adidas Lacrosse finds inner-city stronghold in Los Angeles
By Jason Bryant
When checking out the computer rankings of California’s boys high school lacrosse teams, Manual Arts Senior High School might not stand out as one of the giants.
In fact, they really don’t stand out at all.
But looks can be deceiving as coach Sean McKeon knows.
In the shadows of the Los Angeles Coliseum on South Vermont sits Manual Arts, an inner-city high school with a unique identity.
If you go down South Vermont and hang a left on Slauson Avenue for about 10 minutes, you’ll find another Los Angeles inner-city high school with the same unique identity.
They are the only inner-city schools fielding lacrosse teams within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
McKeon and adidas Lacrosse hope to add to that list with his group, the Los Angeles Inner-city Lacrosse Association, or LAX in LA for short.
A former lacrosse player at the University of Arizona in Tucson, McKeon currently serves as the coordinator for Manual Arts’ New Media Academy.
He started the meager lacrosse beginnings at Manual Arts as a club in 2003. This past season, the school, along with Huntington Park, was officially sanctioned under the California Interscholastic Federation.
The results would be what you can expect for first-year programs jumping head-first into active competition.
Manual Arts finished 0-12, while Huntington Park is 2-10 … with both wins coming over Manual Arts.
But wait, there’s more to it. Each school also has girls lacrosse teams and Huntington Park’s girls have picked it up pretty good.
The Spartans finished 11-4 this season and won their last six games in a row. Their last loss was to Los Alamitos, one of the top teams in the Southern Section.
Recently, Sean and his group held a fundraiser to draw in funds and exposure for his blossoming lacrosse effort.
“What Sean is doing is what R.E.A.C.H.E.S. is all about,” said Jeff Bowyer of adidas Lacrosse. “LAX in LA is exposing a new sport to kids in areas where there haven’t been lacrosse teams ever.”
“The group is giving healthy and athletic alternatives, while providing a safe, school-sanctioned activity that promotes teamwork and sportsmanship,” added Bowyer. “We’re glad to be able to help out Sean and his group, because they work extremely hard for this sport and for the kids that play it.”
“The relationship with adidas Lacrosse has been great,” McKeon said. “They just donated equipment and uniforms for both high schools.
“(adidas Lacrosse) John Purnell really hooked us up,” said McKeon. “It was an unbelievable donation. Every single dollar went towards the kids.
McKeon also points to the uniforms as being a point of pride for those in both Manual Arts and Huntington Park High Schools.
“It’s pro-level stuff,” explained McKeon. “The kids were ecstatic to play in these jerseys. They all want to wear them to school.
“The kids love having the adidas gear, especially coming from the past five years going from having generally used equipment to very well-used equipment.”
LAX in LA’s efforts have done wonders for McKeon and the kids and volunteers involved. Not bad for a guy who moved to Los Angeles working as a sound engineer.
LAX in LA is making lacrosse a sport to break cultural barriers, as it escapes from the banter of upscale fields and prep schools to the inner city.
“It’s a culture that does not play lacrosse,” explained McKeon, who estimates 75 percent of his students at Manual Arts are Hispanic. “It’s changed the face of high school sports in Southern California. This brand new sport comes in and every team that plays us talks about how insanely high the level of sportsmanship is.”
“Once the sport gets (sanctioned) in the City Section, the growth will be exponential. We’d love to have every City Section team to be able to compete and have a good GPA,” said McKeon.
McKeon hopes to have a continued involvement with the R.E.A.C.H.E.S. program and adidas.
“When we do a small fundraiser, I put adidas on everything,” he said. “I feel so grateful for what we’ve gotten that I don’t want to ask for anything else. I’d love to adidas involved as much as possible and I’d love to have all my kids wearing adidas.”
R.E.A.C.H.E.S. (Rewarding Educational Athletic Choices Helping Each Sport ) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2007 in an effort to promote, protect and preserve the integrity of amateur athletics by providing athletic and educational opportunities to all athletes of all ages and abilities.
This unique experience will provide educational, technical, and lifelong lessons for athletes, coaches, parents and fans that seek to capture meaningful, compassionate, harmonious, interesting and active lives.
All profits from R.E.A.C.H.E.S., will be used to support specific needs in each sport to ensure future generations of athletes, fans, parents and coaches will continue to learn from valuable lifelong athletic lessons.