Last weekend the Teton Youth Lacrosse Program finished out its third season with a tournament at Bozeman, where Wolverines in grades K-6 proved their mettle against teams from around the region.
In the first two years of Wolverine Lacrosse, there was only one girls’ team, but this year assistant program director Rachel Fortier and her squad of coaches oversee three teams.
“We have amazing coaches who are fun and have a really good understanding of the game,” Fortier said.
There aren’t enough U12 girls to field a full team but that has meant that the younger girls have played up in age at times, which Fortier said increases the level of energy and competition in games and practice. In Bozeman Teton Valley girls from third through sixth grade joined together to make a U12 team. Meanwhile, the U8 girls won three out of their four games last weekend.
“They played fiercely at the tournament in Bozeman and I can’t wait to see the continued progression next year,” said Coach Erin Sours of her U8 girls, who decided they should actually be called the Wolverqueens.
Fortier said it was a no-brainer to nominate Ida Nichols as the TVN Athlete of the Month. She has coached the fourth grader for two years and said Ida has the perfect amount of competitiveness and hustle without ever losing her level head.
“We call her ‘the difference maker,’” Fortier said of Ida. “She’s a silent leader, she’s not even a team captain but the girls look up to her and pay attention to her.”
Ida was playing goalie earlier in the season on her U10 team, but then her teammate Lola Goodson rolled an ankle and found her place in front of the net (“Lola is going to become a phenomenal goalie,” Fortier noted.) Ida was moved to center, where Fortier said she connects passes, has good field vision, and gives valuable input to her teammates.
“Plus she’s such a great kid,” Fortier added. “I mean, they all are, but Ida has a great attitude.”
Many teams the Wolverines face have a much longer practice season and by the time they’re U12, some kids have been playing together for up to six years.
As a young program, Wolverine Lacrosse has enjoyed a lot of support from the community and from the school district, director Matt Shriver said. Through several grants, most of the public schools now have lacrosse equipment for PE classes, ensuring that more kids can learn how to play before joining a team. Fortier said the league will have to start recruiting U14 players from the middle school next year, so getting rackets in hands as soon as possible is important. A high school team might be two years out, Shriver added.
During the Bozeman tournament he spoke with directors and parents from other leagues and that “their jaws dropped when they heard we only practice for two months out of the year.”
“It’s only a three-year-old program but it’s really a testament to the coaches and kids how quickly we’ve progressed and become competitive,” he continued. “We definitely have athletes in this valley.”
As with the girls’ U8 team, the boys’ U8 team had an exemplary weekend, proving that as those young players rise through the ranks, the Wolverines will become a force on the field.
Shriver also heard high praise from referees about how courteous the Teton Valley kids and parents are.
“Officials come up to coaches to tell us our kids are the best behaved, the best sports they’ve seen all year,” he said.
Shriver, who has years of coaching experience, has read studies that say that for kids in sports, the most influential person in their lives after their parents can be their coaches.
“We have to know that and embrace it and take it seriously,” he said. “We make a conscious decision to work really hard to be a good influence and to foster good relationships. We want to get away from the ‘win at all costs’ mentality and keep it as positive as possible.”