Passing the torch: Local helping build Copperheads program
by Chris Goltermann
In many ways, Rachel Skinner carried a torch among the first girls high school lacrosse players in Coweta County much the same way the former Newnan High standout did for a fledgling college program at Shorter University as its first-ever recruit.
Fresh off a summer that included competing as a member 2014 USA National European travel team, she’s now involved in passing that same torch to the next generation of girls players as girls’ director for the Copperhead Lacrosse program.
On Saturday, she could be found leading a group at the first of the Copperheads two free “Learn to Play” clinics that included athletes picking up a stick for the first time well prior to when Skinner did as a seventh-grader at Smokey Road Middle School.
The sport has thrived in the past eight years locally, first as a middle school sport and eventually channeling into the county’s three public high schools, providing an equal growth among scholarship opportunities.
Along with Skinner, the Copperheads are seeing their first group of college-level athletes working their way back into the youth program as coaches. Saturday’s clinic saw at least 40 boys and a half-dozen girls take the practice fields at East Coweta High School while getting a chance to get their first taste for the sport.
A second, free “Learn to Play” clinic is scheduled for this Saturday at ECHS at 10 a.m. Equipment is not necessary.
For Skinner, who played soccer and softball, ran cross country and swam before trying lacrosse, the chance to teach girls a sport she’s grown to love over the past seven years has been just as fulfilling as experiencing it as a player. Her family first came across a professional game while on vacation in Pennsylvania, with siblings and cousins also becoming standouts in high school and beyond.
“Coaching is something I would really like to do. I love doing this, teaching them the game. I would love to coach a college team someday. But right now we’re building this up right now,” she said. “Anybody can play lacrosse. Basketball players are great with their hand-eye coordination. Soccer players can run up and down the field with no problem. They usually pick it up really fast.”
After having to carry Shorter’s program at times during its infancy, playing in an international tournament this summer gave Skinner a chance to take her skills to a new level.
“It was a really great experience. When you get to the pro level from college, the play is just so different,” she said of the international experience. “We played our first game without really practicing. But our first game, the chemistry was just great. More than half of them from New York. I was the only one south of the Mason-Dixon line. So that was interesting. It was just great to play with people at such a high level like that.”