Girls lacrosse: Addition of Dawson School team exemplifies sport’s overall national growth

  • Courtesy photo

    The Dawson School middle school girls lacrosse team has seen success under head coach Blake Fisher, and the popularity of the sport at the school has spawned growth — a junior varsity high school team will begin play this spring.

  • Courtesy photo

    Dawson School's Grace Miller, center, defends against an unidentified player during a middle school-level contest in April. The school will field a JV team this spring in hopes of playing varsity by 2021.

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Year-over-year lacrosse participation numbers

Boys Girls 

97-98 N/A 510 

98-99 1,309 834 

99-00 1,510 948 

00-01 1,662 990 

01-02 1,739 1,022 

02-03 1,925 1,428 

03-04 2,100 1,327

04-05 2,250 1,371 

05-06 2,561 1,384 

06-07 2,877 1,433 

07-08 3,045 1,421 

08-09 3,525 1,523 

09-10 3,372 1,566 

10-11 3,701 1,720 

11-12 3,938 1,701 

12-13 3,845 1,640 

13-14 3,615 1,590 

14-15 3,787 1,604 

15-16 3,927 1,719

16-17 3,840 1,762 

17-18 3,714 1,775

* According to CHSAA.org.

LAFAYETTE — Growing up as a young athlete in Connecticut, Blake Fisher can’t remember a time when she didn’t play lacrosse.

Now 30 years old, Fisher lives in Colorado where lacrosse is far from being one of the most popular sports in terms of participation. While that may be the case now, the appeal of a sport that hooked many young athletes like Fisher is drawing more and more athletes to its ranks each year both in Colorado and across the nation.

Fisher is doing her part to help facilitate the growth of the sport she loves.

For the past two years, Fisher has coached the inaugural seasons of Dawson School’s middle school program. The endeavor was so successful that Dawson is starting a junior varsity girls lacrosse program for the next two-year cycle with the intention of playing varsity lacrosse starting in the spring of 2021.

“Starting the middle school’s team was super exciting,” Fisher said. “I grew up in New England and I’ve either played or coached lacrosse my whole life. I’m lucky to have been hired at a school like Dawson that supports the sport so much. I’m also extremely lucky that I got such a huge group of girls who were willing to try a new sport. I’m happy to say that so many of them have caught the bug.

“It’ll be a change of pace going from middle school to high school but the girls are really invested and I think it’s going to be great.”

Fisher, who served as an assistant lacrosse coach at multiple middle schools before moving from Rhode Island to Colorado two years ago, will be the head coach of Dawson’s junior varsity team this spring.

There are currently 51 varsity girls lacrosse programs in Colorado. Despite a three-year decline from 2010-14, participation numbers have increased 248 percent since the Colorado Activities Association added girls lacrosse in 1997-98, according to CHSAA.org.

Boys lacrosse participation numbers in Colorado have increased 184 percent since the state added the sport in 1988-99. There are now 74 schools with varsity boys lacrosse programs in Colorado and Dawson athletic director Mike Jacobsma said generating momentum towards adding a girls program was aided by the success of the Mustangs’ boys team, which has finished runner-up in Class 4A for the past three seasons.

“What the boys program has done has really generated a lot of excitement for both boys and girls,” Jacobsma said. “We were also fortunate enough to hire a middle school science teacher in Blake Fisher to start our middle school girls program. They’ve been competing against other schools for the past two years and those families became excited about starting a big school program. They wanted to wear Dawson jerseys and represent our high school, and obviously we support that.”

Adding girls lacrosse for the 2021-22 cycle would give Dawson an even number of girls and boys CHSAA-sanctioned varsity sports. When starting a middle school program in spring of 2017, Jacobsma stressed the importance of hiring a coach who also was a teacher to maximize that coach’s contact with the student-athletes.

In Fisher, Jacobsma found the combination of qualifications he was searching for.

“The big push here at Dawson and throughout the state is education-based athletics and it’s so key to be able to hire a coach who is also around the student-athletes during the day,” Jacobsma said. “The relationships Blake has already developed with the girls and the parents are phenomenal and it’s great to have a familiar coach starting the program because she is someone the girls know they can trust and they already know what she’s bringing to the table.”

In her first head coaching job, Fisher said 95 percent of the girls who participated in starting Dawson’s middle school program had never picked up a lacrosse stick before. The BoCoPreps.com area has a youth program — Boulder Valley Girls Lacrosse — that runs youth leagues and serves Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, Niwot, Longmont, Erie, Nederland, and others. Still, many new programs in Colorado face the challenge of starting from scratch in terms of teaching basic skills, rules and strategy.

If everything goes according to plan, Dawson’s varsity program will give the BoCoPreps.com area a second girls team. The Boulder Valley School District already has a district-wide program that is moving from Centaurus to a new home at Fairview this spring.

Any player currently playing for Centaurus must remain with the program as it moves to Fairview. Except for Fairview students, incoming freshmen in the BVSD and the St. Vrain Valley School District, which does not have its own district program, will have the option to choose between playing at Dawson (private) or Fairview. Once an area student-athlete has chosen where to begin her high school lacrosse career, any switching between the area teams will be considered a transfer and would be subject to CHSAA restrictions.

Colorado has never been considered a lacrosse state but with more and more programs like Dawson’s popping up at the middle school and high school levels, it appears that label may be arriving soon.

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi