MCPHERSON, Kan. (KSNW) — There’s no doubt about it. McPherson is a basketball town. Its championship history in the sport dates back to the 1930s. However, there are leaders who believe now is the time for lacrosse to catch on and grow not only in McPherson but also in surrounding communities.
On the corner of Marlin and Ash in downtown McPherson is the Community Building. Outside on the northeast corner of the building stands an impressive life-size sculpture recognizing the McPherson Globe Refiners; the first U.S. team to win an Olympic gold medal in men’s basketball in 1936.
“Kansas has a deep history of basketball. The gentleman who wrote the 13 original rules, James Naismith, was a lacrosse coach at Springfield College when he wrote them. Of course, McPherson is the home of the Globe Refiners, the first Olympic team,” said Virgil Lyon, who established the Central Kansas Lacrosse Association. “James Naismith gave the first gold medal to a McPherson native by the name of Bill Wheatley, who played in this gym right here,” said Lyon as he stands inside the Community Building.
Much like Naismith brought his game of basketball to the University of Kansas, Lyon is introducing lacrosse to the youth of McPherson.
“We’ve already kick-started, and the real combination here is Mr. Naismith loved coming up with a new game. He had a passion. Virgil Lyon has a passion to bring lacrosse to South Central Kansas,” said McPherson Mayor Tom Brown.
After a slow start in 2020 due to COVID-19, the McPherson Lacrosse Club is finally growing. It has three teams. One for fifth and sixth graders, a middle school team, and a high school team.
“And the association has coordinated some games with the Blue Valley area. We just took the 5th and 6th graders up there two weeks ago,” said Lyon. “That’s why we exist. That’s why we have the association is to provide those same opportunities that the adults provided for me when I was a kid.”
Lyon’s son, Simon, recently signed a letter of intent (LOI) to play at William Jewell College.
“I mean, it’s still pretty small. It’s a club. Got a lot of young guys on the team and obviously a bunch of those little kids coming up,” said Simon Lyon.
“I think it’s becoming more popular. The fact you get to come out here and play with your friends. It’s growing. You have more of your friends out here. It’s fun,” said fellow senior Brandon Western.
Both Lyon and Western would like to see their neighbors pick up lacrosse.
“I’d like to see places like Buhler, Hutch, all those close places. Especially since you’ve got the McPherson-Buhler rivalry at the high school. That would be fun to see,” said Simon Lyon.
“Salina schools. Anywhere in Salina. Close schools,” added Western.
Back to the Community Building, where I learn something about basketball and lacrosse, I did not know.
“So, they both use a goal. The goals are orange, and that’s taken directly from lacrosse,” explained Lyon.
“It’s really cool to be here (inside the Community Building) and standing in a place like this where so much basketball history was invented,” said Lyon. “I’m hoping we can build the same kind of tradition with lacrosse.”