Players in many sports don the colors of Bremen High School District 228's four schools. But one sport hasn't made the district's roster: boys and girls lacrosse, an activity the Illinois High School Association named an "emerging sport" in 2009.
Parents, coaches and players from the Oak Forest Fury, an Oak Forest Park District club team, have tried over the past two years to change the district's mind about fielding a team—pleading with the board of education to sign an Emerging Sports Agreement letter so that high school-aged players in the district could play on a parent-funded, co-op club team.
But the board won't budge.
“We want everyone to be clear that this program is parent-funded,” said Michelle Sopko, who spoke before the board at its Tuesday, Oct. 16, meeting. “It's not tax-based at all, we would never ask the tax payers to pay for something they're not willing to pay. It's all parent-funded, that's the misconception that's out there in the public.”
The Emerging Sports Agreement would allow the current high school-aged members of the team to play other high schools in lacrosse, something they say is nearly impossible to do now.
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“It's very difficult to get games,” Fury coach Jason Hedke said at the Aug. 21 board of education meeting. “Because now, basically all the teams that have the emerging sport [designation] make their schedules, and then if they have weekends after that, we have to grub for those games.”
Despite the organization's best efforts, the district has not signed the letter, citing monetary concerns over soft costs, long-term investment from the district and the possibility of the IHSA waiving the Emerging Sports Agreement letter at its October meeting.
“Last month, I reported that Dr. [Marty] Hickman, who is the IHSA executive director, took our proposal that would waive the Emerging Sports Agreement to the advisory committee,” said Supt. Bill Kendall. “The advisory committee was going to forward that to the bylaws committee that meets this month. What he expected was a bylaw change that would not mandate this Emerging Sports Agreement, that would allow lacrosse teams in [the Fury's] status to play lacrosse teams of other districts."
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While the district and Fury wait to hear from the IHSA, the group is still without games and left in the lurch as to what will come, if anything.
“We can't play anybody, nobody in our area will play us,” Sopko said. “And the people we played last year, they have now signed Emerging Sports Agreement, so they cannot play us.”
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