Onslow Tribe offers local kids the opportunity to play lacrosse while learning life skills

"It’s growing.”

That’s how Marine Corps Maj. Bobby DeGeorge, president of the Onslow Youth Lacrosse Association (OYLA), described the state of lacrosse in Jacksonville.

“It’s not growing as quickly as we’d hope, but we are getting more and more kids every year,” DeGeorge said. “Clubs are having more success, and we see a lot of our kids are playing at higher levels.”

The sport is on the rise in part because of the military community’s impact on the Onslow Tribe, the moniker of OYLA’s teams.

“As this sport grows, more local families will have kids who play and they’ll get more involved,” DeGeorge said. “Down the line, you’ll see more of a whole, total community involvement, but right now it’s mostly military.”

According to DeGeorge, roughly 85% percent of OYLA’s coaches are affiliated with the military, like the head coach of the 14U boys’ team, Marine Corps Capt. Khalif Yisrael, who says lacrosse is something kids can take with them anywhere in the nation.

“It will provide another friendship, another base, knowing that they can play lacrosse here and then go (play) other places,” Yisrael, who plays for the Jacksonville Juice lacrosse club, said.

Lacrosse can also be a springboard.

“Basketball and football are seen as gateways to get opportunities into colleges, but lacrosse can (do that) too,” Yisrael said.

Overall, the goal of the Onslow Tribe teams is to teach players life skills like teamwork and hard work.

“I ask that they play together and take care of one another while they’re on the field,” said Marine Corps Capt. Codi Mullen, 14U girls’ coach.

Mullen, who began playing lacrosse in second grade, played at the Naval Academy and draws from her experiences to guide the Tribe’s players, who develop strong bonds with one another.

“They share similar experiences with some of the hardships of the military and with some of the things that their families go through,” Mullen said. “They bring that onto the field and work through that.”

Registration for the spring season is now open for boys and girls ages 4-14. The Onslow Tribe competes against other area teams in the East Carolina Youth Lacrosse League. Games are on Saturdays starting in March and ending in May.

DeGeorge said lack of funds, equipment or experience should not deter kids from playing. He estimates each year over a quarter of OYLA’s players are beginners.

To learn more, go online to www.onslowyouthlacrosse.uslaxteams.com or find Onslow Youth Lacrosse Association on Facebook.