When practice winded down at Joe Moakley Park, excitement grew among the Boston Latin students as they realized it was time to pick their jerseys.
However, these students weren't picking up basketball, baseball, soccer, or softballl jerseys. These students were getting their first opportunity to grasp lacrosse jerseys – another first for the city's first high school lacrosse team.
“Some of the older kids on this team, they’ve been playing club lacrosse for a long time,” said Mike Devlin, the new coach of the boys’ team. “Now that they can actually put that jersey on for their school, it means so much.”
Until now, if a student at Latin wanted to play lacrosse they had to sign up for a city club team such as the Boston Bulldogs, whom Devlin founded.
However, once a parent found out that his daughters wouldn’t be able to play lacrosse while representing their high school, a process began that would set the foundation for the new Latin spring sport.
“If we were in Baltimore or Virginia, every single one of those public schools has a lacrosse team. It’s sort of a hot bed,” said Peter Dougherty, who volunteers at Friends of Boston Latin Lacrosse. “It should be the same in Massachusetts and there’s ways to do that but there needs to be a determination both in the parent level and political level and a will to make that happen.”
Dougherty started the campaign eight months ago by meeting with five other parents of Latin students, three from West Roxbury and two from his home of Charlestown. Those meetings would be the first incarnation of the Friends of Boston Latin Lacrosse.
After the group of parents met with the Latin athletic director, John McDonough, they found out they would need $35,000 to cover the equipment, joining the Dual-County League, transportation and the coach’s salary for a boys and girls team.
Many might have given up after hearing that number. Not this group of parents.
A huge chunk of the fundraising came from the First Stick grant from US Lacrosse, the national governing body of youth lacrosse.
“US Lacrosse would love to start programs in all the public schools in Boston. They just need sponsors within those schools to work with,” Dougherty said.
The grant covered $10,000 worth of equipment, enough to provide equipment for both teams for two seasons.
“It was sort of like Miracle on 34th street where they deliver all of Santa’s mail to the judge,” Dougherty said. “[In] this case, they delivered all of the equipment to John McDonough’s office.”
Friends of Boston Latin Lacrosse raised the rest of the money through multiple forms of private fundraising such as bake sales, a softball tournament, and even a comedy show by the hypnotist Tony Z. Dougherty also noted the donations from Boston Latin’s strong alumni as being an essential part of fundraising.
Now Dougherty is able to take a breath and watch as his daughter puts on the Latin lacrosse jersey with pride.
“When I play for my town, it’s all a bunch of kids I’ve grown up with so there’s that connection but with school it’s like you’re holding the Boston Latin School on your back. You’re representing the Wolfpack so you have improved determination as team and individual to do better,” sophomore Genevieve Dougherty said.
The woman in charge of keeping that determination consistent for the girls’ squad is coach Tegan Leonard Avellino, who knows firsthand what it’s like to be on a team that is launching a program. Leonard Avellino played goalie for Syracuse’s first lacrosse team in the 1998 season.
“When I go watch Syracuse I can look down in the bleachers and say, ‘I helped build that program,” Leonard Avellino said. “I have to instill that in them. This sense of pride for a team that didn’t exist last year.”
While Devlin has a cast of players from club teams that have experience with lacrosse, Leonard Avellino has had to spend the first couple practices teaching her girls the basics of the game.
Despite that, she is still finding improvement within the first-year team, even in their first game against Lincoln-Sudbury.
She noted a great game by Lauren Coughlin, who in just her first game in the net had a 57 percent save percentage. The girls ultimately ended up losing 9-5 while the boys lost 9-7.
“The boys played a pretty good game today for not having many practices,” Devlin said. “We took away a lot of things we need to work on before the next game.”
Both teams will be considered just junior varsity for this season and possibly next season as well. As a result, seniors will be allowed to play for the squads because there are no varsity teams yet. The coaches said this might even add the motivation their players need throughout the season.
“Not only do we have to try to do well enough to establish a standing team and possibly set it up so that other schools will have a team, but we’re also creating an example and creating a work ethic and culture of the team that will follow our footsteps,” Genevieve said.
That’s exactly what Genevieve’s father had in mind after getting lacrosse started at the Latin school; setting a trend for other city schools to follow.
“I was really hoping that Boston Latin could be the seed program or the proof of concept for how you can get lacrosse started in public schools in Boston,” Dougherty said.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.