Lacrosse is a game that requires deft timing, keen foresight and faith in your teammates to come through for you.
Players flip a fist-sized ball across the field into baskets on the end of sticks, all while running in formation toward a goal at the other end. Like other games, the point is to score the most points and win.
But in the fast-paced and sometimes confusing sport, Center Grove High School senior Aly Fuller saw a chance for personal growth.
Fuller, 17, founded Crosse Your Heart, a lacrosse camp for young girls conducted for the past two summers. Her goal was to teach the rules and basic skills of the sport, while also using it to teach the girls life lessons and Christian morals.
By training their bodies, they can also train their minds and spirits.
“It is a rough sport, but it’s so unique. It’s very fast-paced, and it’s not like any sport I’ve played before,” Fuller said. “There are so many ways to improve in this sport. You have to have hand-eye coordination, you have be fast, you have to be tough, and you have to be smart.”
Campers are put through basic drills such as cradling, shooting and scooping loose balls on the ground. They learn the rules, some of the terminology and how to play the positions on the field.
But instruction also includes how to have confidence on the field and be a good leader.
Every session includes 30 minutes of devotional time. Fuller includes a poster with a Bible verse on it, so that the campers can reflect on the message and how to apply it to their lives.
The overall theme of the camp comes from a verse in the first book of Timothy.
Crosse Your Heart
What: A weeklong camp designed to teach girls the basics of lacrosse, and sharing a Christian-based message.
Time: 9 to 10:30 a.m., with 80 minutes of training and 10 minutes of life lessons
Where: Mount Auburn United Methodist Church, 3100 W. Stones Crossing Road, Greenwood
June 9 to 13 — Beginner camp for girls in Grades 1 to 5; no knowledge of lacrosse is necessary.
June 23 to 27 — Advanced camp for girls in Grades 1 to 5; must have previous knowledge of lacrosse.
Cost: $60 for beginner camp, $75 for advanced camp.
Equipment: Gear is provided by camp organizers
Information and registration: crosseyourheart.com
It reads, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
“Faith had helped me through a lot of the little drama in my life,” Fuller said. “I have no idea what I would have done without it in my life. I wanted to share that with younger girls.”
Spreading the word
Fuller started playing lacrosse after her family moved to the Center Grove area from San Francisco five years ago. A former gymnast, she had to find a new game after an injury to her back.
A friend suggested lacrosse.
She had played sports throughout her childhood, from soccer to tennis to swimming. But lacrosse stood out as her favorite.
“Lacrosse is growing really fast, but a lot of people don’t know a lot about it,” she said.
Fuller has played on Center Grove club teams since she was in eighth grade. During her sophomore year, she wanted to do something more.
With a growing collection of lacrosse sticks, goggles and gloves, she thought of a way to spread her love of the game to new audience.
“I got all of this lacrosse stuff for Christmas and really felt like I should do more with it,” she said. “I had always wanted to coach and do something else with the sport and thought maybe I could start a camp.”
Fuller’s focus was on young girls. Center Grove’s lacrosse program starts with 10-year-olds, but for those younger, there is no program to learn the fundamentals of the game.
“I could start teaching them some of the basics, so by the time they are old enough to be on a team, they’re ready,” she said.
With the help of her father, Fuller started working with churches, sponsors and lacrosse supporters.
Putting on the camp
Mount Auburn United Methodist Church, where she is a member, agreed to host the camp.
“Aly has just a real Christ-centered heart and a desire to share Christ with others and a desire to nurture and to help develop young girls,” said Ben Greenbaum, associate pastor at Mount Auburn. “That was her impetus and desire behind the camp, it provided an opportunity to do that. That’s in line with what we believe and our mission.”
Fuller had to consider the smallest aspects of what the camp would include. She would have to have snacks for her players and find a place to have hair ribbons to give to each participant during play.
The camp costs about $3,000 to put on. That includes buying T-shirts, Bibles, journals and food for the campers.
Equipment was provided by U.S. Lacrosse, which meant Fuller didn’t have to purchase sticks, balls, goggles and goals.
To raise money, she has conducted a variety of fundraisers, such as car washes and dining programs, and solicited donations for individuals.
The Mount Auburn community was also supportive.
“I set up a booth at Mount Auburn before and after church, and people would come up and give all of the money they had out of their wallet,” she said.
The first year of the camp, 18 girls participated. In the two years since, Fuller has worked to grow the camp.
She has put up signs to advertise lacrosse and sent Christmas cards to parents of past participants to get them excited for the coming year.
Won’t stop with graduation
Fuller has expanded to the program and split it into two sessions. The first session is for beginners, where counselors assume the participants have never played lacrosse before.
“It seems like the camp grows every year. There seems to be more and more young ladies attending the camp, and that speaks not only to what Aly has done with these camps but also to her character,” Greenbaum said. “To have a high school student there who’s passionate about Christ and passionate about lacrosse, it’s something for these young girls to relate to.”
Though she graduates from Center Grove High School in May, she plans to continue the camp even once she’s in college.
Fuller will attend Biola University, a Christian college in California. She plans to take the Crosse Your Heart idea out west when she does.
“Lacrosse isn’t too big in California yet, so I know that it would be a big hit over there,” she said.
Then, when she returns for summer break, she’ll pick the camp up again in Indiana. The benefits are too great to simply stop offering it, Fuller said.
And she would be losing a big part of her own development as well.
“I’ve impacted people in ways I don’t realize. I’ve had moms come up to me afterwards in tears talking about how much their daughters have learned,” she said. “But the girls that I taught have taught me more than I’ve taught them. They’re really ambitious.”