New School Sports on the Horizon

By Lawrence Hardy

In California high schools, tough football-player types are doing “karaoke” drills and learning to “cradle.” Throughout the Midwest, in places like Madison, Wis., and Springfield, Ill., high school students -- and increasingly, middle-schoolers -- are learning how to “read the oil patterns” on slick wooden lanes. And, in a Golden State comeback of sorts, students whose ancestors hailed from India and Southeast Asia are learning to hit a tiny white projectile that can fly at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.

We’re talking public school sports here, but not the traditional behemoths like football, basketball, or track. The activities mentioned are (in order) lacrosse, bowling, and badminton.

“Lacrosse is probably the best sport out there,” says Adam Oreglia, 18, who played for Saratoga High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is hoping to be accepted as a “walk-on” at Santa Clara University. “I recommend everyone try it.”

In California and in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states where lacrosse has had a longtime niche, more and more students -- boys and girls -- are taking that advice. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, more than 88,500 boys were playing lacrosse nationwide in the 2008-09 school year, a 43 percent increase over 2002-03. For girls, the number was nearly as big, almost 65,000, an increase of 40 percent over 2002-03.

Now before we explain “cradling” and “karaoke,” or delve into the intricacies of bowling, it’s worth noting that these sports and other newly popular activities such as crew and girls’ flag football, have a long way to go before they knock the traditional sports off the top rungs of popularity.

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