The Spirit of the Game Exemplified By JGLA’s Jersey Jamboree


This story appears in the May/June edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

The Jersey Girls Lacrosse Association felt a hole in its heart when Laura McCarthy died of cancer in November 2017. She was 58. The annual Jersey Jamboree has helped to preserve McCarthy’s legacy.

“It is a big piece to keep that spirit alive,” JGLA president Tamara Floruss said, “and an opportunity to remember that recreational lacrosse in this area was developed for having fun, learning something new and loving it.” 

McCarthy was a high school and college official as well as founding member of the Caldwell, N.J., rec program. She was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2015. The jamboree brings together eighth-graders from JGLA programs across New Jersey for a one-day event honoring her.

“It’s tremendous for the community because of how much she loved the game. Getting kids out on the field because they love the game lives on through that [event],” Floruss said. “Especially the essay. It’s a chance for people to talk about her again and what the spirit of lacrosse is about.”

Jamboree chair and JGLA marketing chair Jan Madura introduced an essay contest in 2018. Players write about why they play the game and what they’ve learned from it.

“A lot of people were rolling their eyes and saying, ‘These girls with their social media, they’re always on computers and phones. They’ll never do this,’” Madura said. “I have over 20 entries every year. You want to pick every girl and you can’t. They do such a good job with them.”

The last winner was Jenna Scala of Pompton Lakes, N.J., in 2019. Scala wrote about the strength, courage and confidence that she had gained since starting in third grade — enduring a serious knee injury, changing positions and being resilient as a goalie.

“These girls really write from the heart,” Madura said.

The jamboree and essay contest are back this year. The JGLA culminates its season with the event. Madura recently created a template for other organizations that explains how to organize and host a similar jamboree or play day. 

“My daughter stopped playing rec lacrosse a long time ago,” Madura said. “But I believe in what it represents and what Laura represented, which is why I’m happy to put it together. In many regards, Laura was revered by everyone.”

The Jersey Jamboree was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is slated to return May 23 in Madison, N.J.

McCarthy led efforts to recruit and train officials locally for the JGLA and nationally as a Super Region III (Upper Atlantic) chair and administrator. McCarthy also was a coach and a founding member of the Caldwell Lacrosse Club.

 “She singlehandedly kept the spirit of lacrosse going in New Jersey,” Madura said. “The officials weren’t just adults. You have to train younger kids to do it. They start with rec and then they go through high school. She was the one that started these training programs for the refs. And she communicated with everyone all over the state.”

McCarthy mentored Floruss first as an official, then as an organizer. McCarthy focused on the 100-125 high school officials and Floruss worked with the 90-120 youth officials. 

Floruss said she rarely crosses paths with someone in the New Jersey girls’ lacrosse community who does not know McCarthy and the influential role she played in developing the sport. McCarthy sacrificed countless Saturdays to train officials of all ages, stood up for them when they faced criticism and found ways to support them in their development.

Rec teams can send three players plus a goalie to the Jersey Jamboree. Players covet the game pinnies that they can keep. Officials volunteer their time for the all-day event.

Numbers are expected to be down this year somewhat with some towns fielding fewer teams in the aftermath of the pandemic. The players will be placed randomly on teams that will come together to play twice during the jamboree.

“We are very careful to emphasize to the rec programs that do the selections that it has to be based on kids that have a love of the game and show leadership,” Madura said. “We don’t need the stars. We don’t want the A-plus players. They get enough attention.

“We want kids who have been through your rec program since they were in third grade and they’re doing it because they love it, not because they’re trying to get a scholarship to Louisville.”

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