By Naeisha Rose
It’s a brand new ball game.
Jamaica High School doesn’t seem like a potential hot bed for lacrosse interest, but the sport’s popularity has grown recently along with the team’s success. The squad made it to this year’s postseason for the first time in 25 years with a diverse roster of players.
The sport was brought back to the school four years ago and, with the help of volunteer alumni coaches and new coach Tom Grimaldi, the Jamaica Beavers went from a development team to a full-time program.
“In Jamaica, my team is predominantly African American and South Asian,” Grimaldi said. “We are bringing diversity to the game. New York City in general has been bringing diversity to the game. It is nice to see all different kids of all different backgrounds play the sport.”
Lacrosse has grown with the help of CityLax, a non-profit that has been “using athletics to develop student athletes in underserved communities,” according to the organization’s website, something Grimaldi said he is thankful for.
“They donated helmets to all the schools to help out with equipment. They run clinics over the winter, and they have fundraisers to help fund some of the teams that are coming up,” said Grimaldi, a Bayside native who started playing lacrosse in the 90s when his family moved to Nassau County. “They have been huge in helping the sport grow in New York City.”
When he played, he remembered the sport being popular on Long Island, upstate New York and Staten Island. Jamaica High School was the only team from Queens that competed, according Grimaldi and the other coaches.
“It has grown unbelievably. Now, there are 24 teams in New York City and four teams in Queens,” Grimaldi said.
Despite his team being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, he is proud of what the group was able to accomplish this season.
“We lost, but for us, [an 8-7 record] was big. This was the first winning season we had since we restarted the program. It’s a lot to build on and we have strong returning juniors, and a couple of returning sophomores,” Grimaldi said.
Three of his players earned All Division accolades, and one clinched an All Conference award, which is a huge step for the program as it looks to establish consistent success across the city.
Immanuel Singh picked up All Division honors for his work in the faceoff circle. Nayeem Hossain was recognized for scoring the fifth-most goals in New York City. First-year player Joban Preet garnered recognition for his performance in goal. Team Captain Sayvon Jones earned the highest praise on the team, clinching a spot on the All Conference team, a recognition that is only given out to 22 players in all of New York City.
Jones, who was also the captain of the football team, had a great experience with lacrosse and said he will be playing the sport at Nassau Community College after he graduates.
“When I first started doing lacrosse for the team, it was pretty interesting,” Jones said. “I see the skills that lacrosse had and some of the skills that football had and it made me develop better as a player.”
Jones was on the team since it was reinstated and was thrilled to help guide the team to the playoffs.
“It felt very good. We had everybody together and committed players that wanted to play and get better at the sport,” Jones said. “Everybody on the team wanted to win. When we got those wins it made us even closer as a family.”
Grimaldi can’t wait to see how Jones continues to develop as a lacrosse player and knows that his success will help inspire other Jamaica athletes to head out to the field.
“He is going to take his skills to the next level. He sets a great example for the rest of the team to show that you can go to the next level when you play lacrosse,” Grimaldi said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose