Startup lacrosse team tries to increase popularity

Courtesy photo: Luc Bouchard (28) tries to avoid defenders during a game against the Black Hills Shock. The Brookings Rage are in the first season of being an independent organization that is a part of the Northern Plains Lacrosse League. Team president Nate Quam and head coach Jorgen Dahl hope to increase the popularity of lacrosse in Brookings.

BROOKINGS – Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and it is gaining popularity in South Dakota and Brookings.

Four years ago Jorgen Dahl and Corey Mitchell created a lacrosse organization called the Rage. It was based in Sioux Falls, but it had some Brookings kids on the team. 

Dahl was at South Dakota State and was running the club lacrosse team and wanted to make an impact in the Brookings community.

Entering the Rage’s fourth season, Dahl, Nate Quam and Brandon Mcraye decided they wanted to branch away from Sioux Falls and have Brookings be independent and join the Northern Plains Lacrosse League.

Quam is the team president of the Brookings Rage. Dahl is the head coach and Mcraye is his assistant.

“We wanted to do our own thing,” Quam said. “Be a little bit more in control of what we do and try to grow the sport a little more in Brookings.”

The NPLL has varsity, junior varsity, under-14 and under-12 teams. The cities involved are Brookings, Sioux Falls, Watertown, Aberdeen, Black Hills, Fargo/Red River Valley, Grand Forks and Bismarck-Mandan.

As of right now, the Rage have 23 members ranging from seventh grade to seniors in high school. That is only enough to fill a varsity team.

“We have players that are in their first year of lacrosse and some that have played for five years. That makes things difficult because we have varying levels of commitment and experience. So bringing everybody together is tough,” Quam said.

Dahl said his goal is to grow the popularity of lacrosse in Brookings and wants the Rage to have enough kids in the future to fill each team.

“It would make it a lot easier to have a competitive varsity team. Right now it’s tough because we don’t have a feeder system where kids can gain experience,” Dahl said.

The Rage have competed in two tournaments this season and have not won a game. Dahl said his team consists of players who have played two to four years of lacrosse which makes things tough sometimes.

“You have to take it step-by-step and start with the fundamentals and slowly teach as you go and make sure the kids understand that it’s the end picture you’re going for and you’ll eventually get there,” Dahl said.

Dahl added that he looks at his job as a lot more than coaching and more of mentoring the kids.

“I try to teach them that failing is OK, but you have to be able to bounce back from it,” he said.

One issue that the Rage face is not having its own field. As of right now, the team practices at the Medary Elementary fields, bringing their own nets. 

“It would be nice to have our own field that we could use for games and tournaments,” Quam said.

The Rage will play all of their games away from Brookings this season. Dahl said he thinks it’s just a matter of time before the sport gains traction in Brookings.

“When we start getting more teams, we’re going to need to get more support from the city to get more fields. Lacrosse is one the fastest growing sports in the nation. So I think it’s just a matter of time before we gain traction in South Dakota,” Dahl said.

South Dakota is one of the last states to take on lacrosse as a sport. Quam believes that it will never become a varsity high school sport in the state.

“I think it will be like hockey where it only becomes a club sport,” he said.

One of the ways Dahl and Quam have been trying to promote the Rage is by talking to the high school hockey coaches and director in Brookings.

“I reached out to the elementary gym teacher this offseason and the high school athletic director as well and we’re going to try to show people what lacrosse is,” Dahl said.

This upcoming offseason the Rage are going to have a couple nights in the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex and kids will be able to try lacrosse for free to see if they like it.  

The Rage will be in Watertown June 1-2 and will play three games against Aberdeen, Black Hills and Sioux Falls. The NPLL State Tournament will be June 14-16 in Aberdeen.

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