Sean Banks played lacrosse in college.
When he became a gym teacher at East High ten years ago, he introduced the sport to his students. It didn’t go very well.
“We had our little plastic sticks that you really couldn’t scoop the ball up with,” Banks said. “Balls are flying all over the place. It was ugly.”
At the same time, Jim Tillotson’s daughter was playing youth lacrosse. Tillotson is a history teacher at School of the Arts and he also introduced the sport to his students.
“I basically went into 7th and 8th grade study halls with a little piece of paper. ‘Come out and play lacrosse’,” Tillotson said.
By 2014, both schools had enough kids to form modified teams. Banks and Tillotson decided to join their squads and give their programs a better chance of growing.
“They got to a point where kids are asking ‘Why don’t we have a team? I want to play this game. I’m having fun’,” Banks said.
Their decade of work culminated this year with the first season of East United, a varsity team comprised of students from six different Rochester city schools.
“Setting the legacy here is something that is kind of important because if nobody else starts it, then who is going to start it?” East United goalie Asher Phillips said.
“It’s really cool to be a part of because it feels like you’re starting history,”
East United is the first team from the city school district in over 30 years. They aren’t going at it alone. The Rochester lacrosse community has been there to support the Eagles as the program tries to get off the ground.
Tillotson listed the offers.
“Do you need equipment, do you need help, do you need help coaching., do you need drills, do you need games?”
East United has taken their share of lumps in Year one. They are 2-7 with five losses by ten goals or more. However, the numbers are increasing at the modified and JV level. There is a belief that East United will grow not only next year, but for many years to come.
“No matter what you may be, city, suburban, out in the country, we’re all part of the same team,” Phillips said. “We’re all lacrosse players.”