By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Next year will mark the first time lacrosse has been a part of the Canada Summer Games since 1985, and this is a big deal for the sport.
“This is huge for lacrosse,” said Matt Mason, Manitoba Lacrosse Executive Director. “Being back in the games kind of brings lacrosse back to the national stage and tells our athletes they can commit to and focus on lacrosse and get those same experiences that some of the other sports get.”
And it’s not just the 2022 Games participants who are excited – alumni are, too.
“One thing that’s been really, really nice to see is some of the people who participated in the Canada Games back in the day, back in ‘85 and before then, and them coming in and sharing some of their experiences. How exciting it is to have lacrosse back and what a big deal it is,” said Matt.
Matt said what is also exciting and important is the aspect of Indigenous culture at these Games.
“Lacrosse is, at its roots, an Indigenous game,” said Matt.
In Niagara, box lacrosse will be played on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Ojibway/Chippewa and Haudenosaunee peoples.
Female Lacrosse Debuts on the National Stage
Not only is this the return of lacrosse to the Canada summer games in over 35 years, it’s the first time there will be a female team.
“Having lacrosse back in is great for the sport. And having female lacrosse representation is amazing,” said Kim Winzoski, Head Coach for Team Manitoba’s girls box lacrosse.
Kim said girls box lacrosse in Manitoba is in its infancy, which is why she spent much of 2019 and 2020 recruiting players until the pandemic suspended sport.
“When I was given the opportunity to become Head Coach in August of 2019, there was four to six age-eligible players that were female in Manitoba,” said Kim.
By March 2020, Kim recruited about 30 players, including some multi-sport athletes.
“Lacrosse is a great sport for the multi-sport athlete. It helps the hand-eye coordination for hockey and ringette players. It’s played similar to basketball in that plays are the same. It’s got the endurance and athleticism that you need for any running sport,” said Kim.
But lacrosse is also its own sport, not to mention Canada’s national summer sport. And heading to the Canada Summer Games, Matt and Kim are excited to have it showcased as such.
Team Toba Takes Shape
Lacrosse hopes to restart their selection camps in the next couple months.
“There are going to be some difficulties with cohort rules and who can participate in which programs and where. So, there’s definitely going to need to be some brainstorming there and some collaboration,” said Matt.
Part of that includes coaches devising a plan that includes exercises kids can do on their own.
“Wall ball is a big thing for lacrosse,” said Matt.
Essentially, it’s playing catch with a wall where all you need is the lacrosse stick and some balls.
“Those repetitions are huge for developing those stick skills. There’s going to be a lot of that, but there is also going to be a lot of the coaches collecting some game film, watching games with the teams and scenarios to tackle the tactical side of things,” said Matt.
For Kim, she’ll be focusing on the fundamentals first. Since sport was suspended last March before the season began, the girls haven’t played any games yet.
“And then [we’ll be] getting them into competition between now and this time next year so they can see what an actual lacrosse game is played like,” said Kim.
And because there aren’t a lot of female players in Manitoba, Kim said her girls will probably practice playing against the boys. Or, if public health orders allow in the future, against Saskatchewan players, who also are looking for some practice competition.
“I’ve kept in contact with the Saskatchewan coaches,” said Kim. “Once we’re able to get together inter-provincially, [we could] maybe meet them in Brandon or meet them somewhere near the border and play a couple of games.”
Heading to the Canada Summer Games
Matt is excited to see both the men’s and women’s teams form over the next year.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing that female team take shape and really make its debut nationally at the Games for us. That’s going to be awesome,” said Matt. “It’s also extremely exciting for the male team. We typically have some really good talent in Manitoba, so what I’m really looking forward to there is seeing what our staff can do with the athletes when given an extended opportunity to train.”
Kim wants the players to enjoy themselves, but to give it 110%.
“I’m a big proponent of it still needs to be fun. It’s still a game. And we need to enjoy the experience of the Games on top of the competition of the Games,” said Kim. “Because we’re the first ones, we’re showcasing the female sport. We’re showcasing to Canada what it means to be female box lacrosse players. We’re representing Manitoba. Just put your best foot forward and just be in the moment,” said Kim.
It also helps that she has a strong team alongside her.
“I’ve got a great coaching staff. We’re a team. As long as we do our best, that’s all I can ask of them and of myself,” said Kim.
Stay tuned and visit Lacrosse Manitoba’s website where you can find information on the selection camp process soon. And don’t forget to follow them on Instagram (including their Team Manitoba Athlete Development account) and Twitter.