Michael Fabyanic's biggest goal as the coach of the Snider lacrosse team is just to get kids to give the sport a try.
Fabyanic, who took over the team ahead of the canceled 2020 season, said that the club team has existed for about 20 years, but participation has waxed and waned. He knows that many Fort Wayne-area kids weren't introduced to the sport, and few will have the necessary equipment stored in their garage.
“The problem is, I only have so much extra gear,” Fabyanic said. “What I found out is that kids were handing stuff down, so when they were seniors they would hand it down to a player if somebody knew somebody.
“So we had all this gear being transferred down. We had kids coming out, they'd be there for a week, and then I wouldn't see them, and then I had to track them down to get the equipment back.”
Lacrosse is a club sport in Indiana, so protective equipment isn't provided by the schools' athletic departments like football helmets and pads would be. Boys lacrosse requires a helmet with a face mask, gloves, elbow and shoulder pads, plus a stick. All that can easily add up to several hundred dollars.
“I knew that if I could get that (cost) down, there were kids who said they would come out and play,” Fabyanic said. “They were like, coach, I can't afford all the equipment. Especially when this is their first year, and they don't know if they're going to like it.”
So back in November, Fabyanic reached out to US Lacrosse and applied for a grant in the hopes of solving his equipment woes. The Midwest region chose Snider as one of 18 grant recipients from Indiana, so the Panthers received 20 full sets of protective equipment, a package worth nearly $12,000, according to US Lacrosse.
“While we can't offer that to everyone, we do try to do our best to address those needs,” said Bryce Woodson, the Midwest regional coordinator. “We try to understand the demographics they're working with, whether that be socioeconomic, ethnicity, the makeup of their school district and their support system. Their ability to evolve their program moving forward. Is this program sustainable? That's a big one. Sometimes you may provide a grant, and that individual who was championing that grant moves on in a year or two, and that equipment is left to sit in the back of a closet or a shed.
“So it's understanding the investment that somebody like Michael may have and their passion for continuing the program.”
According to US Lacrosse, 869 grants were awarded across the country in 2020.
“It came with enough protective equipment to put 20 kids on the field fully protected, and then they sent you enough for a goalie,” Fabyanic said. “Sometimes when you win stuff, you know you're not going to get very high-end equipment. So I was like, what are we going to get? But they totally came through. It was very exciting to see this organization, even in this really trying time, that one, we were still able to get the grant and two, it's quality stuff. It's not going to be worn out in a year or two.”
Fabyanic said he knows there are enough talented athletes at Snider to turn the Panthers into a genuine player in Indiana lacrosse. And now it'll be easier than ever to get them on the field.
“The biggest thing is getting high school kids to come out and try it,” Fabyanic said. “I didn't start until I was a sophomore in high school, and I got the bug. And I want people to be able to come out, put the gear on, and give it a shot.”