Lacrosse is Canada’s official national summer sport, and has developed a strong following in the Westlock area.
Starting Jan. 7, and running for four more weeks after that, the Westlock Lacrosse Association is providing lacrosse players, and those who want to try the sport, the chance to get out and work on their game.
“What we do is we rent the high school gym as many nights as we can during the winter, which ends up being about five Friday nights,” said association president Liz West. “We have the opportunity to get out there and run a lacrosse program.”
Part of the night is a drop-in, where any of the association’s nearly 150 players can come out and throw the ball around with their teammates and friends, West said.
The other part is for anyone who wants to try the sport to come out and give it a whirl.
“There are a lot of kids who have never played lacrosse before, who may be interested in trying it,” she said. “We encourage them to come out.”
There will be sticks and balls provided for those interested in trying the sport.
West said the association has become established enough in Westlock that most of the older kids have already tried the sport. As such, the majority of those who come out to try lacrosse will be in the younger age bracket.
In addition, West said there are often many girls who come out to try lacrosse. This has prompted the association to open a specific time slot for girls to come out, she said, to keep them away from being intimidated by the boys.
When it gets time to put together the teams for the season, there are no rules against girls playing on teams with the boys. Although the association does have a midget girls’ team, West said the teams at the lower levels are effectively co-ed. However, she did say the association is trying to put together a bantam girls’ team as well.
The season doesn’t get fully underway until after the hockey season is over. There are two reasons for this. One is many lacrosse players also play hockey. The other is the teams play at Jubilee Arena, and they must wait for the ice to be removed from the rink before play can begin.
Thus, the season typically gets started in April, and runs until July. In 2010, Westlock put together 10 teams, which the goal in 2011 to bring that up to 11 or 12, depending on registration numbers.
A team is usually 14-18 players, West said, but added “if we end up with, say, 30 kids wanting to play, then we end up with two teams in an age category.”
The majority of Westlock’s teams play in the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council, which includes teams from Edmonton, Parkland County, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc and Sherwood Park. The only teams that don’t play in the GELC are the Mini-Tyke, Tyke and Junior teams.
The Mini-Tykes and Tykes only play exhibition games to keep the travel commitments down for the younger kids, West said.
“We try to run a reasonably simple, straightforward program that teaches some skills,” she said. “We don’t feel compelled to put them into a league because it’s a lot of travelling for parents.”
The Junior team, on the other hand, plays in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League, which includes teams from the northern half of the province, West said.
Registration is scheduled for Feb. 16. The drop-in and try-it sessions will take place at the R.F. Staples gym on Jan. 21, Feb. 4, Feb. 25 and Mar. 18, from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. More information on these and other association business can be found on their website, www.westlocklacrosse.ca.