Football is king at UGA. When I was moving from Loganville to Athens as a kid, people told me how lucky I was to be moving to “bulldog country” and living “between the hedges”. Those people weren’t adults; they were my 3rd grade classmates. So strong is the passion for UGA football; children from the Peach state are raised in awe of the silver britches. Football is only one of the Division-1 sports adored by Georgia folks. Though the fanfare is certainly toned down, the baseball, tennis, and equestrian teams are all nationally recognized and greatly appreciated. The UGA swimming and diving teams are national powers, and these teams combined with the track and field athletes to send dozens of athletes to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this past summer. Naturally, such success draws fans from across Georgia.
It’s time, now, to celebrate another sport: UGA Men’s Club Lacrosse. Club teams have about as many fans as I did when I threw discuss for a single week in high school, due mainly to the fact that anybody can join and play. No scholarships, no recruiting, no ranked athletes, just some kids who are bored. At least that’s how it was until now. The UGA Men’s lacrosse team competes in the SELC, and took an 11-3 record into the 2nd round of the playoffs. This success isn’t what should spur an interest in UGA lacrosse, though. Players on the current team left schools where they played for NCAA teams, some even dropping scholarships to transfer to UGA’s club team. The players are real, bonafide athletes, and if you stepped on the field you could easily mistake it for a D-1 practice.
The team organizes itself accordingly, with difficult tryouts, mandatory workouts and regularly scheduled practice. The players are bought into the system equally as much as players at Georgia high school powerhouse football teams are, despite the fact that it’s “just a club team”. The passion shows in the games, and the product on the field is exciting and entertaining.
What’s happening with the growth of the UGA team is incredibly interesting, but simultaneously unsurprising. The quality of UGA’s academics are surging and as the pool of hopeful high school athletes becomes more and more saturated, players in smaller sports are turning down scholarships to small schools in favor of building club powerhouses at large, quality schools. This is precisely the case at UGA. As the sport of lacrosse continues to grow in America, Georgia fans should look toward the excellent program the men’s club lacrosse team is building. When fans start paying attention and putting money into the team, the sky’s the limit to where the team could go. Who knows, maybe soon the state will look forward to Friday night lacrosse games between The Hedges, Jr. Or between the medium-sized bushes. Between the shrubberies…