Williamsburg Warriors Lacrosse Club player Mattie Wilding, a Berkeley Middle eighth-grader, spends more time than she would like trying to explain to her classmates that lacrosse and field hockey aren't the same.
The differences are obvious to those involved in either sport. But the similarities, including the objective of getting a ball into a goal with a stick (albeit very different sticks) signify the problem in the area girls lacrosse has endured.
But that perception seems to be evolving, judging by the growth of the Williamsburg Warriors program. The Warriors' girls team was founded in 2007, a few years behind the start of the boys program.
"It's been a steady growth," said Anders Timberg, an under-12 Warriors coach and area club representative. "We compete with soccer in the spring as well as all the other sports. But girls lacrosse, we're still growing at a pretty good pace, about 10-15 percent a year."
On Thursday at Warhill Sports Complex, each of the Warriors' four youth programs (U8, U10, U12, U14) celebrated the end of their regular seasons ahead of a jamboree Saturday in which boys and girls teams will compete for tournament championships.
Counting high school players, Timberg estimated there are about 130 girls lacrosse players involved with the Warriors. About 83 of the youth players were present Thursday night.
Walsingham Academy has the only local high school, school-sanctioned varsity team in Williamsburg this season and Jamestown ended its first varsity girls club season Thursday in the Hampton Roads Lacrosse League.
Jamestown also features a junior varsity girls team and is made up of about half Jamestown students and the rest Lafayette, Warhill, Bruton or Walsingham students.
The Jamestown club is not officially affiliated with the high school, and the same is the case for the boys club programs at Jamestown, Lafayette and Warhill.
The ultimate goal for the girls and boys teams is to be not only officially recognized by their respective schools, but also Virginia High School League-sanctioned.
Next year, the plan is for at least two girls high school teams with Lafayette and Warhill potentially playing as a combined team.
The local middle schools each already have school-sponsored girls teams.
Formerly the Berkeley Middle coach, Mike Grogan helped start the program at Walsingham and now serves as the Jamestown club's president.
"I think ultimately that's what the parents are looking for," Grogan said. "They want their kids to go to their school and wear their school uniform when they play a sport. We've got it at that point. Now, we want to take it to the VHSL."
Timberg said the Warriors don't turn players away and that it is a rec program, although the teams do actually travel in-state for competition.
The club plays a spring schedule, but will hold free fall clinics leading up to sign-up time near Christmas.
The age ranges are 6-14 and there's a soft-stick program for ages 4-5.
"We're starting to build something pretty cool here," said Timberg, a former William and Mary football linebacker and defensive tackle.
Jamestown girls coach Jeff White said many of his players are multi-sport athletes, similar to Wilding, who has been playing lacrosse for five years.
Wilding also plays field hockey, basketball and swims in the summer.
"It's super fast. It's the fastest sport on two feet," Wilding said of lacrosse. "You have to really be alert and look for your teammates. It really teaches good teamwork and sportsmanship. It teaches girls good life lessons, too."
White said he tries to recruit field hockey players, in part, because field hockey is in the fall. So the seasons generally don't interfere with each other, and similar competition accessories are also used in each sport.
"They've got all they need with the exception of sticks," White said. "And I've got 50 sticks in my garage."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.