With youth sports allowed under Stage 2 of the Alberta government's reopening plan, all systems are go for Airdrie’s young lacrosse players this summer.
With public health restrictions lessening province-wide, the Airdrie Jesters field lacrosse club and the Rocky View Rage box lacrosse club have started to prepare in earnest for the 2021 lacrosse season.
“It’s been a long break and the youth are already back on the field and the floor, and they’re excited,” said Gareth Barley, a coach and co-founder of Jesters and the head coach of the Airdrie Knights senior B men’s box lacrosse team.
“It’s nice to see their smiles and the same familiar faces. We’re allowed to play box lacrosse in a kind of exhibition-type season this year, and more importantly, the youth get to continue on with field lacrosse here come July. We’re open for business and quite excited about that.”
This summer, Barley said Jesters will be able to offer training groups a minimum of 16 practice sessions throughout July and August, with some inter-squad scrimmages sprinkled throughout the mix. Age-specific cohorts will train twice a week, either on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the East Lake Regional Park soccer fields.
While box lacrosse has been a popular sport in Airdrie for many years, Barley said the outdoor version of Canada’s official summer sport is still growing in the city. Jesters launched in 2018, though the club did not start offering programs until 2019. That year, more than 80 young lacrosse players in Airdrie and Calgary registered for the club’s inaugural season.
“We’re trying to introduce a game that’s not really that well known in Alberta,” Barley said. “It’s getting there – more kids are playing it – but we’re just getting it on the map so these kids have exposure to another version of lacrosse, compared to the one we know more, in box lacrosse.”
One benefit of field lacrosse, according to Barley, is that its offers talented lacrosse players the opportunity to pursue a scholarship for the sport at the post-secondary level. He said Canadian and American universities do not offer box lacrosse programs.
“We’re finding these players need field lacrosse on their resume if they’re looking to go State-side [for university],” he said.
Jesters is still looking for players to register, Barley said, adding the club will keep registration open throughout the 2021 season. He said the club intends to hold some try-it sessions this summer to give local youth a taste of the sport.
Jesters offers training cohorts for boys from U6 up to the U16 age group, and from U10 to U17 on the girls’ side.
“We’re really trying to grow the younger game for the ladies so the girls can start earlier and move up to the higher groups,” he said. “Our coach on the female side, Leslie Hawke, is unbelievable and has all kinds of records.
“We classify her as the Wayne Gretzky of women’s field lacrosse because she has records all over North America for her game play, and scholastically as well. She has a real bond with the ladies and is really great, and we’re lucky to have her as a coach.”
For more information on Jesters, visit jesterslaxinc.com