Recently I came in contact with a passionate lacrosse fan from Wisconsin who has been working to create a very special day of lacrosse for a local community.
Mike Welvaert is the President of the La Crosse Lightning Lacrosse Club. Surprisingly enough, they are a relatively new High School Club that has been around since 2010. Their team is comprised of kids from nine different high schools around the La Crosse, Wisconsin area. They compete each year in the Madison Area Lacrosse Association, or MALA and play all their away games roughly two and a half hours away in the Madison area and their home games about 10 miles north in Holmen, Wisconsin.
Mike shared a very special story with us about a Grow The Game tale straight out of America’s Dairyland.
Last year, a family contacted Mike and the La Crosse Lightning after moving to Prairie du Chien, a small city along the Iowa/Wisconsin border about an hour and a half south of La Crosse. The family had just moved from Ohio, where their son had played lacrosse for several years. He was looking for a place to play, and the family was willing to make the trek up to Holmen every day for practice.
Fast forward a year, they have been working diligently to try and start their own team down in Prairie du Chien. They now have three players from PDC making the trip up to Holmen and they have about 10 others who are seriously considering joining next year, especially if they can form their own team.
Over this past winter, they arranged to have one of La Crosse’s “home” games be moved from Holmen down to Prairie du Chien. They planned to play a game in front of the local crowd, and then host a beginner’s clinic afterward. Their team, as well as the team from Sauk Prairie High School are going to stay after the game to help local kids learn the game and get a stick in their hands. Mike says the local family has really done most of the work on this.
They are working with the local Parks and Rec Department to secure field space, goals, and painting, and they have also done a lot of promotion via newspaper and radio. The local Rotary Club is on board and will provide concessions, and local historians have also chimed in. Turns out that the date we selected, Saturday, April 27th, is the 180th anniversary of the first settlers coming to Prairie du Chien and seeing the natives playing the game of lacrosse.
To make the most of the event, Mike was able to arrange a game for his JV players as well. With their Varsity squad facing Sauk Prairie’s Varsity, he was also able to arrange a JV game with a team from Middleton, WI, but that’s just where it started.
Word got out that Mike and company were arranging this event and as word spread in Middleton about what they were doing, Mike received calls asking if Middleton could also send their Varsity and other JV team to participate as well. From a one game exhibition, they have no been able to arrange a full-blown day of lacrosse in Prairie du Chien. Mike informed me that representatives from MALA are also planning to attend the event and they have been getting great support from the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation as well.
On Saturday, April 27th, Prairie du Chien will now host a full day of lacrosse in honor of the creators of the game. Check out the full schedule below and if you are able to, head out and support this great event!
- 10 AM – La Crosse vs. Sauk Prairie (Varsity)
- 11:45 AM – Learn-to-Play Clinic for local youth.
- 1 PM – La Crosse vs. Middleton (Junior Varsity)
- 2:15 PM – La Crosse vs. Middleton (Varsity)
- 4 PM – La Crosse vs. Middleton Modified A team (Junior Varsity)
As of today, players from all six teams have agreed to participate in the beginner’s clinic, and it is estimated that around 60 kids will attend the clinic. The Rotary Club will provide concessions, and there is also talk about creating hats and T-shirts to commemorate the event, and raise funds for a new PDC team.
Mike said it best…
It is possible that this will not only be the start of a new lacrosse club, but also the start of a lacrosse tournament tradition.