Sisters misses impact of SALI
Last updated 5/11/2021 at Noon
Many of Sisters’ signature events have slid off the roster over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic. While it might not be thought of in the same context as big music and art festivals and the Sisters Rodeo, Sisters Annual Lacrosse Invitational tournament (SALI) — which brings dozens of teams and thousands of people to town — has earned its place as one of Sisters premier events. And the community has felt its absence in May for two years running.
Organizers had hoped to host the tourney this May, but the resurgence of COVID-19 and associated regulatory restrictions made the prospect untenable. The tourney, organized by Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) hopes to return in May 2022.
In addition to being a highlight of the year for lacrosse athletes, the tourney is a major economic shot in the arm early in the season.
“SALI registrations are completely full months prior to the tournament, and we have long waitlists of teams who want to attend,” Outlaw Lacrosse Committee Chair Meghan Flaherty told The Nugget. “The tournament brings around 5,000 visitors to town during the shoulder season, staying in hotels, shopping at stores, and filling their bellies at local restaurants. Do you even realize how much food 90-plus lacrosse teams who are playing two to three games a day eat?”
Peggy Root, a lacrosse parent, ran several SALI tournaments during her stint with the committee. She noted that lacrosse is an expensive sport, and the fundraising tournament is critical to keeping participation in reach for many young Sisters athletes.
“It’s what keeps the lacrosse program going,” she said. “Without SALI, the lacrosse program is not sustainable.”
“We try to keep it as close as we can to what the kids pay for ‘normal’ high school sports,” said varsity boys’ lacrosse coach Paul Patton.
Lacrosse is not an official school sport in Oregon, and receives no federal funding to operate like other sanctioned sports. In 2022, lacrosse will be designated an “emerging” high school sport in Oregon. After three years, it can officially become a high school sport across Oregon. Until it becomes a high school sport it relies on the leadership of the Outlaw Lacrosse Committee under the banner of SPRD.
The program is not in dire financial straits, thanks to the strong success of previous tournaments, but two cancellations in a row hurt.
“Luckily, we had enough cash reserves that we’re not bankrupt,” Patton said.
Sisters High School teacher Bill Rexford brought lacrosse to Sisters and started SALI to fund the program. Andrew Gorayeb assisted in the further development of the program.
“It’s really expanded from being just a high school event,” said Coach Patton.
The tournament has slots for teams down into the fifth and sixth grades, and it’s not really an invitational, as a spot is found for all teams that register.
While SPRD administers the tourney, parents and players play a big role in setting it up and running it. That element is a significant team-bonding experience.
“That’s a big part of it and we’re sort of missing that this year,” Patton said.
For junior varsity players, SALI is the culminating event of the season, and for varsity players, who play bigger schools all season, it’s an opportunity to match up on a more level playing field.
“It’s the highlight of the year for them,” Patton said.
It’s a highlight for lacrosse families across the region, too.
“What we always heard from families is that they really looked forward to it,” Root said. “They’d been going to it for years.”
Lacrosse boosters are determined that SALI will rise again.
“We are committed to continuing to run SALI in the future for the benefit of the lacrosse program, but also because it is a wonderful community event run by local volunteers, and enjoyed by residents,” said Flaherty. “SALI is Sisters!”
She also noted that, “the committee desperately needs more members to keep lacrosse alive in coming years in Sisters. Anyone interested can contact SPRD to be pointed in the right direction.”
Sponsors are welcome to participate now. Businesses who become sponsors will have their business on the SALI website and all promotional materials for the entire year, as well as banners at the event in 2022.
For more information visit www.salilax.com or contact Sisters Park & Recreation District at 541-549-2091.