New girls lacrosse coach seeks affiliation

The only thing wrong with the Columbia women’s lacrosse team is its team colors, sophomore Kira Kirk said.

Even though she enjoys that the team represents both high schools, she wishes they could sport bolder hues than black and silver, such as the vibrant green RBHS teams wear, but she doesn’t want to play for RBHS itself.

This year’s new coach, RBHS math teacher Angel Renick, also aspires to see the team’s colors change, but for the opposite reason. She hopes the team will split and affiliate with RBHS and Hickman High School individually, rather than Columbia as a whole.

“I’ve always wanted to coach lacrosse,” Renick said. “I’m passionate enough, … and I want the lacrosse program to become instated in schools. That is my dream — to have a Rock Bridge girls lacrosse team.”

Attracting players is the largest obstacle to school affiliation, Renick said. In fact seniors Elsa Neal and Kira Lubahn were allowed to join the team as eighth graders solely because of the team’s low numbers.

Kirk said Columbia’s low interest is rooted in minimal exposure to the sport. Growing up, she never saw lacrosse games on television. Mid-Missouri just doesn’t know enough about the sport, she said.

“Lacrosse is kind of the unknown sport,” Kirk said. “If you go to Dick’s Sporting Goods … in the women’s section, there’s … five things you can buy.”

Lubahn said the team has 28 players this year, 14 of whom are RBHS students. But she thinks general interest in lacrosse is growing. The number of players will increase eventually, she said, even if it takes a while.

“It’s just a gradual process of getting the numbers there,” Lubahn said. But “as soon as it does become a school sport, the numbers will grow even more.”

Renick, who graduated from RBHS in 2003 and played for the team, said growth will take a few years. But she already has a plan that will mean more practices, more structure and, she hopes, more wins.

“The coaches last year, if it rained … or if it was too cold, they might cancel practice.” Renick said. “I will make sure we have practice. … I have a game plan.”

The team’s new structure will make the sport more competitive, Renick said. It’s crucial to increase awareness of the sport, she said, because low numbers are keeping the team from becoming school-affiliated.

Renick’s last inquiry affiliating lacrosse with RBHS was as a player herself. Renick approached athletic director Jennifer Mast, who told her MSHSAA affiliation would be more possible if St. Louis led the efforts, Renick said. Now, even though St. Louis’s club teams have disappeared, Columbia’s team isn’t large enough to form two individual teams.

“Club teams typically are not allowed to play against school teams that are MSHSAA instated,” Renick said. Since St. Louis teams became school-affiliated, Columbia’s team has transitioned to competing with teams in Kansas City. “But Kansas City is just booming with lacrosse teams, so Kansas City, before long, is going to go to all MSHSAA teams. And then if we don’t join them in that track, then we’re going to be left without teams to play unless we keep traveling.”

Acquiring teams to play isn’t the only advantage to become school-affiliated. The team then would also gain practice fields outside the school and fiscal aid.

“We have to buy all of our own uniforms. We have to work it out with the city to find places to practice and places to host our games. If we became school instated, we’d be able to have a practice field right outside the school,” Renick said. School teams “get a lot more fiscal help, … more money to hire assistant coaches, more money to buy supplies, more money so we don’t have to rent a practice field.”

Kirk sees the merits of becoming a school-affiliated team, but she said she would miss the current team’s atmosphere. Playing a club sport is less stressful, she said. She can also reconnect with her friends who attend Hickman. It would “definitely be awesome” to play lacrosse for RBHS, she said, but she’s happy with the current team

“It’s fun, and it’s a sport,” Kirk said, “and that’s what works with our team.”
By Nomin-Erdene Jagdagdorj