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Lacrosse Thu Jan 24 2013

OWLS Holds Inner City Lacrosse Camp on MLK Day

lacrossecoach.jpgMartin Luther King Jr. once said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The kids participating in the Outreach With Lacrosse and Schools, or OWLS, hope to live in such a world.

Last Monday in the West Loop, a group of kids from the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls learned the fundamentals of lacrosse from the folks at OWLS. The event is a part of a continuing effort to expose inner-city children to the sport; one that is traditionally played by the affluent.

OWLS is a volunteer organization dedicated to starting lacrosse programs for inner-city schools and communities. It stresses team-building, healthy lifestyles and academic achievement. The OWLS program is spearheaded by Sam Angelotta, a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at St. Malachy School on the city's West side. Angelotta played collegiate lacrosse at Indiana University and DePaul University. He says the program started out as need for an after school program.

"Really, it's a response to healthy lifestyles and alternative sports programs for inner-city kids," Angelotta said. "It was a response to introducing a sport that's on an even keel. Everyone plays."

The students that participate in the program attend the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, a home for disadvantaged youth. According to Mercy Home's website, they provide "therapeutic, academic and vocational support, we help them grow into healthy adults who go on to pursue higher education, secure good jobs, and raise loving families of their own."

Lacrosse has been traditionally played along the east coast and in California, but has been growing in popularity in the midwest. It also has a perception of being a sport exclusively played by the wealthy.

"It has that stigma. But it was started by Native Americans. It's spiritual game," Angelotta said.

The kids were athletic but they weren't athletes. They were responding to whistles."
According to Angelotta, the students in the programs took to the game pretty well despite having very little knowledge on how the game is played.

"They responded really well. The most similar sport is basketball. The offensive and defensive schemes are the same," Angelotta said. "Passing the ball around, looking for the best shot."

Angelotta made it very clear to the students that African-Americans were prominent in the sport. A long-term goal of the program is to get in touch with former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, who was a first-team All-American in lacrosse at Syracuse University.

"We did a presentation on Jim Brown. We're trying to get him."

Angelotta also told the students about the Morgan State University Bears Lacrosse Team. The Bears was the first and only lacrosse team established to play lacrosse at a Historically Black Colleges or University.

OWLS also has a program called the School-2-School Initiative. The program has established a connection with some the top college lacrosse programs in the country to come into the city and volunteer to teach inner city the nuances of the game. Northwestern University Women's Lacrosse and the University of Notre Dame Men's Lacrosse teams have participated, as well as some local high schools lacrosse teams, including St. Ignatius College Prep, New Trier, Naperville North, Whitney Young and St. Viator.

nulacrosse.jpgAlexa Delyra, a member of Northwestern University's Women's Lacrosse team, who have won seven of the last eight national championships, coordinates the girl's program. She says that everyone should get an opportunity to play the game she loves.

"I think it's really great. Everyone deserves a chance to play the game we love so much at Northwestern," Delyra said. "It's fun to be active."

The students who are involved in the program have taken a liking to the game and hope to continue playing. Charnele is one the students in the OWLS program. She admits that she did not know much about the game until she looked it up.

"I think it's a great sport. I did a little research about it," she said. "I'm a little scared of the ball flying past my head because I'm short."

Donations can be sent to OWLS Lacrosse, P.O. Box 14196, Chicago, IL 60614. Also, equipment donations can sent to St. Malachy School, 2252 W. Washington Blvd. Chicago, IL 60612.

Photos by Mark Schmeltzer

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Etalaze / March 21, 2013 4:42 AM

The kids were athletic but they weren't athletes. They were responding to whistles.

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