When Atlantic Adaptive Lacrosse founder and director Lyn Shoop looked up at the stands during one of her many games coaching recreational youth lacrosse, she realized there were people who would never be able to enjoy the sport quite like her players on the field.
That is why Shoop created the Atlantic Adaptive Lacrosse program.
As an initiative to make the game of lacrosse accessible for everyone, Atlantic Adaptive Lacrosse adapts to the needs of players with physical and cognitive disabilities – a term Shoop aims to replace.
“Everyone has a different catchphrase. These are kids with cognitive and physical differences,” Shoop said. “We adapt our practices to match what each kid needs and wants out of it.”
Shoop, who founded the program in 2017, brought the idea of an adaptive lacrosse experience to Delaware after her son volunteered for a similar program founded by Marty Delaney in Parkville, Md. Delaney started with four children 18 years ago.
In Atlantic Adaptive’s second season, the participation numbers have already doubled. With 30 volunteers and 17 players showing up to the first practice Aug. 1, it’s evident the program is headed in the right direction.
“The biggest reward for the volunteers and for people like me doing this is just to have the opportunity to work with these kids,” Shoop said. “I think being able to interact one-on-one with some of these special kids, it’s such a gift of an opportunity.”
The program shapes the practice structure around what each player wants and is able to do with a lacrosse stick based on their conditions, pairing them up with one or two buddies who help with passing and corralling balls. Still, the game of lacrosse comes second to what this program is accomplishing for each player.
“Just walking through the motions of a practice with warm-ups, and getting there, greeting everyone and stretching around and talking to everyone while goofing around with the socialization of it and then the team cheer at the end,” said Shoop, “To me, that’s almost more than the actual lacrosse.”
Atlantic Lacrosse co-founder and current director Steve Spence brought the adaptive program under his club’s umbrella last spring. Established in the late 1990s and given nonprofit status in 2011 under the governance of US Lacrosse, Atlantic Lacrosse is the region’s premier recreational lacrosse club. It soon became the most logical step for Shoop to grow her idea into a reality.
“It was the right thing to do,” Spence said. “I’m a big fan of kids getting outside and playing, so this made perfect sense to me.”
Allowing the adaptive program to come under its wings, Spence has allowed Shoop to focus more on community involvement as opposed to constantly fundraising to support the program.
“Just do it through us and we’ll help you any way we can,” Spence told her. “She has a lot of energy, and that’s what you need to start your own program up.”
The program received bountiful equipment donations last spring to help jump-start a promising foundation. After the organization received generous stick and equipment donations from people like Maggie Mitchell, an eighth-grader at Beacon Middle School – who collected the donation as a part of her Girl Scout Project – Atlantic Lacrosse has been able to properly fund the program so AAL can play.
The program practices every Wednesday in August and Saturday mornings in September on the Champions Field turf at Cape Henlopen High School. In only its second full season, the Atlantic Adaptive Lacrosse program will host the US Lacrosse Adaptive Playday Saturday, Sept. 29.
Learn more about the program and how to register as a player or volunteer at www.atlanticlacrosse.org/adaptive.