“We’re pleased that we have the numbers to continue doing that because it gives more boys a chance to be on the field,”
Three years ago, Maryland native Matt Schroeder moved to Oxford, Mississippi when his wife, Georgianna, accepted a faculty position at the University of Mississippi. For the first time in his life, he found himself in a place that was absent of any lacrosse.
Having grown up in Baltimore’s lacrosse culture, Schroeder starred as a high school player at Loyola Blakefield and was a two-year captain at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. He later coached men’s club lacrosse as a graduate student at Virginia Tech.
He was now facing cold-turkey withdrawal.
That lacrosse void led Schroeder to accept a position as a teacher and varsity lacrosse coach at Briarcrest Christian School, located in Memphis. His 150-mile roundtrip daily commute provided plenty of time to start brainstorming about bringing lacrosse to Oxford.
“There are others like me who want to see lacrosse in Oxford,” Schroeder said. “We’ve just got to figure out how we’re going to do it.”
As a starting point, Schroeder helped launch a new organization last year, the Oxford Lacrosse Club. The goal is to consolidate all of the area’s lacrosse development under one umbrella organization. There have been multiple meetings thus far, but progress on the field has been slow.
Realizing that a summer program to teach the game might be the spark needed to build some momentum, Schroeder has also founded the Northern Mississippi Lacrosse Club, set to debut this June. Schroeder will use a clinic-based model to provide game instruction to all interested youth boys.
“We want to introduce lacrosse to everybody who wants to give it a try,” Schroeder said. “No experience is needed. It’s about learning a new sport.”
Providing instruction is one of the initial steps needed in fostering the local development. Oxford Parks and Recreation hosted its first clinic last fall, with more scheduled for this spring. Partnering with the Ole Miss men’s club team is another option on the table. US Lacrosse is also supporting game development efforts in the region.
“There’s been a lack of people in this area who know the game and are able to teach it,” Schroeder said. “But there are people who want to help. Volunteers are emerging.”
One of the strategies formulated by the Oxford Lacrosse Club is to combine efforts with Regents School, a local private institution which currently sponsors a middle school team that competes primarily against clubs in Memphis. The plan is to develop a high school club at Regents that will also be open to players from the city’s two public schools, Oxford High School and Lafayette High School.
“We have a one-town, one-team mentality right now,” said Schroeder, who will be joining the staff at Regents School to serve as the program director.
“Since we are a club program, the boys from outside our school are welcome to join us,” said Tracy Knox, athletics director at Regents School. “It’s an open door.”
Knox has already seen some growth within her school’s program, which launched eight years ago. Buoyed by stronger participation numbers, Regents split its team into two groups last year, launching a grades 4-6 team in addition to the grades 7-8 squad.
“We’re pleased that we have the numbers to continue doing that because it gives more boys a chance to be on the field,” Knox said. “Parents are excited about that also.”
Schroeder hopes to have viable high school teams added to the landscape in the near future.
“The challenge is just to get kids out on the field,” he said. “We’re taking baby steps right now.”
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