With a history that spans centuries, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America. In fact, the first college lacrosse team began at New York University in 1877. The New England preparatory school was also quick to adopt the sport, with Phillips Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy and The Lawrenceville School being among the first high school lacrosse teams in 1882. The first women's lacrosse team in the United States was established at Bryn Mawr School in 1926.
Since then, lacrosse's popularity has expanded becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, no longer centered in and around the East Coast. For the high school lacrosse player, there are a number of great boarding schools to consider. Of course, preparatory high schools offer a variety of benefits, from academic excellence to community service to athletic success, as well as a commitment to developing global knowledge and leadership.
Lacrosse (or Lax, as it's commonly called) combines the motion and fluidity of basketball and hockey in larger field setting. There are ten players on each team with three attack, three midfielders, three defenders, and a goalie. The rules of women's lacrosse differ significantly from men's lacrosse, most notably by equipment and the degree of allowable physical contact. Lacrosse is played at the collegiate level at both as a club and a sanctioned team sport, however, men's Division III lacrosse is growing at a much faster rate than Division I, with more than 166 Division III teams playing in 19 difference conferences. Many colleges recruit actively for lacrosse players and several offer athletic scholarships. Playing on a team that plays in major tournaments can help players gain exposure by recruiters for students who want to play competitively at the collegiate level.
For many independent boarding schools, lacrosse is as popular as football or basketball. Many schools dominate their division and have won multiple championships, while other schools are developing programs that focus on team building skills and introducing the sport to new athletes. The six schools featured below offer outstanding and diverse boarding school lacrosse programs, allowing for a very unique independent school experience.
Surveying Boarding School Lacrosse Programs
Founded in 1850, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school in western Connecticut that has built a strong lacrosse tradition and features a varsity and junior varsity boys' lacrosse teams and varsity girls' lacrosse team. The boys' team competes within the Western New England Secondary School Lacrosse Association (WENSSLA). The girls' team competes as a Class B team within the Western New England Prep School Women's Lacrosse Association (WNEPSWLA). For the 2007 season, the Gunnery girls' team was named Class B Champions and finished with a 10-1-2 record. Teams play home games on the Underhill Memorial Field in the spring and travel within their division, including Hopkins, Berkshire, Millbrook, Williston-Northampton and Kingswood-Oxford. Alumnae of Gunnery lacrosse programs have gone on to compete at the collegiate level at Babson, Bowdoin, Cleveland State University, Hamilton College, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Manhattanville College Providence College, Roanoke College, St. Lawrence University and Ursinus College.
For those looking for a winning lacrosse program in the south, look no further than Baylor School. Baylor is a coeducational day and boarding school overlooking the Tennessee River in Chattanooga. Baylor fields lacrosse teams at the varsity and lower school level for both boys and girls. In 2010, the Baylor Boys' Red Raiders was named Tennessee Scholastic Lacrosse Association (TSLA) Division 2 State Champion and had 10 players named to the All-State Teams and 11 players named to the East All-Region Teams. In 2011, the varsity girls' lacrosse team made their first appearance in the state tournament and had two players named to the 2011 All-State team by the Tennessee Girls Lacrosse Association. Baylor School graduates have gone on to play lacrosse at Centre College, Berry College, Brown University, Millsaps College, and Nazareth College.
Known inclusively as the Culver Academies, the Culver Military Academy and Culver Girls Academy is a Mid-West powerhouse when it comes to lacrosse. Located in Culver, Indiana both the Culver Girls Academy and Culver Military Academy offer premier lacrosse programs. The girls' varsity team won the Indiana State Championship in 2002, 2003, and 2004, 2007 and 2008. Additionally, the boys' varsity team has won eight state championships between 1999 and 2010. In 2010, two students were named to the All-State and All-American teams. Graduates of the Culver Academies have gone on to play lacrosse at The Ohio State University, Hobart College, Vassar College, University of California-Berkeley, Michigan State University and The College of William and Mary.
At St. Timothy's School, an all-girls boarding school in Stevenson, Maryland, girls' varsity lacrosse players are members of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM). In 2009-2010, the team was runner-up in the Lacrosse Division C Championship. Additionally, two students were named to the 2011 US Lacrosse All-Academic team, which honors players who have demonstrated exemplary lacrosse skills and excellent sportsmanship on the field while also representing high standards of academic achievement in the classroom. Lacrosse players at St. Timothy's have played lacrosse at the collegiate level including Elizabethtown College, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University.
At The Thacher School in southern California, lacrosse offers many opportunities at the middle school, junior varsity and varsity levels. Thatcher has three boys' lacrosse teams, offering expert instruction and challenging competition for players of all levels, from those who have never picked up a stick before to those ready for a schedule including the best teams in California. Thacher also formed one of the first high school girls' lacrosse programs in the state of California and now offers both junior varsity and varsity teams. Having won Southern California Girls Lacrosse Association championship in 2003 and 2004, Thacher's program has led the way as a frontrunner in California's oldest interscholastic lacrosse league, the Condor League. At the boys' level, players have enjoyed great success at all levels and many players have extended their lacrosse playing days beyond high school to join the teams at colleges including Colgate, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Kenyon, Pomona, Stanford, and the US Naval Academy. For the girls' teams, many lacrosse players have gone on to play Division I and Division III lacrosse during their college careers at schools including Cal Berkeley, Bowdoin, Colby, Colorado, Columbia, Duke, Davidson, and Stanford.
Back in New England, Nobles & Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts offers girls' and boys' lacrosse teams at both the varsity, junior varsity and middle school levels. Nobles, as it is commonly known is a coeducational, nonsectarian day and boarding school and a member of the competitive Independent School League. With access to ten college-sized practice fields, six are used as top-notch lacrosse fields. The girls' varsity lacrosse team was named ISL champions for the 2008/2009 season. In 2005 and 2006, the boys' varsity team won ISL championships. Mo st lacrosse players at Nobles play at the Division I and II collegiate level, including Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, College of William & Mary, Union College, Duke University, Colgate University, Colby College and Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Brown University, Williams College and Washington & Lee University.
Lacrosse does more than just promote good sportsmanship; it also helps to instill a good work ethic and responsibility, while aiding personal development. With proper research and communication you can find an independent school dedicated to achieving excellence on and off the field.
Interested in learning more about boarding school lax & the admission process from a varsity lacrosse coach/admission counselor? Check out this video interview with Mercersburg Academy's Mark Schindler.