DePaul lacrosse, inner city kids stick together
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 28, 2012 15:10
Lacrosse, a sport most commonly played in the Northeast, has most recently been recognized as the fastest growing sport in the country. Traditionally known as a preppy sport, played on beautifully kept green fields, will lacrosse ever be seen as a city sport?
Sam Angelotta, founder and program director of OWLS lacrosse, thinks so and made it his mission to bring the same joy that he found in lacrosse to Chicago’s inner city children.
Outreach With Lacrosse and Schools (OWLS) is an inner city organization working toward creating sustainable lacrosse programs for schools and communities. OWLS is based in Chicago and DePaul’s own lacrosse team is highly involved, striving to help the organization in as many ways as possible.
Angelotta started OWLS after finishing a two-year graduate program at DePaul. While in school, he was a member of the DePaul lacrosse team, which is recognized by the university as a club sport.
“As I was being trained to teach in the urban environment, I had a great deal of exposure to educational research relative to the needs of inner city students,” said Angelotta. “I soon realized a desperate need for quality instruction in the areas of afterschool programming, healthy lifestyles and alternative sports opportunities.”
OWLS head coach Marcus Dent, a member of the DePaul men’s lacrosse club, has been with the program for two years and serves as a fundraising representative and program director.
“After Sam graduated, we kept in touch and he was starting OWLS over at St. Malachy,” said Dent. “He wanted me to get involved and I was really drawn to it because my high school lacrosse coach back in Philly started a similar program called LEAPS (Lacrosse Education Attitude Perseverance Success), so I know a lot about how these programs work.”
Dent was able to link Angelotta to his high school lacrosse coach, who served as one of the idea sources for the project. Angelotta also reached out to other coaches and non-profit managers around the country for ideas. He knew that he wanted to work in the inner city in order to start a lacrosse program where the sport had not yet been introduced.
“It’s hard to mention OWLS without giving credit to the place where it all started: St. Malachy School on Chicago’s West Side,” said Angelotta. “They gave me my first teaching position and a chance to start my new program.”
OWLS has been working with St. Malachy on school-based program development since the spring of 2011. What once started as a team of about 15 players, involved in an after school program at St. Malachy, has grown into development projects at four inner city schools.
“At St. Malachy alone we have over 60 boys and girls participating in lacrosse and several players currently playing in high school,” said Angelotta.
The pilot program at St. Malachy serves a student body that is 100 percent African American, and of that group, 97 percent live below the poverty level. After St. Malachy Lacrosse was established, OWLS began expanding its development projects to continue carrying on the mission of opening doors for inner city students. According to Angelotta, this was also necessary in order to create competition for teams already established at St. Malachy.
“Many of these kids grew up with broken families and don’t have too much to look forward to outside of school,” said Jack Glasbrenner, president of the DePaul lacrosse club. “It’s very positive for these kids and I know even their parents are enjoying it.”
“DePaul has been a major leader in our School 2 School Initiative, a program in which we connect inner city schools with high schools and universities that have established lacrosse programs,” said Angelotta. “The goal of this initiative is to help our student-athletes gain perspective on life outside their neighborhood by exposing them to places of higher learning.”
DePaul’s entire lacrosse team actively volunteers at the non-profit program every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“We have a rotation of about three or four of us who go each of these days,” said Dent. “They go for two hours out to St. Malachy, or wherever they are that day, and run clinics, teach them lacrosse, and really, when they’re out there, they have to support team growth.”