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LACROSSE Camaraderie is one of this league's top goals

 Fredericksburg Academy girls coach Walter Hoffman has become a converted fan of women's lacrosse.
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Date published: 7/10/2009

After one of his Fredericksburg Area Girls Lacrosse League scrimmages, coach Walter Hoffman was walking around the Fredericksburg Academy lacrosse field, collecting balls and pennies.

He had already handed out popsicles, an end-of-practice tradition for the league, when he noticed his team doing something no boys lacrosse team would ever do.

"They were sitting in a perfect circle, complete strangers, and they were just chatting up a storm," Hoffman said. "They were all just sharing stories. There wasn't much silence in the conversation, either.

"It was funny to me because you'd almost never see a boys team doing that."

Camaraderie has become the norm at the weekly pickup lacrosse game for about 20 middle- and high-school-age girls.

And they take their direction from Hoffman, a former Williams College lacrosse player and father to two of the league's members.

When his daughters Courtney, 15, and Rachael, 12, took an interest in sports, Hoffman couldn't help but nudge them toward playing lacrosse.

"Courtney started when she was 7, and Rachael started at 5," he said. "That's when my transition to women's lacrosse started, too."

To help, he traded in his men's stick and picked up a women's stick, which lacks a deep pocket and makes catching, cradling and shooting more difficult. But the hardest thing for Hoffman to pick up in this transition were the differences between the two games.

In time, Hoffman started to prefer the women's game to the sport he played.

"Every now and then, I'll see a men's lacrosse game and ask out loud, 'Why did he do that?'" he said. "The women's game just makes a lot more sense to me now.

"There's a lot less substitution, and everybody on the field has to be able to play everything. There's a lot less specialization."

Hoffman lends his watchful eye and expertise to a handful of young lacrosse enthusiasts at their weekly games.

The league, which costs participants $5 per week, is designed to accommodate summer schedules.

Even more accommodating to the league's members is the league's lax attitude that Hoffman hopes will keep its attendance up.

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