Formerly the commissioner of the league, Craig Shirley coaches Fort Hunt Lacrosse in the mid 1990s.
For the last 25 years, youth in Fort Hunt have had the opportunity to play competitive lacrosse, and many have gone on to play in college and coach later in life due in large part to their success in Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse.
What used to be a little-known and played sport is expanding and becoming increasingly popular across the U.S. Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse offers opportunities for girls and boys as young as 5 years old to play.
While sports like baseball and football may still be the most popular options for boys, former commissioner and coach for the league Craig Shirley believes that lacrosse is valuable in different ways.
“They like the constant action and the team play and camaraderie and everything that young kids like about athleticism and competition,” Shirley said. “You’re not sitting on a bench and no knock on baseball because I love baseball, but I think it’s inevitable the growth of lacrosse even in places where you never thought it would be.”
Shirley is an Alexandria-based New York Times best-selling author who lives in Mount Vernon. His four children all played for Fort Hunt Youth lacrosse and his son Mitchell is currently a midfielder for the Mount Vernon High School team.
Alexandria resident Morgan Ames founded the league after realizing that there weren’t opportunities in the area for young people to play lacrosse. He came from a diverse multi-sport background including football and offshore racing.
Ames and his family moved to the D.C. area in late summer 1987 and his son began his Fort Hunt sporting career with basketball that winter.
“The next spring I looked around expecting to see youth lacrosse programs and there were none, so keeping involved in sports I signed (my son) up for baseball,” Ames said. “He had never played baseball. He had good hand eye coordination but he had no baseball skills.”
Rather than wait around for a lacrosse league to be started, Ames took the matter into his own hands and he, along with co-founder of the league Chuck Beattie, began what was first called Mount Vernon Youth Lacrosse.
Initially, the two had approached Font Hunt Youth Athletics in hopes of having a team under the Fort Hunt umbrella but were rejected because of worries that the lacrosse program would steal baseball players.
A couple years later, they tried again with the help of Shirley serving as the new commissioner.
“We had two strong seasons to reflect on and we hadn’t stolen a single baseball player so we became Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse,” Ames said.
Twenty-five years later the league has around 500 players on the boys teams alone, along with a flourishing girls program.
“I think they’re doing a great job with the program from what I can see and I would like to see more of the boys that come out of Fort Hunt go into coaching,” Shirley said.
Ames is proud of what he can look back on as a program that he initiated and helped to grow.
“I’ve always kind of considered myself the Johnny Appleseed of lacrosse,” Ames said.