The sport of lacrosse is one of the most popular and fastest growing sports in the nation and that trend continues in Osceola County as St. Cloud High becomes the third school in the county to add the sport to its college lineup – joining Celebration and Tohopekaliga.
“Here we go,” St. Cloud athletic director Bryan Smart said. “Zach Beaverson, who will be our first head coach, and some students approached my predecessor Eric Godfrey last year and talked to him about building a team. Eric was more than supportive and helped get a club team off the ground. The interest is definitely there and we have decided to go to university this season.
In addition to Godfrey, Smart also praised Tohopekaliga coach Robert Weilert for his help. “Whether it’s ideas, suggestions, advice, or program protocols, Coach Weilert has been a tremendous asset. He obviously has his own agenda to take care of, but he’s been completely selfless in helping us,” Smart said.
Beaverson will coach the boys’ and girls’ teams and will be assisted by Todd Schultz, who played varsity lacrosse in college. Beaverson hopes to add one or two more assistants in the future.
Smart noted that the school’s new lacrosse program will face many challenges, including budget, equipment and court scheduling for practice times and games. “Obviously we will have to find money for uniforms, equipment and to pay the match officials. There is also limited practice field space on campus and we have many teams that need to use them; so scheduling becomes an issue,” Smart said. “But at St. Cloud High School, our number one priority is always the student. They wanted this program, so we’ll find a way to make it work.
Interest was solid at first. In addition to fielding a club team last year, Beaverson said he had a steady crowd of student-athletes showing up three times a week for summer practices. “Some kids have summer jobs, while others play other sports or have family obligations, but we still have 25-35 kids – mostly sophomores – showing up for practices. summer in 95 degree heat The participation and enthusiasm for the sport was outstanding.
With 10 players on the field at a time in a sport that also has liberal substitutions, Beaverson thinks he’ll have no problem finding the 20-35 members needed to field a lacrosse team. “Once school starts and word gets out, interest will grow,” he said. “The fact also remains that it’s just a fun game to play and it’s a great ‘crossover’ sport that athletes from other teams can use to stay fit.”
Beaverson says he and Schultz will have several hurdles to overcome, including planning. “We will try to schedule as many doubleheaders as possible so that both teams can play on the same pitch on the same day,” he noted. “We will schedule back-to-back practices and maybe even do joint practices with the boys’ and girls’ teams. It will be long days, but we will find a solution.
When it comes to on-field performance, Beaverson says managing expectations will be the hardest thing. “Kids don’t like to lose and I don’t like to lose, but in reality I know the first year or two will be tough. Some of these Orlando-area kids have been playing organized lacrosse since elementary and middle school. We start with a few athletes who maybe don’t even know which end of the stick to hold,” jokes Beaverson. “Our goals will remain modest in the first year or two – have fun and try to improve in every practice and every match.”
Currently, 200 public and private high schools play lacrosse in Florida. Championships are held in a small (1A) and large (2A) school division. The Celebration women’s team has been the most successful team in Osceola County, winning multiple district championships, including in 2022 when they went 13-4. But the other three Osceola County teams – the Celebration Boys (9-5), Tohopekaliga Boys (11-8) and Tohopekaliga Girls (9-8) also posted winning records.
“We become the third school in the county to add lacrosse, hopefully a few more schools will add it in the next two years so it can be part of the Orange Belt Conference championship schedule,” Smart added.