By Brian Stanley
The new Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse program has staked its claim in the valley as a fresh alternative for youth sports.
Founded by Andy Chalupa, the startup lacrosse program held its inaugural training session for fifth- through eighth-graders on Sept. 12 at Jonata Middle School in Buellton.
“Knowing how great the sport is and how much fun the kids here will love it,” Chalupa said, were some of the key factors for bringing lacrosse to the Santa Ynez Valley. “To be able to introduce to all these guys out here and also something for my son when he gets old enough to play.”
Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse provided Matt Woodruff the opportunity to share the sport with his son Henry Woodruff, who participated in the first session. Matt Woodruff played lacrosse in high school and college in Virginia.
“I got introduced to it back East so it’s nice to see it here,” Matt Woodruff said. “Any sports that hands kids sticks is a probably a good thing.”
The lacrosse organization is open to boys and girls from kindergarten through eighth-grade with sessions set up for various age groups. Chalupa’s first meeting saw eight young athletes come out to experience lacrosse for the first time, six boys and two girls.
“I’m excited. I think this is going to be a great fit for the kids,” said Jill Callahan, who brought her son Daniel Callahan to the first session. “I have two who are in high school right now. They are playing football. Danny is coming up and I think this is a great way to keep athletic.”
With lacrosse being played in the spring, Chalupa views lacrosse as a great complementary sport to football, basketball and soccer. He said lacrosse shares aspects of each of the three sports.
“If you’re a basketball player, that will translate to a lacrosse field,” Chalupa said. “If you’re a football player and you like contact, you’re aggressive, like to hit, there’s that in lacrosse.”
Chalupa is preparing for the Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse inaugural season in the spring, running from early March to the middle of May. There is an opportunity for local athletes to play year around with Santa Barbara Riptide Lacrosse fall and winter leagues.
“If kids here really liked it and picked it up, if their ability warrants it, if they’re athletic enough, they could go down to Santa Barbara and play in our league already,” Chalupa said. “They don’t have to wait until the spring.”
As the program grows and the league season approaches, Chalupa plans to organize teams by grade level — third and fourth grade, fifth and sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, to compete against teams from the Santa Barbara area.
“The primary goal of the SYV Longhorns Lacrosse Program is to develop respectful, resilient, self-confident student-athletes,” Chalupa said.
Foreseeing growth of the sport in the region, the Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse founder wants to expand the sport onto the Santa Ynez High School campus as a club team. Chalupa is also looking to help re-establish boys and girls’ lacrosse at Dunn School after the teams’ seasons were canceled this past spring due to low participation.
“Our local high school will have lacrosse programs soon and when it does, our players will contribute to its success and serve as dependable leaders in their community,” Chalupa said.
When the high school sets up club teams, Chalupa wants to them transition to being sanctioned high school teams that compete against Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools.
Chalupa’s lacrosse experience extends back to his high school years playing at Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey before joining the collegiate ranks at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. While a member of the Falcons, Chalupa won three consecutive Deep South Conference championships from 1996-1998.
After moving to California, he jumped into the coaching ranks full time in Orange County in 2010.
“I coached at Corona Del Mar High School, and that’s where I basically cut my teeth,” Chalupa said. “Really got back into full time coaching and getting a good background in how to run a high school program and organize for youth.”
Along with getting Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse started this fall, the seasoned coach continues his involvement in other lacrosse programs he’s helped establish. Chalupa is the director of New Beach Surf Dawgs Lacrosse, running the Corona Del Mar club for 10 years, and is the co-director of Santa Barbara Riptide Lacrosse.
For more information on Santa Ynez Valley Lacrosse, visit www.syvlax.com.