Jesters Lacrosse Club (JLC) has officially called off its second season, but coaches of Airdrie’s first field lacrosse association are still working behind the scenes in case restrictions on gatherings and field rentals are relaxed later this summer.
The Airdrie-based organization launched formed in 2018, but officially became a sanctioned member of the Alberta Lacrosse Association (ALA) and the Alberta Field Lacrosse Association (AFLA) in 2019. This summer would have marked JLC’s second year of operations, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the grassroots club announced May 20 that its 2020 schedule would not be able to go ahead.
“The decision was made by the ALA and the AFLA, and then down to us,” said Gareth Barley, one of the club’s co-founders and coaches. “Obviously, the ALA is following guidelines from the Canadian Lacrosse Association, which is following the national government and Health Canada’s stance on competitive sport due to the COVID pandemic.”
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Despite the cancelled season, Barley said the club still hopes to offer some form of program – be it camps or casual practices – when restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, the club is encouraging players to practise their lacrosse skills at home.
“We’re preparing in the background to have something,” he said. “We know it won’t be leagues, but if it’s camps or something weekly with the kids, we will try our darndest to get out there. We know we have to follow the provincial government and what Alberta Health Services are saying, as far as guidelines, and we have to see what the City facility rental policies are going to look like in Airdrie and Calgary.
“We’ve looked into everything we possibly can – masks for coaches, hand sanitizer, how we’re going to distance…those are all things that are going to be factors for us to get things off the ground. We definitely want to get out there, helping the kids and getting the kids to play.”
On June 4, ALA revealed a return-to-activity plan, outlining a multi-stage strategy that will kick off as early as June 15. Stage 1 of the plan includes allowing outdoor practice sessions with a maximum group size of 50 people, including coaches, players and spectators. Contact will be limited by having players perform "modified drills" in established groups that are separated by at least two metres.
"Where possible, space should establish one-way flow patterns where possible to avoid multiple groups from inadvertently interacting," the plan reads.
Barley said last year's inaugural campaign was a growing and learning experience for the new club’s coaches, most of whom also play competitive senior or junior box lacrosse for local teams.
“We had a successful year, with a few of our teams getting medals at provincials, which was nice to see,” he said. “Our female program was hugely successful, based on some of the coaches who were there – Lesley Hawke, for one, definitely helped these ladies strive and reach their goals.”
The club is focused primarily on individual skill development, and, according to Barley, caters to players aged five to 19, regardless of prior lacrosse experience.
JLC had more than 80 players registered in 2019 – many of whom also play minor box lacrosse with the RockyView Lacrosse Association or clubs in north Calgary. Barley added the bulk of JLC players last summer were aged nine to 12, and coaches were looking forward to continuing their development in 2020.
“It was definitely a good first year, with steps to build on,” he said. “As coaches, we’re really disappointed the kids don’t get to be on the field this year, because based on the success we had last year, we were chomping at the bit and really wanted to get out there.”
As more local lacrosse players become interested in the outdoor version of Canada’s national sport, keeping JLC community-focused is one of the club’s priorities, Barley said.
“We don’t want to grow too fast,” he said. “We don’t want to get too big. We want to keep it communal and what a community organization should be. That’s been the thing all along – to keep it economically feasible for parents to get their kids into the game.”
For more information, visit jesterslacrosse.net or follow the club on Facebook.