By Ginger DeShaney

More than 300 local youth are learning lacrosse and life skills.

“We make sure we give them the skills to play, but we make sure it’s more than the X’s and O’s,” said Erin Brogan, director of Boston Youth Lacrosse and coach of the seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ team. “All our coaches talk about sportsmanship and remind kids how to be a great teammate.”

There are also plenty of team-building activities, as well as leadership opportunities for the older kids and players who have graduated out of the program, including becoming junior officials and volunteering for the Learn to Play program for younger kids.

The program started as South Boston Youth Lacrosse in 1997. In 2016, it became Boston Youth Lacrosse to incorporate Dorchester. While it’s mostly a town program for South Boston and Dorchester boys and girls, the league accepts kids from other neighborhoods, as well. 

The coaches are local residents who have played lacrosse themselves. 

Erin played lacrosse for Dean College in Franklin, Mass. Eight years ago, “I just saw a sign and started volunteer coaching,” she said. “And then as the seasons went, I kind of took on more responsibility.” She’s been the director for three years now.

“We are lucky being in Boston. We have a lot of ex-college players living locally in South Boston and Dorchester and that’s where we get most of our volunteer coaches. A lot of suburban towns, they rely on parent volunteers. So while the city programs tend to have struggles, that’s one that we kind of benefit from.”

Erin is grateful to the local residents who have played the sport and are willing to spend their time coaching the kids, sometimes in the cold and rain. “They are willing to do this for the local kids,” she said.

Boston Youth Lacrosse breaks down the barriers of play. “Lacrosse can be a very expensive sport,” Erin said. “Our prices stay very low. We are a fraction of the cost of what many town programs charge. We provide equipment for anyone who needs it … and we offer scholarships to anyone who needs it.”

Boston Youth Lacrosse started the co-ed Learn to Play program for K-1 and K-2 kids a couple of years ago with seven kids. “Now we have 80 and it’s crazy,” Erin said. 

The little kids don’t have games. “We just make it fun,” said Erin, who is a teacher at South Boston Catholic Academy and coaches the girls’ varsity lacrosse team at Malden Catholic and a Massachusetts club team. High schoolers lead groups of 10 kids in activities, scrimmages, and fundamentals. “It is so cute,” she said.

Boston Youth Lacrosse has competitive teams for first- through eighth-grade players.

In 2019-20, the league saw 60 percent growth, Erin said, noting it had declined in recent years. “And now we’re back up there and seeing a large growth. There’s been a renewed interest lately. The kids are enjoying it.”

Coming up next summer, a group of seventh- through ninth-grade players will travel to Ireland for a lacrosse festival. The players were supposed to go last summer, but it was canceled because of COVID-19.

Boston Youth Lacrosse is making a big difference for local kids. 

“We rely on a lot of volunteers and a lot of donations,” said Erin. “It’s really a community-led program.”

The Boston Youth Lacrosse seventh- & eighth-grade girls’ team won a hard-fought game against Cambridge, 11-9, at Saunders Stadium Sunday.