Lacrosse meeting reveals new details for the first co-op season

Tom Schniedwind, head coach of the boys varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams poses with future BNL players.

Local high school students interested in joining the Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse co-op attended the newly formed organization’s first informational meeting on Thursday, December 5 at NCHS.

The addition to the athletic program will be comprised of students from all three public high schools: Normal Community, Normal West, and Bloomington.

The program will be made up of three teams: girls varsity, boys varsity, and boys junior varsity, which have been in the works for more than a year and a half.

Coaches announced that the teams’ first practice will be held on March 2, 2020, which was met with enthusiasm and applause from the parents and students in attendance.

When the proposal for a co-op lacrosse team was presented to the Unit 5 school board on September 11, Mr. Nic Kearfott, the NCHS athletic director, said that the district athletic department was “very open to the idea of lacrosse and eager to provide a new opportunity to athletes that [they] don’t serve.”

The district agreed to add the sport to the athletic program as long as one condition was met: the organization had to be privately funded.

To ensure that the districts involved did not take on the financial burden of the program, the Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse (FOBNL) was established to serve as the official booster club and fundraising platform of BNL.

FOBNL intends on covering the season expenses by fundraising through local restaurants, starting with Blaze Pizza in Normal on December 19. The organization will also sell merchandise and collect donations, which they hope will help them raise money before the kickoff of the 2020 season. They have already raised roughly $23,000, but they will continue to fundraise throughout the season in hopes of reaching their $50,000 goal.

“We know we can do it, but we will have to work for it,” Mike Buelow, president of the Friends of Bloomington-Normal Lacrosse, said. “This organization been a long time coming, and this is going to be a great opportunity for our kids if we can raise the necessary funds.”

The money raised by the booster club will cover the costs of start-up expenses such as equipment, as well as season expenses such as transportation and competition fees. 

The programs’ coaches believe that once the athletes have the necessary equipment and experience, they will go into the competitive season with confidence and strength. When looking back on the experience of starting the BNL program, Tom Schneidwind, head coach of the boys varsity lacrosse team, believes that Buelow’s name will remain “forever etched into the community’s historical lacrosse rebirth” for his leadership while tackling the extensive process of establishing the FOBNL as a 501(c)(3) organization. 

As the head coach of the girls varsity lacrosse team, Andy Grisinger believes that with the assistance of Ryan Newton, Jeff Scheck, and Kaelyn Sommer, the girls varsity team will be capable of working together to achieve an IHSA state title.

“If you have played lacrosse before, that’s awesome. If you’re a kid that has never played lacrosse before, that’s awesome too,” Grisinger said. “We have taught hundreds, if not thousands of kids how to play lacrosse over the years, and we specialize in it.”

The coaches of the girls varsity lacrosse team are no strangers to the game. In the eyes of the assistant coaches, Grisinger, a former NCAA umpire and head coach of the Illinois State Women’s Lacrosse Club, is a large asset to the coaching staff. Jeff Scheck and Ryan Newton, former coaches of the Bloomington Normal Warriors Lacrosse, also intend on guiding the athletes through their first co-op season through their knowledge of the sport. Kaelin Sommer, a recent graduate of Monmouth College and former lacrosse player for  the Fighting Scots, is “excited to have [her] first coaching experience” with the knowledgeable staff of BNL.

Tom Schneidwind, head coach of the boys varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams, played throughout high school and college and has been coaching college club teams on the East Coast for more than 35 years. Schneidwind is the only boys coach at the moment, but with his coaching experience, he believes that he is capable of leading the team to success.

“This is the coolest game on the planet,” Schneidwind said. “There is so much potential here, and it is imperative that we create a family atmosphere and grow throughout the season, no matter what.”

Currently, there are 11 boys games in place and four girls games. The coaches are eager to begin training with the athletes, which will take place at Normal Community and Normal West in the spring. The potential players who attended the meeting ranged from no experience to years of training. Sadie Newton (‘22), a former lacrosse player for the Bloomington Normal Warriors, is “looking forward to the new experience of playing at a higher level of competition” with new teammates and old friends.

In order to attract as many new players as possible, FOBNL hopes to gain traction on their social media pages through advertising the newly developed program. The coaches also encourage participants to “spread the word” by informing their friends about all that BNL has to offer.

With Business Insider classifying lacrosse as the “fastest-growing sport in America,” the BNL staff is confident that their no-cut program will give all athletes that express an interest in lacrosse a unique opportunity to become part of the sport that is gaining popularity across the country.

“This is an exciting time to be a lacrosse player in Bloomington-Normal,” Grisinger said. “Our teams are going to be competitive from day one, and what you are going to see from BNL this season will be unbelievable.”