US Lacrosse recently announced the recipients of its annual First Stick Program Award, and for the second straight year an Idaho organization has been selected. Kuna Middle School’s new program, headed up by former Bishop Kelly coach Blake Gaudet, will receive 25 full sets of equipment in the Spring of 2014, followed by an additional 13 sets in 2015. We caught up with Blake to find out more about the award, and the effort to move lacrosse out to the small community of Kuna.
Idaho Lax Reporter: There has been some noise about lacrosse making its way out to Kuna in recent years, but nothing has really materialized. Is there any lacrosse presence out there currently?
Blake Gaudet: There are a few kids at the high school who played in the TVYLL for Meridian area teams, but they didn’t have many options after they were done with middle school. A couple of them have continued playing in the Mountain View program, but what little participation we do have at the middle school level tends to drop pretty hard once the kids move to high school. It’s just not convenient for these students who have to find transportation in to Meridian for games and practices, and playing for a school other than the one you attend isn’t quite as fun.
How will the First Stick Program help you get lacrosse up and running in Kuna?
We have a really broad spectrum of kids out in Kuna in terms of socio-economic status. There are some incredible athletes out here, but the startup costs that go along with lacrosse will be prohibitive for a large chunk of our students. This grant will allow kids to participate in the sport without having to commit to buying hundreds of dollars worth of gear, and will definitely be the difference maker in whether or not a lot of kids give lacrosse a shot.
How supportive has the community been in your efforts to get lacrosse started?
The support has been incredible. In particular the middle school administration has been incredibly helpful, from the recommendation letter written by the principal Deb McGrath, to AJ York (the Athletic Director) helping us secure space to play and storage for the equipment. The people in Kuna are all about anything that is good for kids, and they recognize that the introduction of lacrosse will provide another outlet for a positive experience for our students. I wouldn’t have tried to do this if I didn’t have the support that I do. Also, the support from the general lacrosse community has been great. I’ve had coaches from almost every program offer their help, which means a lot.
You teach out at Kuna High School. Why start at the middle school instead of where you’re currently teaching?
I think it’s tough for a program to be successful when it starts at the high school level. We’re at the point now where freshmen are coming in to schools like BK, Centennial, Timberline, etc, with anywhere from 3-8 years of experience. If you try to field a high school team full of kids who don’t have any experience, you’re not going to see much success. I think losing early and often at the high school level is a good way to make sure the student body loses interest in your program. By starting at the middle school, we can teach kids the basics in an environment where their athleticism alone will help them be at least moderately successful, and once we have a solid base of players with experience, we can create a high school program.
What are your goals for the lacrosse program out in Kuna?
First, I would love to see anywhere from 30-50 kids give lacrosse a try this Spring. Kuna Middle School consists of only two grades (7th and 8th), and between those two grades there are over 800 kids. I don’t think convincing 30 of them to pick up a stick is too far fetched. Second, within two years I want to see Kuna High School have enough kids with experience to field a JV team. Finally, by 2016 I would love to see a varsity team at KHS.
Best of luck in getting the program off the ground!