Hot-button topic: Is Virginia Beach ready to sanction high school lacrosse?

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VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) – It’s been one of the most controversial sports issues in the area for years. The only major metropolitan area on the east coast that does not have high school-sanctioned public school varsity lacrosse is Hampton Roads.

Mark Keller, the head coach of the boys’ club team at Ocean Lakes High School and Vice President of Hampton Roads Lacrosse, says it’s “honestly a little embarrassing we don’t have it here.”

Is Virginia Beach ready for a breakthrough? “You look around the rest of the state, everyone else has lacrosse,” said Keller.

Interest in the sport has grown exponentially over the last decade. HRLax, as it’s known, oversees 60 teams, both boys and girls, from Williamsburg to the Beach.

In addition, eight beach schools have formed both boys and girls club teams. Of those 16 teams, eight of them have enough interest to form junior varsity squads. “We’ve been here and been healthy, but because we don’t play at the schools, I don’t even think people realize it,” said Keller.

A formal proposal to sanction the sport was sent to the Virginia Beach school board almost three years ago. Dan Edwards, a school board member for the last 22 years, said there are a number of financial hurdles, and not just ones associated with equipment coasts, field maintenance or coaches salaries.

“We have teachers that are underpaid, we have coaches for the existing 24 sports that have not seen adjustments in their stipends for well over a decade,” said Edwards.

Whenever the time comes that the Virginia Beach school board finally approves, Keller said the teams are ready to go. “We’ve basically built a league right now,” he said.

“Our kids have their own equipment, we have goals, we have uniforms, we have a turn-key Virginia Beach league, that we can basically hand to the school system right now.”

As it stands, Virginia Beach principals voted against implementing the sport by 2021, feeling they are not adequately prepared. While Keller and others are confident it’s only a matter of time, Edwards throws a word of caution.

“Certainty is a difficult word to address,” said Edwards.

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