“Old Age and Treachery Will Overcome Youth and Skill.”
So goes the slogan that runs along the banner on the Old Guy Lacrosse web page. Vintage photos of lacrosse players, dressed in makeshift, rusted equipment, adorn the site as well. Team names range from “Fathers of Troy,” “Mad Weasels,” and “Roswell Raptors.”
In a western-style “WANTED” flier, means of recruitment are outlined. In a manual for conditioning, the site simply states: “play, rest, ice, compression, elevation, medication, repeat.”
This is the Old Guy Lacrosse League, and as tongue-in-cheek as it may seem from a branding perspective, the four-year old enterprise has become a light-hearted, yet simultaneously vital and complementary factor in the continued growth of the sport in Forsyth County and neighboring areas.
Don Hilton, 37, interviewed to become the head coach at North Forsyth High School two seasons ago. Todd Haley, director of youth sports for the program, made sure that getting Hilton’s commitment to the Old Guy Lacrosse league was, for all intents and purposes, part of the job.
“It was actually kind of a part of my interview process,” Hilton said.
Hilton, who now coaches the Raiders and plays for the “Old Raiders,” is no stranger to the game. He grew up on Long Island, just like every other boys head lacrosse coach in the county at the high school level, and played at the New York Institute of Technology—a top Division II program.
When Hilton moved to Georgia, he wanted to be in an area where the sport stood on its own. He was more than pleased with what he found in Forsyth County.
“It’s absolutely amazing, the growth we’ve seen in two years I’ve been here,” Hilton said. “It’s the main reason I came here in the first place.”
Hilton ended up involved with two lacrosse renaissances at once. Grown men, past their proverbial prime, were picking up the sport just like kids would. The Old Guy Lacrosse league stood on its own.
Chuck Smith, 52, is officially listed on the league website as The Reluctant Commissioner. He’s part of the Old Guy Lacrosse League’s “brain trust,” as was Hilton and Haley.
Haley started the program four seasons ago, and has since moved to Colorado. Smith took the reins. He’s now the leader of the league, which has grown each year by “two to three teams,” according to Hilton. He’s also still learning on the go.
“It’s fun. It’s a challenge,” Smith said.
Smith grew up in the south. A football player from Savannah, lacrosse is something very foreign, but he’s catching on. His son Chris, 14, plays at the youth level, so learning the game became a part of being a father.
He’s beginning to see why people like it so much.
“We see a lot of baseball players get into it, just because they’re so bored with baseball, you know you stand around so much,” Smith said. “Then on the football side of things, you’re so specialized in your position. In lacrosse everyone is part of the action. Everyone has to make a play.”
Smith said his development as a lacrosse player has been a “love and hate” relationship.
“It’s light hitting, footwork, hand-eye coordination. It’s doable for me at least.”
Since the league started, 200 players have helped form as much as ten teams. The Old Guy Lacrosse League’s summer season will kick off this Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at Roswell Area Park. The league also holds contests at Bennett Park (Cumming), George Pierce Park (Suwanee), and Suwanee Mountain Park.
The league games follow United States Lacrosse regulation. Funds from registration fees go toward everything from officials, emergency transportation units, T-shirts, tournaments and other logistics.
All members commit to a $2,000 entry fee for teams, which has helped push the league forward without any sponsorship to this point.
Smith said a few bars have offered, but that the “family friendly environment” deterred the group from those partnerships.
Youth lacrosse is now benefiting from the Old Guy Lacrosse league. As a non-profit, any surplus funds left over after season’s end are donated to youth programs in the area for equipment and other logistical purposes.
Smith said the interworking relationship between his league and the rest of the lacrosse community has been mutually beneficial.
“It helps build relationships for people around the county,” Smith said. “There’s a ton of team work involved. We’re not super competitive. It’s not cut throat. We’re just all going out and having fun.”