The History of OYLA
The idea of the Onslow Youth Lacrosse Association began in June of 2005 when the wife of an active duty Marine arrived in the Jacksonville-Camp Lejeune-Onslow County area to find there were no lacrosse programs for her children to play in. Michelle Leonard took the initiative to apply for a boys and girls equipment grant through USLacrosse. There were over 100 applicants and our association was one of 34 programs awarded grants in 2005. The grant was incredibly helpful as were able to begin an equipment rental program allowing parents an economical way to find out if their children would want to commit to the new sport in the area.
The first Board of Directors began formulating our approach to doing business, incorporating as a non-profit, planning and organizing clinics. Joining Michelle in this pioneer effort were Gary Herbold, Mike Alford, John Sarno, Mat Pfeffer, Matt Dressel, Chris Halagarda and Steve Otto.
We held three clinics – one in November, one in January, and one in February. One of the things that made the clinics so successful was the number of volunteers who came out to help with the clinics. At the first clinic we had 2 Marines who had heard of the clinic the night before and came out to volunteer. They did not have children of their own – but they were former players who wanted to teach kids how to play and wanted to see the sport grow.
It did not take long to get the players hooked on lacrosse. Once they held the lacrosse stick and made a successful catch and throw – the players were hooked. The clinics and practices started with the players learning the basic skills of scooping, cradling, catching, throwing, passing, and shooting on goal. As the players learned these skills, they progressed to learning the rules, strategy, and plays.
Our first lacrosse season was incredibly successful. We ended the season with a total of 4 teams – U--11 Boys, U13 Boys, U-15 Boys, and one girls’ team. We had a total of 93 players registered this season and we had a total of 13 coaches participating in the program, plus numerous volunteers – some who had children playing and some who just loved the sport and wanted to see it grow in the area. We started the season with only 5 players who had ever played lacrosse before. Everyone else learned through our pre-season clinics and through practice. The season’s first games were very exciting and nerve wracking because the players were not only playing their first game of lacrosse ever but most were seeing their first game of lacrosse ever as they were playing it. However, by the end of the season there was not one player that I know of who does not want to play lacrosse again.
2021 will be OYLA's 16th season. We have around 150 players and 7 teams. Our Boys' program currently has teams at the U-8, U-10, U-12, and U-14 levels. We also have a Coed 6U Program, and continue to work on expanding our Girls' program. We currently have Girls U-11 and U-14 Girls teams. We are a part of the ECYLL (East Carolina Youth Lacrosse League) and play games against Greenville, Carteret, Topsail, Cape Fear, and New Bern. These programs have been instrumental in getting the game played at the high school level. Swansboro, Jacksnville, Northside, and White Oak High Schools all have teams as a direct result of the Onslow Youth Lacrosse Association and the East Carolina Youth Lacrosse League's efforts.
Our goal to continue to bring the fast and exciting sport of lacrosse to the Eastern Carolina community is stronger than ever. Lacrosse is a sport that is a combination of hockey, basketball, and soccer and it offers excellent off-season training for football players. The best thing about Onslow Youth Lacrosse is the kids really have a great time learning the sport and playing it. They come to practices anxious to learn and play and can not wait for the games on the weekends. On the sidelines you can hear many parents expressing the fact that they wished they had been able to play lacrosse when they were young, because there just isn’t any other sport like it. At the end of May, the players and parents are sad the season is over.
Our goal since June of 2005 has been to instill a love for the sport of lacrosse like no other. Lacrosse is unique because it creates a life long love of the sport. "A lacrosse player is a lacrosse player for life. So many of our volunteers do not have children old enough to play or do not have children participating at all. They just were former lacrosse players, who loved the sport, and wanted to be involved with the game again and wanted the sport to grow." (Quote by Michelle Leonard) We want to pass on the experience and love of lacrosse to the children of Onslow County.
Come out and catch the spirit of lacrosse and become a part of the Onslow Tribe Family. LET'S GO TRIBE!!