Rhein
Rhein

Bob Rhein faced concerns when he first proposed the idea, back in 2009, to bring varsity lacrosse to Eastern York High School.

Would lacrosse take athletes away from other spring sports? How much would it cost the district? Would Eastern even have enough players to field boys' and girls' lacrosse teams?

The proof, Rhein believes, is in the numbers -- and he would know them better than anyone. He's laid them out to the Eastern school board several times in recent years in his quest to make lacrosse an Eastern varsity sport.

In 2011, there were a total of 182 high school student-athletes participating in spring sports at Eastern. Last spring, when Eastern competed in boys' and girls' lacrosse on a non-league basis, the Golden Knights had a total of 213 spring sports participants.

"There were an additional 31 participants that came as a direct result of lacrosse," Rhein said Wednesday. "That reflected nearly a 20 percent increase in participation, and we did not have any crossover (from other spring sports)."

Varsity: Eastern will officially join the York-Adams League this spring.

The Knights have a total of 57 high school varsity lacrosse players -- 33 boys and 24 girls. And all of the expenses associated with fielding the teams -- such as equipment, uniforms and travel -- will come at no cost to the school, according to Rhein.

Rhein helped start the Eastern Knights Lacrosse Foundation, a non-profit group which will cover 100 percent of the expenses of Eastern's lacrosse programs.

Competition: The PIAA officially sanctioned lacrosse in the 2008-2009 school year. The York-Adams League had nine boys' teams and 10 girls' teams compete in 2009. With Eastern coming on board this spring, the league will feature 12 teams each in boys' and girls' lacrosse.

The Knights will be part of Division II. Both teams practice on the Mount Pisgah field that sits along Cool Creek Road. All home games will be played at the high school stadium.

Although Eastern will be in its first year as a varsity program, it doesn't sound like the Knights will be far behind their competition, at least on the boys' side.

Rhein will coach a boys' team that includes several student-athletes who have been playing the sport for many years as part of the York County Lacrosse Association. Rhein, who played lacrosse at Bucknell in the mid-1980s, helped start the YCLA in 1996. That year, 25 boys from several high schools in the area formed to play on one club team. Today, Rhein said the association has grown to 16 boys' and girls' youth programs in the York-Adams area.

On the other side, Eastern girls' coach Chris Ely said he is looking forward to the challenge of teaching the sport. Ely was a goalie for the University of Maine in the mid-1990s and since then has been an assistant or head coach at various levels.

"Most of the girls have never played before or only have one or two years of experience," Ely said. "We're a fresh team."

Either way, Rhein said he and Ely are more focused on teaching the fundamentals than paying attention to the scoreboard.

"Winning is certainly important but that comes along with learning the sport and respecting the game," Rhein said.

Both Eastern teams open up on Friday, March 22, vs. Central York.

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.