Kalamazoo United lacrosse teams explain the financial struggles of being labeled a ‘club’ team

Sophia Ciokajlo, Photo Editor

Senior Sophie Grover prepares to pass the ball as Layne Brooks, KC somphmore, defends her. This annual mens vs. womens end-of-year scrimmage is held on the teams shared field. (Credit: Sophia Ciokajlo)

As spring sports season began, many teams spent time prepping for the season by conditioning, but for club teams such as Kalamazoo United (KU), decisions about funding dominated the preseason.
The men’s and women’s KU lacrosse teams consist of Loy Norrix and Kalamazoo Central students. The two teams are both labeled as ‘club’, meaning that, unlike other school funded lacrosse teams in the area, the KU lacrosse teams don’t receive school funding for referee fees, transportation to away games, uniforms or equipment such as lacrosse balls and nets. In order to pay for these essentials, the team members each must fundraise and pay a fee of $150 to be eligible to play.
These fees to play may discourage low-income students from participating in the sport.
“Student athletes chose other sports other than lacrosse because many other sports do not have a fee to join the team, and we lose great athletes that could help build our program,” said the coach, Lindsey Seals.
In order to compensate for the lack of funding, the teams must hold fundraisers. At the beginning of the women’s 2022 season, the women’s team hosted a can drive so they could have separate jerseys for home and away games, which they did not previously have. In addition to fundraising, the teams use alternative methods such as applying for grants to get equipment.
For the 2023 season, coach Dajzon Hughes applied for a grant to get quality lacrosse nets from the Premier Lacrosse League. The grant was approved and the new nets have benefited both the mens and womens teams.
Although the teams do not get financial support from LN or KC, they are not entirely disconnected from the district. The teams are still expected to meet the same grade requirements for player eligibility as other Kalamazoo Public School teams and are overseen by Kalamazoo Central’s athletic director, Dylan Patterson who chose not to comment.
Many other lacrosse teams in the area play on their school’s football field for home games. Unlike other lacrosse teams in the area, KU doesn’t have access to an official playing field that offers seating, which both coaches believe creates a negative environment for home games.
“Unfortunately most of our home games are played on the back practice field that are practiced on by multiple sports throughout the school year. This back practice field is very unlevel, has no benches for spectators and a small scoreboard unreadable to fans. If the high schools provided KU the football stadium during our spring season to play our games on, it would increase interest in our program,” said Seals.
Hughes agrees with Seals, adding that he believes that having access to the football field would help lacrosse players to feel like their games are more official and help give them more support and a positive atmosphere.
“[KU] doesn’t have an identity without the stadium, and the reason they don’t want to use it [the stadium] is because facilities don’t want to put in the same amount of work as they do for football,” said Coach Hughes.
Members from both teams recognize the support that they do receive from Kalamazoo Central’s athletic department, such as the lines that get painted on the field for games and help from the school’s athletic trainer.
“The best thing that the athletics department could provide for the team would be transportation to away games,” said team captain Eiden Jonaitis. “I know people on the team who were unable to go to some games simply because they didn’t have a ride.”
Not having a complete team puts the team in a tough position when it comes time to compete.
For the 2023 season, the women’s team went 2-12 winning games against Howell and Mona Shores and the men’s team went 2-13, being victorious over Portage Central and Battle Creek-Pennfield. Both teams lost their pre-regional games which closed out their season.
Even though the teams face obstacles that not every team may face, they continue to hold out hope for the program’s future.