At 1st Start Lacrosse, Fun Is the Foundation
Learn more about John Bodnar's programs from 3- to 7-year-olds, including summer camp.
John Bodnar loves lacrosse, and he loves working with kids. He founded 1st Start Lacrosse to help make sure your child’s first taste of the game is a good one.
1st Start runs classes and camps for kids ages 3 to 7. The goal is simple: introduce kids to lacrosse while encouraging fun, teamwork, and just being active.
“Working with kids at that age, sometimes they can get turned off to the sport if it’s not the right experience,” said Bodnar, who’s a special education teacher in the William Penn School District in Delaware County and has two children of his own.
Bodnar has played the game since fourth grade, and coached at a variety of levels as an adult.
“Lacrosse can be hard to pick up at first, because of the coordination that you really need to build to feel comfortable with a stick in your hands,” he said. “By the end of our session, we want them to be excited and keep playing.”
1st Start’s spring, fall, and winter sessions are held at the Episcopal Academy, Swarthmore College, the All Sports Center in Collegeville, and the Phield House in Philadelphia. In 2018, Bodnar will run summer camps in the three suburban locations as well as Sea Isle City on the Jersey Shore.
1st Start’s coaches are all teachers, and know how to work with young kids as well as teach the game. Your child’s experience starts with an early bonding opportunity: before a session begins, the coaches host a hangout so the children can get comfortable with them, and one another.
“On the first day when you’re little, you’re terrified,” Bodnar said. “We play these fun icebreaker games and have activities for them. We really try to take the extra step so they can get to know us — so they can realize that I’m a goofball and like to have fun, too.”
Bodnar’s commitment to making lacrosse accessible to young children extends to the special 1st Start Starter Stick that he developed for the program. A college friend has his own stick company and produces the stick Bodnar designed.
“It fits a younger player perfectly,” he said. “The head of the stick is already strung, so you can instantly throw and catch perfectly, and the shaft is small enough so our younger players can really grip their hands around it. It’s been a hit — the kids really enjoy it.”
And ultimately, that’s what matters to Bodnar.
“Our main goal is truly for their first experience with lacrosse to be fun and positive.”
Ready to sign up? 1st Start’s spring session begins April 7.
Registration is open now for Sunday classes at The Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy, or Swarthmore College, or Saturday classes at All Sports Center in Collegeville or the Phield House in Philadelphia, as well as summer camp.
Photographs by Ivory Tree Portraits.