Grace Bowen (above), one of Loyola’s leading scorers this season, will be playing for Princeton next season when girls lacrosse becomes an official IHSA sport. Laxpower.com’s top-rated Ramblers play second-rated New Trier at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Northfield in a rematch of last year’s state final won by Loyola. (Jeff Krage/for STM)
Second in a series about high school sports Web sites.
Sometimes it’s easy to anoint someone as the Godfather of something. Do we need a Godfather of girls lacrosse in this state? Many would proclaim it’s Pete Collins, the head coach of perennial power New Trier. Collins (right) has coached at New Trier since the sport’s inception, originated the definitive IHSWLA.com Web site and has been instrumental in getting lacrosse, for both boys and girls, accepted as a new IHSA sport starting next season. He also is the tournament director for the annual Windy City Classic, the state’s largest girls lacrosse invitational at New Trier and Loyola, which ended April 24.
Collins recently answered questions about the Web site and the sport via email:
Q. What is the IHSWLA and were you the first president?
A. It is the Illinois High School Women’s Lacrosse Association. The first president was Linda Weinstein in 1998, who was the head coach at Glenbrook South.
Q. What is the role of the IHSWLA? Did the Web site come along later?
A. The role of the IHSWLA was to organize the schools playing girls lacrosse for scheduling and helping the growth of the sport to support new programs and have rules for paying officials, playoff seeding and participation. The Web site was created for communication purposes and to promote the growth of girls lacrosse. I originally bought the domain name and started a Web site in 2003 and then in 2005 found Small Sytem Solutions and they created our Web site and have helped create a very user friendly Web site.
Q. Did you start the Web site yourself before others helped?
A. Yes, and I had help with some of my friends in the IT department at New Trier.
Q. How as the site changed over the years?
A. In 2005, when Small System Solutions created a site that could have stats, rosters, schedules, game stories and headlines news.
Q. The site tracks every score and posts every roster. That’s a pretty ambitious endeavor isn’t it?
A. Each coach is responsible to update their roster and we have a group of coaches that collect and post scores. It is the responsibility of each coach to email their scores in after each game. Most coaches are used to doing the reporting, so it is just a matter of getting the new coaches to understand what is expected.
Q. When did you add staff to help and who are they now? What are their roles?
A. I asked Bob Thompson, the coach at Vernon Hills to assist me a couple years ago, and then Tom Paulius, who is a photographer and runs Midwest Lacrosse Photography, to help get photos and update news stories. This year, I have asked Bob to take over as the Webmaster and now David Darden, Vernon Hills assistant coach and Jen Ventrelle, head coach at Lake Zurich have taken over as the Web site staff.
Q. Do you have much of a remaining role on today’s Web site?
A. I will add stories, update information and help with any questions that Bob has. I updated all of the contact information since I collect that information at the pre-season meeting.
Q. Do you plan on carrying on the Web site once you become an IHSA sport?
A. We plan on keeping the site and the IHSWLA will become more of a coaches’ association to grow the sport, support new coaches and recognize top players and coaches.
Q. How will becoming an IHSA sport change girls lacrosse, and even the site?
A. It will help with getting more officials, give lacrosse more of a presence online, in the print media and for the players at their schools. It will be considered a ‘real’ sport since the IHSA will run it. The IHSA will run the state tournament and I won’t have to organize the playoff seeding meeting and state playoffs.
Q. How did you get started in girls lacrosse and what do you love about the sport?
A. When I was hired at New Trier I was the intramural sports director and girls lacrosse fell under my responsibilities. I immediately thought it was a really cool sport, very innovative, creative and fun to coach. I enjoyed learning more about the sport as it grew and knew that this was something special. I love the speed of the game and the tremendous skill you need to have to be able to catch and throw the ball at full speed.
Q. Glenbrook North coach Tom Rosenbaum said “anything Pete Collins touches is amazing.” Have you thought of yourself as the No. 1 promoter for the sport in the state?
A. I’m one of many promoters for the sport in the state. I am only trying to do what I should be doing, and that is making the sport, our program and the experience for each athlete the best it should be. I enjoy helping other coaches who can have a positive impact on young people and that is how you can really make a difference in the lives of our student-athletes. Leadership is empowering other people.
Q. Can you explain your role in getting lacrosse, even girls, adopted as an IHSA sport? It sounds like this has been many years in the making.
A. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing leaders, like former New Trier athletic director Jim Bloch, who was the big reason why lacrosse is being adopted by the IHSA. We have been going down to the IHSA for the past several years to just show them what the sport was about, to show them the growth and to encourage the IHSA to see that lacrosse was not going to go away and to give it a positive image.
Q. You mentioned the site helped the IHSA approve lacrosse as a sport. How so?
A. I don’t know if I meant to say the site helped the IHSA significanlty, I do know that having an online presence to help new programs, athletic directors and college coaches keep up with the season is really great.
Q. Do you see girls lacrosse taking off once it’s an IHSA sport?
A. I see it growing significantly, especially in the Northwest suburbs and with more Catholic schools.
Q. What’s next for the future of the sport?
A. I think it will become as popular as soccer. It is a fun sport to watch, play and you will see more colleges continuing to add the sport and more opportunities for kids to play in college. You will also see Chicago become more of a hotbed for recruiting.