on MIH Performance Training, visit their website.  

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