When they moved to Redmond from Humbolt County, California in 2002, Scott and Laurie Purcell had never even heard of lacrosse. For that matter, neither had Redmond. But over the next decade, their family’s own challenges and overcoming obstacles would mirror and intersect with the efforts to establish and grow lacrosse in Redmond. Although many families have powered the growth of the sport, and poured in hours of volunteer time to support their kids’ teams, the Purcells’ experience tells the story of lacrosse in town, and RAPRD’s efforts to help secure its future.
The Purcells moved to Redmond when their boys, Troy and Austin, were in second and third grade, respectively. Scott’s job with FedEx had offered the family a transfer to Central Oregon, and, after visiting the area, they chose to settle in Redmond, which they found was the safe, affordable place to raise their family they were looking for. Laurie recalls they chose Redmond for many reasons. “For the affordability, for the size of the community, the school ratings…” She also notes that the size of the town allows a busy mom or dad to make pick ups and drop offs of multiple kids at multiple sports without taking all day. “We’ve been really happy with Redmond and have never regretted that decision,” she says.
The family moved in August, and so missed the cutoff for fall soccer through RAPRD. Laurie remembers, “We moved up so late that Troy was on a wait list, and they told me the only way to be sure he could be on a team would be if I agreed to coach. So from the minute we moved up here, I coached.” Although she had coached in Humboldt County, Laurie was reticent, as she has not played soccer all the way through school. Luckily, her assistant coach that year would eventually become the Central Oregon Christian School soccer coach. “We wound up having a great relationship with him and we had a wonderful time, and it was great.” After that first season, the family’s relationship with RAPRD only expanded. “Our kids were really into sports,” Laurie says, “soccer and basketball.” Scott coached flag football while the boys played and Laurie coached cheerleading. When they were older, both boys eventually reffed for youth sports. “We’ve had a long history with park and rec,” Laurie says.
Laurie, who has her accounting degree and now works for the food bank at NeighborImpact, takes youth sports very seriously, as type of map, or instruction manual to teach kids how to behave in adulthood. “I don’t care what grade you are, you can learn to be respectful, on time, you can learn to be reliable because people depend on you.” Laurie says, “Everyone gets equal play time, I don’t care about your skill,” because every kid needs a chance to learn these values.
Seven years ago, when Troy was in 9th grade, his friend Sam came to him. They had been good friends since second grade. Sam played lacrosse for Redmond High School and they needed another player. Troy already played jazz band, regular band, soccer, basketball. He had been planning to take spring season off. But Sam asked him to play so they could field a whole team. “We need 10 on the field,” he told him, “You can just stand there and hold the stick.” Troy couldn’t say no to Sam.
“Scott and I honestly didn’t know what Lacrosse was,” Laurie recalls, “We heard the name, we saw a stick, but we had no idea.” Troy, in turn, got Austin interested in the game. “Troy got hooked. Austin got hooked. And I wound up with 2 boys who loved lacrosse. We blame it on Sam,” Laurie says, laughing.
Once the sport began to grow in Redmond, the Purcells realized there would be serious hurdles. “It’s a club sport,” Laurie explains, “it’s self funded, it is never stable because no one is being paid. So lacrosse was always having a hard time.” The next year, Ridgeview opened, but lacrosse was still a club sport so Ridgeview didn’t have a team and the Purcell boys played for Redmond lacrosse. “It was a struggling program, “Laurie describes. “They had the most kids they’d ever had but they didn’t have enough uniforms. It was being kept alive, thank gosh. Bless their hearts, they did what they could.”
The high school split was hard on all the sports and lacrosse was no exception. When Troy was a sophomore and Austin a junior, Austin asked their parents if they could start a lacrosse club at Ridgeview. “Thinking they’d never do it, I told him to go do the work and talk to the principal, talk to the athletic director. Austin came back having done everything.” The principal of Ridgeview, Mr. Loving, agreed, and said he was one hundred percent behind them, but that the school couldn’t financially support a club sport.
The kids played out the rest of the season in Redmond and then the Purcells teamed up with Sharon and Mark Langliers, whose son Chase played with Troy and Sam. “We had no money, no gear, and four players,” Laurie laughs. “You have to dedicate your life when you’re starting something,” she says. “Money was the first challenge. We knew that it’s an expensive sport. The gear is expensive. If parents did not know what it was and their kid has never played it, they weren’t going to pay for $500 worth of gear. So we knew we were going to need to supply everything.”
They wanted the best for their players but it wasn’t about optics or branding. Investing in equipment and uniforms was key to building team spirit. “They had to look like a team,” Laurie said. “They needed jerseys with shirts and shorts that matched their socks. So they could come out on the field with pride.” To build their team and supply the equipment so that kids who didn’t even know what lacrosse was would still come out and play, the Purcells and Langliers embarked on a massive fundraising campaign. “We did everything,” Laurie remembers. “We went up and cut firewood and sold cords of wood. We sold root beer floats. Car washes every weekend.” And it paid off. The Ravens lacrosse club was able to field a team of 19 players and outfit them with home and away jerseys, helmets, gloves, arm pads, and chest pads, and supply the goals and equipment needed to line the fields. By their second year, the team had moved up to the varsity level and Austin, who had graduated, became the assistant coach.
