Lenny Lang calls it the “fastest game on two legs,” and from the fields at Colorado Mesa University to those at local high schools, and on all the back fields around the valley, lacrosse has taken hold.
Lang essentially is the “Godfather of Lacrosse” in the Grand Junction.
But really, the godson started it all.
Seven years ago, after playing lacrosse in New York for one year and returning to Grand Junction, Lang’s son, Cameron, told his father, “Dad, like you said, that’s the most fabulous sport. I think we should start a team here.”
So began an eventual Grand Valley lacrosse craze.
Lang, 57, said he did not get backing from the city to fund a club lacrosse team. “They wanted it to be very recreational,” Lang said. “So that didn’t seem to be working.”
So Lang placed an advertisement in The Daily Sentinel, looking for seventh- and eighth-grade players. Wanting more numbers, he put in another ad saying he also wanted sixth-graders. It worked.
The Grand Valley Lacrosse club team had 23 players its first year with local players as well as some from Eagle, Vail, Aspen and Durango.
Wanting lacrosse at the high school level, Lang at a District 51 school board meeting successfully petitioned to make lacrosse a high school sport. But District 51 did not want to fund the sport.
So, through various fundraisers, Grand Valley Lacrosse raised the necessary $60,000 per year.
Lacrosse became a club high school sport in 2007 and was sanctioned as a high school sport in 2009 with teams at Fruita Monument and Grand Junction.
In 2011 Colorado Mesa University began men’s and women’s lacrosse teams as well.
CMU President Tim Foster, who had three children playing either collegiate or high school lacrosse, helped Lang through the necessary steps of making Grand Valley Lacrosse a nonprofit entity.
He said having high school teams provided a foundation for CMU to establish college teams.
“Plus, there was an opportunity because this is the fastest-growing sport in America,” Foster said. “Lenny Lang’s a great guy. He’s been there in the middle of this all the way.”
Sometimes, Lang sees a teenager, maybe in a school parking lot, snapping his lacrosse stick about the air like a sword, smiling and laughing.
“I played when I was a kid growing up in Long Island,” Lang said. “I started playing in the late 1960s. Then I played a couple years in college (State University of New York at Cobleskill).”
Lacrosse has the poetic, around-the-horn ball movement of basketball, spiced with football-like hits and the snaking shots that can crawl through a keeper’s legs like hockey.
“There’s no down time,” Lang said. “In baseball, when I was a kid, I stood on the field picking grass.”
Can’t do that in lacrosse.
“You’d wind up on your butt,” he said.
Lang saw Grand Valley Lacrosse, which now has more than 200 boys and girls in fourth through 12th grades, as an opportunity to involve kids in the sport.
“With a lacrosse team, you need 25 kids,” said Debbie Lang, Lenny’s wife of 25 years. “And all of a sudden that opens up for so many more kids being able to participate because it’s such a fast-moving sport.”
Trevor Allen, a 20-year-old lacrosse player at CMU, played for the Grand Valley Lacrosse as an eighth-grader.
“Lenny Lang is the coach of all coaches,” Allen said. “He’s the guy who knew the sport and brought it up into the whole entire valley.”