Chris Tatro, a native New Yorker, and former professional lacrosse player, arrived on the Reno scene a year and a half ago. He took over the SSHS lacrosse squad this year, and has a clear goal — to get the word out about lacrosse.
“I’m not only coaching it but I’m trying to really promote the sport,” Tatro said. “I’m running summer camps for kids that have never played before, like sixth, seventh and eighth graders, so they can learn before coming to high school.
“In New York, you essentially play since you can walk; it’s almost just second nature. I want to make sure that young kids have an opportunity to play a different type of sport.”
Tatro, who teaches biology at Spanish Springs, said his predecessors created the program in order to give current student athletes a spring-time outlet.
“A lot of the football players were looking for something to do in the spring time,” he said. “If you get that specific athlete who likes that physicality, it’s an easy transition for them.”
SSHS sophomore Darren Partyka doesn't play football, but he plays for a club hockey team based in suburban Sacramento. The physical play of hockey helped attract him to lacrosse.
“I’ve been playing travel hockey for a number of years. The sports kind of go hand in hand I tried it out and really took a liking to it. I really like the hitting and how fast paced it is. It’s kind of a mix in between football, soccer and hockey. It’s a good change of pace from hockey and keeps me in good shape during the offseason.”
Tatro explained that lacrosse encompasses many aspects of other sports into one, allowing athletes to keep up some of their skills.
“If you play football, say a defensive back, you have to cover people, respect zones, it’s the same thing in lacrosse,” Tatro said. “For soccer, players run up and down the field, cover areas and zones. It’s the same in lacrosse. Offensive plays and defensive plays are the same in lacrosse and basketball.”
Lacrosse is a way for student athletes to have options in the spring, along with baseball and track, to stay in shape and to continue to keep up their competitive edge. Tatro has a deep background in lacrosse. He coached at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. and played professionally for two years with the Rochester Knighthawks.
“If they (other coaches) want their kids to just be a better athlete for their own sport, they should play lacrosse … It’s physical,” Tatro said. “You’re getting hit. Plays are all picks and rolls. That builds athletes.”
The lacrosse season runs from the first of April until mid-May. There are several other schools in the area with lacrosse programs. Galena and Reno were the original programs, but other schools with lacrosse teams include Truckee, Bishop Manogue, and Spanish Springs.
“Coaches shouldn’t have their athletes shun away from lacrosse … Other coaches around the country want kids to play lacrosse because it makes them better in their sport,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating because you know the benefits that the sport can have for other programs.”
Spanish Springs plays about eight games a season. The teams rotate on who hosts games. Each school will travel to the host school, where there will be two games during the day. Spanish Springs will host two games on May 15th, where the SSHS band will make an appearance as well.
Tatro’s team consists of just over 20 kids, most of whom are football players, which does not allows for much of a preseason.
“Down the road, give me five or 10 years, that would be sweet if I could do a preseason training program,” Tatro said. “I’d love it to be established as a varsity sport … We’re hitting the ground running, sticks in kids hands at an early age.”
Tatro has hopes that lacrosse will be established as a varsity sport in the next four years. Factors that hold sports back from becoming established are funding and liability. Currently, the lacrosse team does little fundraising, other than car washes. Student-athletes pay dues, and the program is able to take care of referees, paint for the field and equipment, like balls.
US Lacrosse has an insurance program where student-athletes need to pay just $35 to be insured with US Lacrosse, which can eliminate the cost from the school districts, Tatro said.
“There’s just not teams because of two things,” Tatro said. “First, a lot of coaches are scared their players will go play lacrosse and get hurt, which is completely false. That’s just the mentality of a coach that’s not from a place where they play.
“Another problem is there’s just not a lot of people in the area that know lacrosse enough to coach it. Those two things are kind of holding back lacrosse in the Reno area.”
Tatro believes he has the answer to combat that. He will host a summer camp, beginning June 22nd until June 25th. The Spanish Springs Face Off Camp is open to all 7th through 12th graders. The camp costs $60 and includes a T-shirt. University of Nevada, Reno lacrosse coach Andy Socha will be a camp counselor, along with Tatro.
“It’s for kids that have never thrown the ball before,” Tatro said. “It’s very basic, ‘this is how you catch, pass, throw, shoot.’ I want to start to establish younger kids. These kids are going to find out how fun lacrosse is at a young age.”
Lacrosse is popular on the East coast and is slowly making its way West.
“In New York, no one is playing Little League anymore. They’re playing lacrosse,” Tatro said. “Kids are running up and down the field and get to hit each other with sticks.”
Partyka said Tatro has certainly done a good job of selling the sport at Spanish Springs High.
“Coach Tatro is very serious about this," Partyka said. "He has a lot of connections around the schools. He’s really helped boost it this year and make it a much more well-known sport around the school.”
For more information on lacrosse, or the lacrosse summer camp, contact Tatro by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.