Signal Mountain Middle/High School will be the first public school in Hamilton County to offer men's lacrosse as a sport in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.
"There has been an interest in lacrosse on Signal Mountain for several years," said Dr. Tom McCullough, former SMMHS principal. "The interest has rapidly grown to the point that the school cannot ignore it with so many of our students involved. I believe there is a place for it within the SMMHS athletic community."
Signal Mountain Lacrosse League president and head coach for the new SMMHS lacrosse program John Troutner said the school will have middle and high school teams composed of 40 players each, and tryouts will be held the first two weeks in February. SMLL already has an under-11 rec team for players ages 9-11, which will be maintained.
Troutner will hold several free clinics over the summer to introduce the game to boys age 9 and older who may be interested in playing lacrosse for SMMHS. The clinics will be held at Hedges Field (between Signal Mountain Town Hall and the Recycle Center) Saturdays, June 23, July 28 and Aug. 18 from 9-11 a.m.
"We're basically teaching people how to play so parents don't invest in hundreds of dollars worth of equipment, and then their kid decides they don't like lacrosse," said Troutner.
He said an in-depth study conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association found lacrosse to be the nation's fastest-growing sport, with participation up 218.1 percent over the last decade. The SMLL recreational league has been in existence for the past eight years.
"There was a lot of interest and not a lot of outlets for people to play," said Troutner.
The league's under-11 team currently has 23 players, the middle school (under-15) team has 16 and the high school team is composed of 14 players.
Troutner said SMMHS adding the sport to its athletic program opens the door for other public schools in the area to follow suit. He said only 10 public schools in Tennessee offer lacrosse as part of their spring athletic programs, just a third of the number of the state's private schools offering the sport.
"Currently over 80 percent of Georgia public schools offer lacrosse as a spring sport," said Troutner. "It's just a matter of time before we see that level of involvement in Tennessee."
He said teams competing against SMHS this spring include St. Benedict, Bell Buckle, Hume-Fog/Hillsboro, Hendersonville/Sumner, Mount Juliet, Clarksville, Murfreesboro and Soddy-Daisy (club team not associated with Soddy-Daisy High School).
Middle school players will compete against the Loftis Middle School club team (not affiliated with the school).
Local teams in the under-11 division include Middle Valley, Bright School and Lookout Mountain.
Although no official program is planned at this time, SMMHS does have the staff necessary to start a girls' team if as many as 20 players express an interest, said Troutner. Since lacrosse is not yet recognized by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, he said Title 9 laws which would require the school to offer an equal program for women do not apply.