Paul looked on appreciatively from the sidelines as his son came off the bench for the first time in the game. Two years younger and a head shorter than the other players around him, Paul Jr. chased down stray balls with his netted stick and an outsized passion that more than compensated for his size. Back on the sidelines, his dad frequently shouted “Yeah, buddy!”
A third grader, Paul Jr. was the youngest in a game that marked the start of the indoor season for Chicago Youth Lacrosse, an organization that offers lacrosse programs for children of all ages around the city. Friday night saw the kids in the gleaming Chicago Indoor Sports arena at Pershing and Ashland. Half an hour before the games were set to start, parents with children decked out in large helmets and thick padding started streaming in. Adults swapped stories of Christmas vacations in faraway places, as kids fidgeted with helmets and equipment in anticipation of the opening whistle.
One ten-year-old boy hopped nervously as he waited for his father to arrive with his helmet. “Only two blocks away,” his mother assured him. “He’ll be here soon.” Twenty minutes later, dad ran in, large sports bag in tow. With his team already two goals down, the boy sprinted onto the pitch with excitement and trepidation etched into his face.
“I had no idea this game even existed till three years ago,” Paul said, “but my son enjoys it so much.” He explained that CYL has seen incredible growth over the past couple of years, an indicator that the sport is no longer a sole preserve of the East Coast. He explained the draw for his son: “Playing up with older kids teaches him to be aggressive, to not get pushed over. It’s a great sport and a good thing for him.
Only one girl was out on the field, ably “manning” the goal for the team in sky blue jerseys. On the other side of the field, her brother stood in the opposing goal. Family tensions came to a height at the end, when her brother made a mad dash forward in an attempt to score on his sister. His shot whizzed by her, narrowly missing the net. Already several goals down, he sprinted all the way back to his post as the final buzzer sounded.