Any chance Tony Collette gets, he tries to drum up interest in lacrosse. He'll hang fliers in schools. He'll go to soccer and football fields to try to recruit players to give his favorite sport a shot.
Collette is the chairman of the St. Pete Dragons Lacrosse Club and a longtime player. He is usually the first to unlock the gate at the club's fields next to Meadowlawn Middle School, and he is sometimes the last to leave.
"(Lacrosse) is one of the fastest growing sports around," Collette said. "We've got about 30 kids on the high school level and about 25 kids in the seventh- and eighth-grade level. And we have about 20 boys and girls in the 6-and-under group. We'd like to get more kids in the lower levels."
Collette helped start the St. Petersburg program in 2005. And he worked with Tampa Jesuit's lacrosse program as well as Eckerd College's club team. He is solely focused on the Dragons now.
The highest level at the club is high school, which isn't affiliated with the Florida High School Athletic Association, but it does draw players from Lakewood, St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Catholic high schools. They play in a league of 19 teams that stretch from Sarasota/Bradenton to Tampa and Lakeland.
The league started with just eight teams four years ago but has expanded rapidly. The sport is mostly popular in the northeastern part of the country. In Florida, baseball, basketball, football and soccer still rule the youth sport landscape, but lacrosse is making a dent.
"It's a lot of fun," said Ryan Trevathan, a junior at St. Petersburg High and a member of the Dragons. "I started playing in sixth grade, and now it's the only sport I play. Some of the people at school think I'm crazy for doing it because I come in on Monday and I've got all these bruises. But I like it. You get to run, you get to hit, you get to score."
Lacrosse is a physical and finesse sport that requires speed and hand-eye coordination. Players use a stick with a net on the top, which they use to pass to teammates or score. Helmets, shoulder pads and padded gloves are used to protect players from defenders, who can use their sticks to dislodge the ball.
Equipment costs about $200 and lasts about three to four years, Collette said. Registration fees for the Dragons are $100.
And as participation increases, the caliber of play will rise.
"The first couple of years, we had kids who hadn't played any other sport," Dragons high school coach Frank Collova said. "Now we have kids who are from other sports, and they're getting much better."
The Florida Rams 2013 boys basketball team won the eighth-grade division of the USSSA Clash in Clearwater tournament March 9. The Florida Rams 2013, actually a seventh-grade team, won the championship in double overtime at Clearwater's Long Center. The team includes 12 of the best middle school players in the state, seven of whom attend Pinellas County middle schools: Alesandro Alberto (St. John's), Carlos Fields (Morgan Fitzgerald), DJ White (Baypoint), Jarron King (Morgan Fitzgerald), O'Brian Smith (Calvin Hunsinger), Justin Hollis (Northside Christian) and Dallas Moore (Morgan Fitzgerald).
The Karen Wornicki Sr. Invitational was held last week at Seminole Lanes. Some highlights included an 800 series by Lou Crispiano, his first. Lee Johnson bowled a 798, and Rob Blake rolled a 790 series. The Florida Senior Stars were held last week as well. Jerry Koenig had a 1,038 series for four games. Blake had a 1,002 series.
The "Let the Good Times Bowl" Bowlathon is noon to 5 p.m. March 29 at Seminole Lanes to benefit Newspapers In Education. Registration is $20 per person or $100 per 5-person team.
West Coast Women's Golf Association
The group recently held a tournament at the River Wilderness Golf Club in Parrish. Jackie Currier won the AA Flight gross score with 75, and Sue Joy-Sobota won net score with 72. Judy Tickles won the A Flight with gross 80, and Pat Miker won net with 84.
The St. Petersburg Tennis Center held the St. Petersburg Rookie Tournament on March 1-2. Dylan Sleszynski won the boys 14-year-old singles final over Alberto Lense. Julian Haerle won the boys 12 singles. Winston Ojeda was the boys 10 singles champ. Madeline Fedorova won the girls 12-year-old singles division, and Tessa Miller was the girls 10-year-old singles winner.
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8810. To submit information on community sports for publication, go to community.tampabay.com and click on the "submit info here" link.