Youth lacrosse offers opportunities for city youth

By Jeffrey Turgeon

Summer is here, and many young boys in Worcester are lacing up their cleats and dusting off their baseball gloves and bat. That’s not the case for Rob Vigeant and his players from the Worcester Stars Lacrosse. They are headed onto another field to start their fifth lacrosse season.

Vigeant was raised in Worcester and still resides there with his wife Alison and three young boys, Tim age 9, Trevor 7and Tyler 6. He attended Worcester Public Schools for grammar and middle school and St. John’s for high school. He then went to Providence College where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Education. Upon graduation, he returned to Worcester. He was hired to teach social studies at Forest Grove and coach basketball at South High under the legendary Jack “the Shot” Foley.

A few years later, he took a basketball coaching position at St. John’s and in 1997 was hired to teach history at his alma mater. In 2002, he was named head coach of the St. John’s Lacrosse team. He had never played the game himself. “I taught myself the game through books, videos and attending lots of collegiate games. The second I started coaching lacrosse, I immediately fell in love with it. Lacrosse incorporated the best of many sports, and rolls them into one; it has the speed of hockey, the excitement of basketball and the physicality of football.”

Vigeant proved to be successful at his new found sport. In eight seasons, his teams made it to the district finals, five times. His teams won district titles in 2002, 03 and 09. In 2009, his team became the first in central mass to make it all the way to the State Finals. He currently stands as the winningest coach in Central Mass Lacrosse history with 125 wins and 34 losses.

In 2004 his oldest son expressed an interest in taking up the sport, only to find that there were no opportunities in this area for a five year old to play the game. Vigeant took matters into his own hands and formed Rising Stars Lacrosse Developmental League. In the first year, the league had about 25 boys. Advertisement was done through word of mouth.

People spread the word to friends of friends, in playgroups and to co-workers. Even people walking or driving by O’Connell Field on Grove St. would stop and inquire. Fortunately, one of the boys who started that year was a son of a Worcester Police Officer and word quickly spread throughout the department, which led to more sign-ups for the league. By 2009, the league had had expanded to six teams and close to 75 boys in the league.

“What we have found, is that many parents (and players) feel that lacrosse as a sport, offers unique opportunities for the players. It’s a true high energy, team sport. Every player on the field has a particular job and must execute their job at all times. No one sits idle, and every player has the chance to contribute to the team’s success.” Says Vigeant. Lisa and Tim Williams, the parents of a current player have this to say about lacrosse: “Our son, Matthew, loves to play lacrosse. Being involved in a fast paced, up and coming sport like lacrosse is exciting to the kids as well as the parents. The games move quickly and they are a lot of fun to watch. Coach Vigeant provides families the opportunity to start children playing lacrosse at a young age. They work on the fundamentals of lacrosse and work their way up to playing organized games.”

Another parent, Ellen Buckley had this to say: “My sons love playing lacrosse, it is fast paced and it keeps their attention. They also enjoy meeting kids from outside their own school community. As a parent, I am very happy with the organization and quality of coaching this league offers my boys.”

Rising Stars Lacrosse is an organization that provides an opportunity for boys as young as 3 1/2 years old to try their hand at lacrosse. The progression of the players is evident. At age 4, most of the boys are more impressed with the amount of sweat under their helmets than they were with their lacrosse skills. As their exposure to lacrosse grows, so does their skills. Many are able to effectively throw, catch and scoop up the ball. The league strives to provide the players with a sound lacrosse foundation, which enables the players to make a smooth transition into full game play.

“We provide instruction for both the players and their parents. Lacrosse is an up and coming sport in this country. Many of our players have parents that were not exposed to lacrosse growing up, so they are hesitant to sign their son up. As a result, we try to provide instruction for the players and their parents,” says Vigeant. “Lacrosse has grown tremendously in the surrounding suburbs over the last decade, and I want to see it grow here, in the City of Worcester.”

This season Vigeant has expanded his offerings to include the Worcester Stars, which is the spring league name for Rising Stars Lacrosse. He is working diligently with City of Worcester leaders and the Worcester Police Department to provide the city’s youth an opportunity to play lacrosse. “We are working with city leaders and local sponsors to enlist their help in spreading the word and providing much needed funding. One of the biggest hurdles we have found for many Worcester families is the cost of equipping a young lacrosse player. In these tough economic times, parents often have to make difficult decisions between paying their bills and providing extra-curricular opportunities for their children. We want to help ease that burden as much as we can.”

By reaching out to the city’s youth, he’s able to provide kids from all backgrounds the chance to play lacrosse. Vigeant understands the importance of giving back to the community and he also knows the positive outcomes that can come from playing an organized sport. “We want this sport to reach every corner of our community,” says Vigeant. Through donations from local sponsors, the Worcester Stars is able to offset some of the costs associated with playing an organized sport. Sponsorship is new for this league and the hope is for sponsorship to grow, so that the benefits will continue to be passed to new players.

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