Football fans may know Bill Belichick as the grumpy, sour-puss head coach of the New England Patriots.
But for the fledgling Chiawana lacrosse team, the five-time Super Bowl champion coach is a savior.
The club was one of seven nationwide that received a $20,000 grant from the Bill Belichick Foundation, enough to pay for new and safe gear for its players.
“It’s amazing,” Chiawana coach Vaughn Ostler said. “I didn’t even know this grant existed prior to this season. It’s a game changer for us.”
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The club, which uses Chiawana in name only because lacrosse is not a WIAA sanctioned sport, branched from the Richland team after last season. It has players from Chiawana, Hanford, Pasco and Kiona-Benton high schools — many of whom had not played before this year.
With that break came the task of providing equipment for players who cannot afford to purchase it. That’s where the grant comes in.
“I had someone share the grant information with me,” said Shannon Sullivan, the program’s vice president. “The application process was online and very detailed. We had to meet certain criteria to even apply. I had to look the student demographics in the schools, and look at the need and the barriers in recruiting new players.”
The Chiawana program had hoped to hear from the Bill Belichick Foundation in early February, but the Riverhawks were a couple of weeks into the season before they found out they were awarded the grant, which helped provide helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves and sticks to equip 24 players, plus a full set of goalie gear and practice pinnies for the entire team.
The team has had the new equipment for some time but could not share the good news until the Foundation announced it first.
“This was huge to break the barriers to recruit kids,” Sullivan said. “We want to grow the sport of lacrosse and give kids the opportunity to play and enjoy the sport without having to buy their equipment.”
The Bill Belichick Foundation received more than 40 applications from teams in need of equipment in order to grow the sport in their community.
“I cannot say enough to thank Bill Belichick for everything he has done for lacrosse,” Ostler said. “This opens the sport to a lot of new players in our area.”
Belichick has a long history with lacrosse. He played at Annapolis High School and Wesleyan University. His daughter, Amanda, played at Wesleyan and is the coach of the women’s lacrosse team at Holy Cross.
Sullivan and team secretary Amy Donaldson will attend a ceremony Saturday in Boston, where they will meet Belichick and formally accept the grant.