Despite the popularity of box lacrosse in Airdrie, a field lacrosse program has never been offered in the city – until now, that is.
The grassroots Jesters Lacrosse Club officially launched last summer, but the Alberta Lacrosse Association and the Alberta Field Lacrosse Association sanctioned it just this year.
According to co-founder Gareth Barley – head coach of the Rockyview Knights Senior B box lacrosse team – Jesters will fill a void for young players interested in the outdoor version of Canada’s national sport. Before Jesters was formed, he said, Airdrie field lacrosse athletes had to join programs in south Calgary.
“There was really nothing north of 16 Avenue in Calgary – if those kids wanted to play, they had to travel,” Barley said. “That’s why [Jesters] was formed. We wanted to have an economical, feasible place for these players to either continue to play or learn to play the game of field lacrosse.”
The club’s coaches are mostly senior and junior box lacrosse athletes and coaches, including members of the Rockyview Knights Senior B team, the Rockyview Silvertips Jr. B team, and the Airdrie Mohawks Senior C team.
Jesters is focused primarily on individual skill development, and, according to Barley, caters to players aged five to 19, regardless of prior lacrosse experience.
“Our focus is on the lower age range – our [five-to-11-year-old] groups is where the bulk of our registration is,” he said. “That’s where we want to be because we want to grow.”
Jesters co-founder Greg Bradley said more than 80 players have registered for the inaugural season, which kicked off June 24. He added the majority of athletes have prior experience with the indoor version of the sport.
“Over the years, we’ve been asked repeatedly to start something like this,” Bradley said. “We decided it was time to finally get it off the ground.”
A secondary reason for forming the club, he added, is to provide players with a pathway to collegiate programs in the United States, as there are no box lacrosse programs at universities in North America.
“There are so many wonderful things about it, but, unfortunately, box lacrosse doesn’t give you the opportunity to get a scholarship or pursue it at the post-secondary level,” Bradley said.
The club holds training sessions for players aged five to 10 on Monday and Wednesday evenings; and for peewee, bantam and midget players on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
“If they haven’t played lacrosse before, then it’s a fresh start where they have to learn the whole game and a whole new set of rules,” Barley said.
The field locations alternate every two weeks between the VIVO fields by Notre Dame High School in Calgary and the Ed Eggerer Athletic Park field in Airdrie. Practices run until Sept. 5.
Along with the training sessions, Jesters players will put their skills to the test at “field dates” in Lacombe, Calgary and Edmonton, this summer. The events act as mini-tournaments, where Jesters teams play against other Alberta clubs.
“For a lot of the kids, that will be their first time [playing field lacrosse games],” Bradley said. “Practicing is fun, but sometimes, you want to play a real game.”
He added, teams may also participate in the provincial championship tournament in Leduc from Sept. 6 to 8.
Jester registration is available until mid-July, and, according to Bradley, fees start at $275 for the tyke and mini-tyke program, and $450 for the older kids. Registration can be found online at jesterslacrosse.net