There was a point in late 2020 where Tim Ripley was ready to call it quits on organizing the Union Pines boys lacrosse team.
Complications from the pandemic and changes with the administration at the school led to Ripley, the girls lacrosse coach at the school, contemplating abandoning the idea of starting a program.
“The day I was about to scrap the program, I messaged the athletic director saying, ‘one more time let’s try to float this as a club team outside of the school,’” Ripley said. “I was fully expecting to pull the plug on this program because I had been annoying him from Africa for like three months. In the two hours until I texted him back, I got the email.”
The email was a grant award notification that the Sandhills Lacrosse Association was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Bill Belichick Foundation. The money was the capital needed for start-up costs for a boys lacrosse program, being used to purchase helmets and other supplies for the Union Pines boys lacrosse team.
“Because of that we were able to buy replacement balls, helmets, equipment that we needed like goalie gear,” Ripley said. “Everything that we have that you see that is Union Pines specific, all came from the good will of the Bill Belichick Foundation.”
The foundation annually awards scholarships and grants for football and lacrosse teams nationally. The New England Patriots coach and namesake of the foundation has been a strong proponent of lacrosse, as his son played the sport collegiately at Rutgers.
Because of a late start on organizing the team, the Union Pines boys lacrosse team was classified as a school club team, and played a pair of games against Cape Fear before closing out its season earlier this month against Pinecrest. The plan is next year for the team to compete on the high school varsity level, and is expected to join the conference with Pinecrest and Cape Fear.
“All of these people have been trying to grow our league and they’ve been fantastic,” Ripley said.
Head coach Jason Friedman said that the creation of the program started three years ago when the Sandhills Lacrosse Association was created as a club outlet for boys and girls lacrosse. The Union Pines girls program was adopted last year and just completed its second season competing. The plan is for the boys program to be on that level next spring.
Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.