Once both boys had graduated (Troy and Austin are 20 and 21 now, respectively), Scott and Laurie stepped away from the day to day operations of the Ridgeview team. “Scott and I stepped back last year to focus on the youth. We knew from the minute we started the Ridgeview team that the future of high school lacrosse was the youth.” RAPRD had been supportive of the program from the beginning but hadn’t been able to take on a new team sport at the time. But the Purcells were determined to make it work. “We knew we had to get it into park and rec because it is always there, staff gets paid, so it is sustainable,” Laurie says, “We are focusing on growing the park and rec program, getting it available, getting kids involved.” RAPRD handled the registration and gear distribution for the youth teams this year, and will continue to use its infrastructure to lend stability to the program. RAPRD is “doing wonders for lacrosse,” Laurie says.
From RAPRD’s perspective, giving kids more options for sports to play is a big plus. “For kids that aren’t into the big three – baseball, soccer, and basketball – it allows those kids another avenue to be active and competitive,” explains Mike Elam, RAPRD Recreation Manager. “We currently work with Bend Park and Recreation to enter Redmond teams in their league. We provide the gear for three teams,” Elam says, but adds that the goal is to be able to afford enough gear to increase the number of teams. “I hope that we could build the program enough and people excited enough here in Redmond that we could eventually support our own league,” Elam describes. This would allow the local schools to build team spirit among Redmond youth and interleague competition could help everyone sharpen their skills. “When you are able to play other towns, it increases the diversity,” Elam notes.
The future success of the sport in Redmond depends, as it always has, on fundraising and attracting new players. As with the high school team, Ravens Youth Lacrosse kids fundraise to build their program and Laurie won a grant from US Lacrosse for gear. “That really helped us over the challenges, and hurdles,” she says, “so a big thank-you to US Lacrosse.” The local community has also really shown up to help support the program. “The local business owners of Redmond have been wonderful,” Laurie says, “and if not for their donations Ravens Youth Lacrosse would not be we are.”
US Lacrosse strongly supports the development of the sport, particularly in areas where lacrosse is new and organizations are still building programs. “We are a non-profit, member based organization that fuels the growth of lacrosse by providing a variety of programs and services to our members and to those that are starting new lacrosse organizations,” describes Pacific Northwest Regional Manager Lyn Porterfield. Although the sport is less well-known in Oregon, which creates funding and promotional challenges for those working to draw new players to the sport and outfit new teams, this can also be beneficial, Porterfield explains: “Out West of course the sport is much newer, and being “new” is often what makes the sport intriguing for kids.” Also, because parents and kids are learning the sport at the same time, she says, it gives kids, rather than parents, a chance to be the experts, “and kids like that!” she notes.
US Lacrosse introduced the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM) last year, which places priority on fun, safety, and lifelong love of the sport. Their six core values include making sure that the sport stays fun and kid-centered, promoting smaller field and team sizes to get kids more playing time, encouraging involvement of lacrosse players in many sports to develop as athletes and stay active all year, and providing resources for training of coaches and referees. “Any body type or size can play on both the boys and girls side,” Porterfield notes, emphasizing that the sport can draw in kids who might not be attracted to more traditional sports.
This focus on fun, wellness, and development integrates well with RAPRD’s aims to put forward fun recreation programs that support an active lifestyle. US Lacrosse, in turn, sees the potential for park and recreation organizations to play an important role in growing the sport. They “already have the infrastructure to organize teams (field access, coaches, registration, etc),” Porterfield notes, and “they’re often the local ‘experts’ in delivering a safe and fun sports experience to the kids in that community.” US Lacrosse provides resources to club teams, parks and recreation organizations, and PE teachers to help educate coaches, teach the rules of the game, and “provide a great experience for the kids,” Porterfield says.
The Purcells and RAPRD hope to benefit from some of these resources and support from US Lacrosse to build lacrosse in Redmond. Looking to next year, Laurie explains, “We want to double the numbers of youth teams,” noting that the large team size this year isn’t ideal for getting kids playing time. Another goal for next year is to get kids started even younger, by adding a 1st and 2nd grade co-ed team. “The youth program is where it’s at,” Laurie says. “That is what is going to keep the high school program running.” Asked what she sees for the future of lacrosse in Redmond, Laurie acknowledges that growing the program will take commitment, dedication, and sacrifice. “Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the US. We really want lacrosse when you come back in 10 years to be booming.”
Although Laurie and Scott rush to spread the credit around, it is clear that the Purcells have impacted the evolution of lacrosse in Redmond. What is more interesting is how lacrosse has impacted the evolution of the Purcells. Laurie explains the unique path their family took and how she believes it changed them all for the better. “The first three years I don’t think we took vacation,” she recalls. “Every weekend was a fundraiser. All the wood we cut together. All the fields they had to paint. Austin and Troy are best friends because of it. They have each others’ backs. They were teammates, they had a goal, they were on the field together. They are solid,” she says. “How many families when their kids are juniors, seniors, and the first year in college are spending almost every weekend together for a common goal?” she asks.
She acknowledges sometimes the path forward was rocky. “There were a lot of heartaches. There were a lot of ups. There were a lot of downs. But it brought our family closer.” During a time when a lot of kids would be pushing away from their parents and trying to show their independence, the Purcell boys were spending all their time working with their parents to grow lacrosse. “That can be the hardest time for a family. Our kids respected us and we respected them and we had to depend on all of us and none of us could let each other down,” Laurie says. “The last two years before my kids went to college we were always together as a family. I look back at that as my fondest memory. We did it as a family.”