By Ottawa Sportspage, for Gloucester Lacrosse Association
The Gloucester Lacrosse Association enjoyed breakthroughs at the top level of the sport and saw a rise in the level of coaching and play across the board in 2019, though the best is yet to come.
Overall membership numbers were up this year, but it’s the resurgence of younger players entering the paperweight and tyke divisions that GLA President Ian Woolridge finds especially encouraging.
“That’s where you’ve got to grow the game,” Woolridge highlights. “We had an excellent year, and it’s really great to see lacrosse coming back strong in Gloucester.”
The GLA house league programs got a boost from past senior and junior-level players leading a skills development program, enabling parents with minimal lacrosse exposure to learn and become better coaches themselves, and likewise lifting players’ abilities.
“The feedback was very positive and we saw the development at the house league level definitely go up,” notes Woolridge, pleased to see the association’s investments in house league programming paying off. “It was a pilot that we’ll definitely continue.”
A great sign of progress in the GLA’s girls’ divisions was having former players return as coaches as well.
“Seeing people come back into the organization to help is always tremendous,” Woolridge indicates, noting the rising participation in girls’ hockey is mirrored in Canada’s national summer sport. “There are so many parallels that draw hockey players to lacrosse. It’s just a natural fit.”
Griffins competitive programs celebrated a pile of success this season, including multiple historic feats.
There were a pair of silver medal wins at the Ontario Lacrosse Festival (the tyke boys in ‘C’ play, and the bantam boys in ‘B’, who came just an overtime goal away from gold.)
The peewee Griffins became the first-ever Gloucester team to earn their way to the final six in the top provincial ‘A’ division, while the bantam girls also competed in ‘A’.
The approach in recent years has been for each team to always enter the highest level possible, which has proven fruitful.
“You’re not always going to win at every event, but you have to go and play against better competition to continue to try and push,” explains Woolridge, noting the peewee group is the prime example. “They had a tough season playing in the higher level the year before, but it really opened doors and made them a stronger team come this season.”
Thanks to “strong relationships” with other lacrosse groups in the area, many Griffins players continue to play and train for lacrosse year-round, whether with the Ottawa Capitals or Nemesis for fall field lacrosse, or with winter skills development training led by the Griffins Jr. ‘B’ club.
Alongside several provincial development team members, four Griffins were selected to Team Ontario this year, each earning undefeated records and gold medals at the Canadian championships. It was the first time Gloucester had representatives at every level for nationals (Zak McLean in peewee, Julian Belair and Tristan Caldwell in bantam, and Austin Lamoureux in midget).
“That was amazing,” signals Woolridge. “Those boys making Team Ontario are an example of what the program is becoming, and hopefully where we’re headed.”
The rise comes as Gloucester Lacrosse gets set to hit the 50-year mark, with exciting anniversary celebrations in the works.
Other steps forward this season came in social media management, entering the first Gloucester intermediate boys team (run hand-in-hand with the Jr. ‘B’ club), and the annual Ray Broadworth Memorial Tournament was a “huge success” on and off the floor under the direction of Angela Lamoureux.
The GLA presented year-end honours to three coaches of the year – Brad McDonald (boys’ house league), Jarrett Chambers (girls), and Steve McLean (boys’ competitive), who was also recognized as Ontario zone 5 coach of the year. Stephanie Pagan, who drove the GLA’s Start with Hillary campaign to encourage the community to join the national stem cell registry, was chosen as volunteer of the year.
“It’s the volunteers that really make Gloucester lacrosse a success,” Woolridge underlines.
“They don’t get enough recognition at times, but we’re very fortunate to have a lot of great volunteers step up. It’s what allows those teams to have success, and it just gives kids a chance to play lacrosse and enjoy it.”