Drew Snider is one of the most talented lacrosse players to come out of the Seattle area. A two-time prep All-American, a key cog in two Maryland runs at a national championship and a current finalist for a spot on the U.S. men’s national team, Snider’s list of accomplishments is impressive.

He admits, though, that he almost didn’t make it through his first year of lacrosse at Maryland.

“It was a very difficult transition,” said Snider, a 2006 O’Dea graduate. “I could play lacrosse, just naturally. I didn’t know any of the terms. My … lacrosse IQ was very low and that was the biggest part, was understanding the game, not just playing it off impulse.”

That is one of the reasons why Snider, now a member of Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws, has taken the head-coaching position of the O’Dea lacrosse program in its first year of existence. Snider wants to give young lacrosse players opportunities that he never had growing up.

O’Dea’s program is one of 14 new teams (boys or girls) that has joined the varsity level in Washington in the past two years, pushing the total to 93 squads in the state. The sport, already ubiquitous on the East Coast, is burgeoning in popularity out west. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has yet to officially sanction lacrosse, but O’Dea is one of a handful of schools to name its team a varsity-level sport, not just a club.

“There’s a lot of kids that really enjoyed baseball and then found out this love coming out for lacrosse, and everyone just started getting more attached to it and that’s great,” O’Dea sophomore Nathan West said.

O’Dea had kicked around the idea of adding lacrosse when Snider was in high school, and seriously started considering it about three years ago, longtime Irish athletic director Monte Kohler said. O’Dea wanted to offer the sport before last season, but several things didn’t work out, including the availability of Snider, who was coaching his younger brother at Nathan Hale (which won the Division II state title).

Instead, O’Dea students who wanted to play continued to participate for Garfield’s club team, nine of whom played on the Bulldogs team that lost the championship game to Nathan Hale.

“The popularity on the West Coast is growing and we want to have opportunities for kids to play,” Kohler said. “I was hoping that it would become an official high school sport, but that never seemed to materialize, so we just decided to go on our own.”

The number of youth participants is getting much higher and Snider created City Side LAX, a program aimed to teach kids the fundamentals of the game. The goal is to instill a high understanding of the game, so that kids’ lacrosse IQs aren’t as basic as Snider’s when they reach the high school level.

“I used to walk around with my lacrosse stick when I was young and people would be like, ‘What is that?’ ” Snider said. “Now I drive by and there’s a bunch of kids playing lacrosse at the fields. It’s very obvious that the growth is increasing over the years. That says a lot about the lacrosse community around here.”