New Generation Discovers Lacrosse Fever
During the past two years of Canadian summer lacrosse I have grown closer to the box game than I have been since the 1980s and early 90s.
For 25 years or more I was focused on playing and managing at the game's highest levels with that mindset. Senior lacrosse is a destination from years of playing minor lacrosse. It is quite a different game than the Junior game and levels below it.
A new generation of lacrosse players has new gear and new choices, but the bottom line of passion for the game remains.
Minor lacrosse is becoming more like hockey being heavily involved on the parents' side. One example: I don’t recall my parents ever watching me practice unless my dad was coaching in a specific year.
I don’t remember having a water bottle until I reached bantam and even that is a blur. I do have certainty that I drank Pepsi often between periods! That continued into my first two years of Senior lax with the Victoria (Payless) Shamrocks. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that we had Coke or Sprite on tap right in the dressing room, surely a signal I had arrived.
Oh those were the days. We would all shudder at the thought of this now.
The mindset of all sports today has shifted to a place where many of us could be accused of taking ourselves too seriously. Isn’t Gatorade just sugar, too?
Equipment was exactly the same for everyone in the 70s. One brand for all that was affectionately known as Cooper before they morphed into the hockey giant BAUER that they are today.
Today, kids are all about the swag. The variety of heads and shafts or gear is mind boggling.
At Victoria Minor Lacrosse we never played games inside on arena floors unless we were hosting and billeting a team from greater Vancouver. I never played a real game of lacrosse in Victoria’s Memorial arena until I was 23 years old. Memorial Arena was larger than life to any lax kid growing up in Victoria!
The first tournament my young Pee Wee playing son attended last year was at Colwood’s Q Center so he didn’t have to wait quite as long for the big stage. I was almost jealous.
Of course, the biggest difference from the past to now was the wood stick. Our era had to endure and maintain wood and leather lacrosse sticks until at least 1980. I can recollect the horror of forgetting my woodie out in the backyard after some neighborhood action and waking up to pouring rain a handful of times.
The rain was not kind to leather, wood and especially cat gut so you learned your lesson well. Unlike today, the countless treated mesh sticks are basically waterproof and much more forgiving.
Lately I have come closer to those past childhood memories. Through my 11-year-old son’s ongoing lacrosse experience, my memories flow. Every step we take together I’m aware he is seeing the game through different eyes than mine.
At first he didn’t want to play lacrosse and I didn’t want him to play either. Just like life I want his experiences to be his own path. We did the soccer thing for a while and then he said no more. Minecraft isn’t a sport. Last spring rolled around and I issued him an ultimatum; baseball or lacrosse, take your pick. My son chose lacrosse.
His first year in lax was exciting and ended on a high note with an appearance at the BC Provincials. Last summer my son and confidence never joined forces but that changed this year.
The past lacrosse year was nothing to write home about but in the end the parents on my son’s Saanich Pee Wee team agreed that their experience was all positive. My take was that the team had advanced in skill to a man and everyone was feeling better about themselves as the season progressed to a close.
Somewhere in there my son got bit by the lacrosse bug and the game took on a whole new meaning around our house (and in our backyard). He had to have the cool stick head or shaft and there were never ending requests to play catch and for dad to go in goal and face a few tennis balls.
My oldest son tried lacrosse and soccer but didn’t really care for either. At 9 years of age he took up squash. The racquet sport has become his game and his passion in the sense the word was meant to be used. He identifies himself as a squash player before all else. I love that he is blazing a path of his own sports experience.
In my youth my brothers and I played hockey and lacrosse, all mandated by my father. We didn’t have a choice.
My youngest son has now decided to join the lacrosse fraternity by his own choice. Father's resources are there to tap if he asks but I’m letting him feel his own way through.
We all want the best for our kids. Earning their stripes in sports is a rite of passage and the basis for future life skills. Lacrosse is where my youngest son now places his curiosity and excitement about athletics.
The past and the present aren’t that different in the meaningful sense.
Youth sports are still needing to be about the process and making sure all kids get a good experience.
I’ve accepted that the fancy sports drinks and neon stick heads are just ways for our kids to get jacked up about what they’re doing. In this newest era of lacrosse we also have the added bonus that we don’t have to worry about leaving our sticks out in the rain.