WEST PALM BEACH, Fla— If you’re a parent that’s strapped for cash, it turns out your kids are probably sitting on the sidelines too. A national survey by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association shows the less you make the less likely your kids ages 6 to 12-years-old are to play a sport.
However, volunteers with Creator’s Game are working hard to change that statistic in Palm Beach County by bringing lacrosse to underprivileged neighborhoods.
“I think when we first pulled out the sticks they were like, 'What is this?' " said Chris Southard.
Every Wednesday Southard and a group of volunteers show up to Twin Lakes Park to teach lacrosse. They typically will spend time running through drills and then play a pick up game of lacrosse with whichever kids show up to the park that day.
“Every day is a chaotic surprise and so we really don’t know what is going to happen day to day,” said Southard.
Creator’s Game isn’t just about teaching lacrosse, but coaching these kids to become leaders in their community. Right now the program runs completely off of private donations.
The skills they are learning are similar to what thousands of parents across South Florida pay for their kids to do.
i9 Sports serves about 2,000 kids who are enrolled in various sports teams. “Average cost is around $125 for an 8-week program,” said director Joe Greco.
You aren’t just paying to play, but you get a jersey, participation medal and trophy. Yet, depending on the sport you may be required to dish out some more cash for things like cleats, shin guards and a mouth guard.
“The biggest benefit is building self-esteem and confidence through sports,” said Greco.
Parents with i9 say they choose to participate in i9 over other leagues because of the sportsmanship values and fun-loving atmosphere.
“I love their practice plan. It’s one day a week, it’s only on Sundays and you know many parents work long hours but Sundays I can dedicate to sports,” said volunteer coach and parent Dwayne Barrett.
i9 does offer scholarships for families who may be struggling to afford the price.
“In the past 12 months, we have given out $12,060 in scholarship funds for our programs throughout all of our locations. Between all of the discounts and scholarships given, approximately over 400 players have received assistance or have been given completely free scholarships/registrations depending on the local charitable organizations we work with,” said Greco.
While you can look down the sidelines at any given i9 game and see dozens of parents and friends supporting the kids on the field, those who play with Creator’s Game show up by themselves.
“We try to ensure we are consistent because that is not always what these kids are used to,” said volunteer from Bow Down Church Cherlyne Charles.
Charles and others from the church don’t just show up on Wednesdays for lacrosse but stop by the neighborhood several other days during the week to talk about the Bible.
“A lot of them come from homes that are single family, mom isn’t around, dad isn’t there so we just get the opportunity to come out and play with them and enjoy life,” said volunteer Cameron Stone.
Creator’s Game is hoping to expand to more neighborhoods in need. The group currently serves Twin Lakes and Lake Park.