—By Ottawa Sportspage, For Gloucester Griffins Minor Lacrosse Association
It was a Grade ‘A’ year for the Gloucester Griffins, as the local lacrosse club enjoyed a continued climb in the quality of its minor lacrosse programs during the 2018 season.
No group punctuated that growth more than the Griffins Bantam 1 team. Champions at the Hamilton Lacrosse Ontario Super Series tournament, the Bantam boys’ competitive squad became the first Gloucester team in over 20 years to compete in ‘A’-level provincial qualifiers (most local teams play no higher than the ‘B’ level).
“That was a major accomplishment for our organization,” underlines Gloucester Lacrosse Association President Ian Woolridge. “It shows that we’re going in the right direction for sure.”
Most members of the Bantam team have played together since Tyke, making their way up from the ‘B’/’C’ ranks thanks to their ongoing dedication to the sport.
Key to the rise, Woolridge says, is improved coaching – including numerous non-parent coaches who are former junior players – and players’ off-season development with other local programs like Ottawa Capitals and Nemesis for field lacrosse, and training with local National Lacrosse League professionals Callum Crawford and JP Kealey.
“Lacrosse is a smaller sport in Ottawa. It is growing all the time, but we all need to embrace working together, because it benefits every player,” Woolridge highlights. “I think in the last couple years, Gloucester Lacrosse has really been improving. The coaches, the families, and the players, have really committed to reaching a high level.”
Top-notch house league program
Other season highlights included the annual Ray Broadworth Memorial Tournament (when Gloucester welcomed 3 dozen teams from across Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada), and the sustained strength of the club’s house league programs (with roughly 300 boys and girls playing on 20 teams, in interlock with the Nepean Knights organization).
“The feedback we had was very positive,” indicates Woolridge, whose club opens registration for 2019 in January. “Hopefully we’ll see more growth there.”
The GLA presented a number of awards at the conclusion of the season, recognizing Rob May (Volunteer of the Year), Barry Powell (Competitive Coach of the Year), Mike Dupuis (House League Coach of the Year), and Pat Brookes (Girls Coach of Year), while also saluting Yolaine Richer as she completed a lengthy run as club secretary.
“Her contributions to Gloucester Lacrosse will always be remembered,” Woolridge notes, while also thanking all volunteers for their efforts. “They’re often unheralded, but the hours they put is what allows these kids to get these experiences at this age.
“It’s a small community, and the people and everything they dedicate to the sport is amazing – it blows me away every year.”
For Woolridge, set to begin his second 2-year term as club president, the value of volunteering is evident in moments like the Peewee Griffins’ run to a provincial silver medal, when they won 5 matches in a row to reach the ‘C’ division final.
“It wasn’t about the championship that they won, it was about seeing them after it was over. The friendships they created, and how it all went – that’s something they’ll have forever,” Woolridge smiles. “For me, I guess as my hair gets greyer, those are the things you reflect upon.
“These kids are developing those bonds, and you see them and how much it means to them to be able to play this sport and truly enjoy it.”