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By Steve Breazeale
Zac and Colton Clark had an idea.
What if they could take the sport they love, lacrosse, and share it with kids from the neighborhood who had never even seen a game played before? What if they could get those same kids to fall in love with the sport, just like they did at an early age?
The idea led to them wanting to start their own free lacrosse skills camp. What they needed next, were interested campers.
The two Dana Point residents and JSerra Catholic High students packed up their lacrosse sticks and nets and hit local parks throughout San Juan Capistrano. They started passing and shooting, hoping to catch the attention of curious onlookers.
They passed out flyers to parents primarily in the Capistrano Villas neighborhood, promoting the first-ever Los Gallos Lacrosse Camp. They let kids give the sport a try, and told them to come out to Stone Field Park on Monday, July 10, for a free week-long camp. The Clarks enlisted the help of San Juan-based charitable nonprofits Unidos and Great Opportunities to help spread the word.
The grass-roots effort paid off on day one, as 10 kids showed up for the first three-hour session. Each day, more and more campers showed up. On the penultimate day of the camp, Wednesday, July 12, their numbers had swelled to 15.
“It’s a totally new sport to a lot of these kids. No one really knew what lacrosse was,” Colton Clark said. “So we had to go and engage with them and show them what it is and they love it.”
Aside from wanting to promote the sport of lacrosse, Zac and Colton felt it was necessary to get the children in the area active during the summer and keep them out of trouble. Great Opportunities is a San Juan-based organization that specializes in creating camps for high-risk youth in the South Orange County area, and played a key role in advising Los Gallos Lacrosse on how to get things up and running.
“Our main goal is to keep them busy for a whole week,” Zach Clark said. “When you’re sitting around at home with nothing to do, that just allows you to engage in bad activity. We want to allow them to fall in love with a new sport.”
The camp also has a religious element to it. Every morning, campers and coaches say a quick prayer and a Bible verse is shared and discussed at the end of each session.
With their mother, Melissa Clark, looking on from the sidelines, Zac and Colton are running a well-oiled machine of a camp.
Each morning they run the campers through an easy warm up and go over the fundamentals, like how to hold a lacrosse stick and how to field a ground ball. They mix fun games, like relay races, into the day’s activities, and provide lunch when things wrap up just before noon. Zac and Colton’s lacrosse teammates and friends have shown up every day to help out and lend a hand.
The camp will end on Friday, July 14, but Zac and Colton are hoping to make Los Gallos Lacrosse a staple in the community. Colton has been busy creating a marketing campaign and created an Instagram account, @LosGallosLacrosse, to help get the word out to even more kids. They hope to pick the camp back up again next summer.