While athletes and coaches on the Big Island wait for sports to return from hiatus, Konawaena has made a big step toward creating a new sports program for student-athletes to join.
The oldest organized sport in the U.S. has made its way again to the Big Island, as Konawaena High School has received a $4,054.99 girls high school equipment grant from U.S. Lacrosse to kick start another lacrosse program for the Wildcats.
“It was an easy win because we’re looking to expand the sport of lacrosse on the islands,” Gabe Fowler, regional manager of the Pacific Southwest at U.S. Lacrosse, said of the organization’s decision to award Konawaena the grant.
In previous years on the island, Hawaii Prep and Konawaena fielded boys lacrosse teams.
Konawaena was one of six schools and organizations in Hawaii chosen to receive a portion of $17,950 in grants in order to help lacrosse grow in the state.
The other grant recipients in Hawaii were the Aloha Youth Lacrosse Association, Waimea Canyon Middle School, Ka’elepulu Elementary School, Kalaheo High School and Aikahi Elementary School. Seven grants in total were awarded, with the Aloha Youth Lacrosse Association being awarded two grants worth $11,125.
“It’s a game-changer because the sport of lacrosse, especially on the West Coast, it’s not as well known like it is on the East Coast,” Fowler said. “So when you present this idea to start a team on the West Coast to your athletic director, they might not have a lot of knowledge about the sport and they may not want to make the investment, which can be a pretty lofty one early on with all the equipment needs, the space to build and the education on the sport.”
Fowler said schools receiving a grant for equipment lifts some concerns about the cost of trying to start a lacrosse program from scratch.
“Starting with a first big grant really makes an impact,” Fowler said. “It really makes a dent not only for the school, but for the participants as well because now they don’t have to go out and spend $200-$500 on equipment — they can utilize the equipment they’re receiving from the first big grant and really have them get a head start on building a lacrosse program at their respective high schools.”
According to U.S. Lacrosse, the organization awarded 869 grants totaling $2.38 million across the country to support efforts to grow the game at the community level during its 2019-20 grant cycle that ended in mid-March. The grants were awarded to organizations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Overall, more than 60,000 pieces of equipment were distributed to community and school programs including sticks, balls and full protective equipment.
To be considered for grant funding from U.S. Lacrosse, programs are required to meet the following criteria: deliver sports and physical activity programming to children ages 6 to 19; deliver programming through experienced and committed leadership; offer consistent and structured opportunity for lacrosse play to large groups of children; and deliver a minimum six-week sports and physical activity program.
Preference is given to organizations working with both boys and girls and who demonstrate an ability to reach participants in underrepresented and diverse communities.
Grants can be applied for online at www.uslacrosse.org/grants. Schools and organizations on the Big Island can also apply through Fowler, who can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The thing about lacrosse is, it’s different than any sport I’ve played,” Fowler said. “I’ve played football, basketball, baseball, soccer — all those traditional sports we all kind of play. The togetherness and the cohesiveness, that is inherent in lacrosse. The indigenous people of today still see it as the medicine game to bring people together, to unite them.
“It’s a wonderful game, and it’s a beautiful game. It takes a lot of finesse and it takes a lot of skill, and it’s fast-paced. There’s no other sport like it.”