Thanks to Berkeley Lacrosse Club for sponsoring this post.
Lacrosse is a fun team sport, with supportive organizations across the East Bay dedicated to developing kids skills and enthusiasm for the game. Like soccer, players are always moving around in the game, which makes it engaging and well-suited to a child who is not digging the dugout life of baseball or softball. But how does one get started?
In partnership with the Berkeley Lacrosse Club, we've put together some helpful facts and links about youth lacrosse in the East Bay.
How do we get started with lacrosse?
Around six years old, or first grade, most children are able to start learning basic skills: throwing and catching with a stick, cradling a ball, and picking up ground balls.
For parents who want to experiment with lacrosse before (or instead of) enrolling in a program, consider purchasing a lacrosse stick and ball set and have some fun with these skills.
A backyard pop-up goal can add to the fun when you provide something to shoot at.
Where to buy lacrosse gear — and what exactly to buy
- Entry-level plastic-handled lacrosse sticks. This set (pictured above) comes with a pop-up goal and goalie stick. We bought this for my 7-year old daughter after she became enamored with lacrosse through Cal Sports Camp over the summer. These sticks are not regulation size. They usually come with a foam ball (firm, but not hard).
- Non-plastic mini-stick (Next level up)
- 12-pack of practice balls (These soft balls weigh enough to stay in the cradle, but are soft enough to play without a helmet. A helmet is recommended for practice with regulation balls.)
- Berkeley Lacrosse recommends starting kids with a regular sized stick, and an Alameda coach suggested cutting the shaft to 32 to 36 inches long (measured from the butt end of the handle to the tip of the stick head) for a smaller child, if you go with a regulation stick.
East Bay stores that carry lacrosse gear
- Sports Basement in Berkeley
- Sling It! in the Alamo/Danville area is a lacrosse specialty store with knowledgeable staff
- Play it Again Sports in Walnut Creek sells used gear.
- Montclair Sports in Oakland
- Some clubs arrange for swaps of old gear.
- Berkeley Lacrosse offers a unique gear rental program, maintaining a collection of gear that players can rent out for the season at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new gear, for example $35 per season vs. $300 purchasing new.
Be a spectator
Watching the game played at different levels may help families get into the sport.
- Cal teams include Women’s varsity lacrosse, Women’s club and Men’s club teams that play games at Memorial Stadium in the Spring. Check Stanford and St. Mary's schedules, too.
- High school-level indoor lacrosse is hosted at the Bladium through All West in the Fall. Or catch a game at Berkeley High, Piedmont High, or Bishop O'dowd.
- The local lacrosse leagues listed below offer the chance to watch elementary school-aged kids play the game, or at least a version of it.
Younger players follow modified rules on a smaller field, with fewer players on the field and less physical contact so they can have fun learning the basic skills of lacrosse.
Where can we sign up for lacrosse — and when?
There are clubs across the East Bay, all of which roll up to the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association, so if you don't see your town listed below, check the governing organization's website. The youngest age band is 8U, for kids who are 7 or 8 by the end of August before the Spring in which they want to play. Generally Spring is for team-based playing, and Fall brings a more informal group skills and games offering, called Fall Ball.
Spring sign-ups are now through mid-November.
- Berkeley Lacrosse Club is available for all youth grades 1-8 living in Berkeley and north.
- Oakland Lacrosse serves middle and high school students in Oakland schools.
- Alameda Attack Lacrosse offers teams for youth grades 1-12 in Alameda and surrounding areas.
- Skyline Lacrosse is available for youth grades 1-12 in Oakland and south.
- Fremont Spartans lacrosse serves youth grades 2-8 in Fremont, Newark, Union City and surrounding areas.
These leagues support both boys and girls, but note that boys and girls games use different sticks, different protective gear, and observe different rules (especially around body contact).
Check your local parks department for Lacrosse classes as well.
Other Lacrosse learning opportunities
Fall Ball and Summer Camps are a great way to get an introduction to the sport without the commitment of the full season. Check the registration deadlines at your club, listed above. Berkeley Lacrosse has just introduced opportunities for players as young as 1st grade for the first time. Practices at this age level will focus on basic skills development and games are opportunities to put those skills into play, with no score kept.
And finally, Cal hosts Nike Girls Lacrosse Camps during the summer.
Thanks to our sponsor Berkeley Lacrosse for sharing this information with 510Families.com readers. Berkeley Lacrosse Club teams practice 1-3 days per week between 4-5:30 pm at the Tom Bates Sports Fields in Berkeley. Practices for the Spring Season start February 1 and the season runs through mid-May. Schedules are available on their website. They also run a once-a-week Fall Ball program September – October.
All photos courtesy Berkeley Lacrosse.