New sports program hits Great Falls

On a chilly afternoon in October, the sound of a coach calling plays sounds over a field as a new sports program prepares for the season ahead.

The University of Great Falls Argos are introducing a lacrosse program, and leading the charge is head coach Bryan Jenkins.

Jenkins, a New York native, has a long history with the game.

“I grew up in a Syracuse suburb. For kids there, it’s like baseball is here. It’s just something that everyone does,” Jenkins said.

Although he started as a kid, lacrosse has continued to be a part of his life.

“I started when I was 4-or-5-year-old. It wasn’t anything serious, just playing around. But I stuck with it and I loved it,” Jenkins said.

Previously coaching lacrosse at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY and Wells College in Aurora, NY, Jenkins discovered his current position through the internet.

“I saw [the position] on a lacrosse website, so I just figured ‘what the heck.’ So they flew me out here,” Jenkins said.

Now in Montana, Jenkins is trying to establish a program from scratch in a state where his game is a foreign concept.

“There’s a lack of lacrosse in Montana as a state. It’s growing fast, but it’s still in its infancy. Because of that, the program has a lot of out-of-state guys. There’re people from the East Coast, and we even have a guy from Canada,” he said.

One of the players that will be on Jenkins’ team is California-native Albert Williams. Williams started playing lacrosse in his senior year of high school and found immediate success.

“One day in class some buddies said come out and play, so I did and tried out, and made the team. I played varsity my first year, and I’ve played ever since,” Williams said.

According to Williams, “Coach Jenkins” recruited him to come out and play. Although he doesn’t have a full-ride scholarship, he has received a “cheaper than normal” tuition, so “there’s no complaints there.”

Despite Great Falls not being a hotspot for lacrosse, Williams feels that they will have more than enough support for their program to flourish.

“I think Great Falls is a really great community. Everyone is really helpful. We had 150 people come out to our first game against the Griz, when it was raining and cold, and you can’t ask for anything better than that,” Williams said.

Because there isn’t a base of local lacrosse players, Jenkins is doing his part to change that by attempting to create a youth program, targeted to high school age students. Currently, there are nine high school club teams in the state, the closest being in Helena. According to Jenkins, the Bozeman program is “exploding” and the three Missoula clubs are “growing all over.”

Although he is hopeful for just a single club in Great Falls, he’d like to have a club for both C. M. Russell High School and Great Falls High School, if not now then within a few years.

Once the youth program gets started, Jenkins has every intention of helping it establish a healthy foundation in the community.

“We’ll send guys to practices to help their coaches and players. We’re happy to do whatever we can to help lacrosse in Montana,” he said.

Although Jenkins acknowledges that going out for the youth program is trying something new, he has words of encouragement.

“The big thing is just for people to come out and give it a shot. There’s nothing wrong with going out and trying it. It has a lot of similarities to ice hockey. It’s a tough, but fast game. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.”

Although their collegiate season won’t begin until spring, Jenkins has one message for the community of Great Falls.

“We’re trying to be a competitive team. We represent the city, so we stress working hard in school. It’s important that we have student athletes, not just guys playing lacrosse. They represent us all.”