While lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, it’s the newest sport at Thomas Dale High School. Founded by Native Americans and often played to resolve conflict, lacrosse has evolved into one of the fastest growing sports in America. NCAA lacrosse is now covered nationally on ESPN. The Knights fielded a club team last season and will this season, but are targeting Virginia High School league accreditation in spring 2015 for both boys and girls teams.
“This operation has been the students’ idea and the students fight,” said Head Coach Paul Amos. “We gave them the resources to get this done and they did.”
Amos, a class of 1988 graduate from Thomas Dale, was late head coach Vic Williams’ first quarterback. After attending Hampden-Sydney to play football, he was invited to play lacrosse there as well, and fell in love with the sport.
“The idea of bringing lacrosse to Thomas Dale brewed in my head for years,” said Amos. “I came in contact with Rich Bartillotti and we got things started.”
Last year, Amos and Bartillotti applied for a grant through U.S. Lacrosse and were approved, which got the program 25 sets of gear to get started with. The team then petitioned in partnership with Midlothian High School to the school board for the Virginia State High School league status. Got students and parents to email the school board and collected over 400 signatures on petitions.
“It’s been a great lesson for the guys,” said Amos. “We got told ‘no’ on more than a few occasions, but they kept their heads down and kept going towards their goal.”
In their first season as a club team, Thomas Dale played against schools that were already accredited and held their own, playing to a 6-5 finish last season, defeating established programs such as Hermitage (twice) and Mills Godwin.
Returning players that will stand out for the Knights are Trent Akins (Fr.), Latzi Balint (Jr.), Matt Bartillotti (Jr.) and Kaleb Willis (Sr.). Akins, who was on the club team as an eighth-grader is considered by Amos to be the most skilled player on the team. Bartillotti has been a great leader for the program, not only on the field but off the field, as he is the junior class president.
“Akins’ lack of size misleads competitors,” explained Amos. “He’s tough and is an excellent shooter,” continued Amos. “He’s a true ‘lacrosse rat,’ he always has a stick in his hand.”
The team’s first year saw 25 players on the team, with only six of those players having previous Lacrosse experience. Many players don’t play other sports. Some are wrestlers; some, members of the marching band. The sport seems to have welcomed a wide variety of students to the playing field.
Initially, the efforts started with trying to field a boys’ team, but the girls came out en masse as well, and will also have a club team this year before going VHSL in 2015. There was also enough interest for a middle school club team as well – all club teams will play under Chesterfield Athletic Club.
The number of students grew through word of mouth and for this season, 50 boys have showed up to play and 25 girls are ready to go. One might say that there’s a bit of a “lacrosse craze” at Thomas Dale.
“The energy for this has far exceeded anything I would have imagined,” said Amos. “Honestly, it’s almost been overwhelming.”
If interested in coaching for either the boys or girls or making a donation to the program there will be a community meeting for the lacrosse team in the Thomas Dale small auditorium on October 24 at 6:30 p.m. If you have any questions about the program, contact Paul Amos at 804-938-9396. The season will kick off in late March for the lacrosse boys and girls; we’ll have results and news on twitter @VNewsSports.