SAMOHI — Amidst objections from school officials, students here who are members of a local lacrosse club team are trying to make the sport official at Santa Monica High School.
The Santa Monica Vikings club team is made up of more than 100 middle and high school students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, with 75 students who attend Samohi. However, despite having all of its high school students from Samohi, the movement has failed to gain support from school officials despite five years of lobbying, said Chris Carrico, general manager of the lacrosse program.
“We really think because we’re all Samohi students, why wouldn’t the existing field space be equally shared with us?” Carrico said. “It’s discouraging that the school feels that lacrosse is not a viable sport, not an important sport.”
Daniel Escalera, athletic director of Samohi, said a severe drop in school funding and a lack of field space makes it difficult to add the sport.
“We’d love to consider it. Just, right now, we’re kind of stuck with the fixed amount of field space. Right now, the fields get tore up, and they get beaten up … it could be unsafe,” Escalera said. “You go to Pali and you go to Culver City, and you’re going to see a whole lot [more] of green than you see at Santa Monica High School.”
Samohi has three fields for sports, including football, baseball and softball. Currently, eight soccer teams, track and physical education classes share the fields.
“Those eight soccer teams are not all Samohi students. [It includes] AYSO and club soccer … who aren’t all Samohi students.” said Carrico. “Why don’t lacrosse players have the same rights as all the other Samohi sports? We actually have less rights than an 11-year-old AYSO player.”
To add a new school sport, the team must first seek the approval of the athletic director, who then recommends the idea to the school administration.
“They’ve tried to do all that, there’s just nothing we can do right now,” Escalera said.
In September, the team approached Escalera about adding lacrosse and received a mixed response.
“He was all smiles,” said Carrico of Escalera. However, in subsequent e-mails the director of theater operations and facility permits rejected the team’s proposal.
“We are funded strictly through parental support, and we’re trying to keep pricing very low and affordable,” said Carrico, who said registration fees for the club team were $450 last season. “We offered to rent the field space, and it’s still no. We’re not asking for a handout from the school.”
Coach salaries, field space, officials, transportation, security, custodians and equipment costs are just some of the associated costs with becoming an official high school team sanction by the California Interscholastic Federation, said Escalera.
Athletic Director of Malibu High School Chris Neier said lacrosse needed $30,000 to get started at Malibu High, with most of the financial support coming from parents.
“It’s an expensive sport to run. It’s a lot like football. There’s helmets. There’s pads. There’s sticks,” said Neier. “[But] Lacrosse for our school has become kind of an ‘it’ program. It’s extremely popular.”
About 50 out of the 750 students at Malibu High participate in lacrosse, said Neier.
Due to the Samohi athletic director’s opposition, the Santa Monica club team plans to confront district officials at a school board meeting Thursday night.
“We’re hoping the school board and the athletic department understand how many kids want to play lacrosse and want to be there to support us … not [just] financially support us, but to back us as a [school] team,” said Carrico, who hopes to raise the team to CIF level. “Becoming CIF is not something that happens overnight, but to put the wheels in motion for it to happen is our goal.”
Not having lacrosse as an official school sport also limits future opportunities for students who dream of playing at the collegiate level. The team is not able to play other schools with CIF teams, such as Malibu High, in games that might draw scouts, said Carrico.
“The number of non-CIF teams is disappearing and pretty soon there won’t be anyone to play,” said Jeff Townsend, director of the club team.
“Some of the families have talked about pulling their kids out of Samohi and putting them in Pali and Malibu, who all have CIF teams,” said Carrico, who has a son on the lacrosse team who hopes to play in college.
The school board meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the district offices located at 1651 16th St.