Fifteen years ago, a handful of community leaders banded together to form GFLA, a non-profit association dedicated to introducing lacrosse to the youth of Great Falls. In its inaugural season, GFLA fielded nine boys’ teams (grades 3 through 8) and two girls’ teams (grades 5 through 8) with a little over 200 youths and 11 coaches participating.
Then, as now, field space for practices and games was in short supply. To ensure the success of their fledgling club, the founders and original Board of Directors of GFLA (Chris and Maureen Lehman, Bill Sbarra, Roger Smith, Dave Redmond, John Castellani, David Vachon, Tom McClain, and Bill and Pamela Siddon) secured the support of other members of the Great Falls Community and Fairfax County to construct a field located just behind what is now the Great Falls Library. The field, which became known as Leo Santaballa Field, was named in memory of a young boy from Great Falls who was a dedicated athlete with an incurable disease. Since then, Leo’s field has served as an essential asset in the continuing growth of a community lacrosse program.
Since its founding in 1996, GFLA has grown to become one of the largest and most successful programs in the Northern Virginia Youth Lacrosse League. Today, GFLA has nearly 600 boys and girls (ages 4 to 17) participating on almost 30 teams at all levels of play, from novice to developing to highly experienced. The young men and women of Great Falls Lacrosse have gone on to high school playing careers at many area schools, including Langley, Potomac School, Bishop O’Connell, Madeira, Georgetown Prep, Landon, Gonzaga, St. John’s, The Heights, Stone Ridge, and St. Alban’s. Moreover, many of these Great Falls players have continued on to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate lacrosse at institutions such as the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, the University of North Carolina, Oregon, Mary Washington, William & Mary, Princeton and Yale.
GFLA’s expansion this Fall into girls’ field hockey, one of the few instructional programs of its kind in Northern Virginia, has further demonstrated its commitment to the youth of Great Falls. The response to this program has been tremendous--over 120 girls ranging from 1st to 8th grade are participating.