Stettler peewee Isaac Lee is on the national lacrosse stage this week at Whitby, Ont., the cradle of the sport in Canada.
Lee, 11, is part of Team Alberta at the Canadian Warrior peewee lacrosse championship.
“I like the contact and that there’s a lot of passing,” Lee said before leaving last Friday for his first trip to Ontario.
“I play centre or defence.”
Lee is going into Grade 6 at Erskine School next month.
He played club lacrosse with the Stettler Gators peewee team in the spring — and made the most of his tryout with the provincial club.
“I think it was hard work,” he said. “If you have a goal, you try to reach it, and work as hard as you can, and you’ll get rewarded.”
Lee said he was “pretty excited” when his coach called with the news that he had earned a Team Alberta berth.
“It shows that you don’t have to come from a bigger centre,” said Lee’s mother, Marla Merkley. “In fact, a lot of the other central Alberta kids that tried out for the team didn’t even make the first cuts.
“So it shows that even a new association, with new coaches that are putting in the effort and wanting to teach the kids, can have results. Having the minor lacrosse association (in Stettler) has been big for us.”
For the past two years, since the Stettler Minor Lacrosse Association was formed, Lee has played close to home. For the previous two years, he was part of the Red Deer association.
“The first two years in Red Deer were a time commitment, so we’re very happy the Stettler Minor Lacrosse Association was started,” Merkley said. “We give a lot of credit to (president) Kim Smyth that we don’t have to travel for lacrosse. That’s been really big.”
Lee is also a winger in hockey. He’s going into his second year of peewee.
A Red Deer hockey mom — and Erskine educator — played an influential role in his introduction to lacrosse.
“It was a suggestion of his kindergarten teacher, Rhonda Feser, who just mentioned to me if I’d ever thought of the sport of lacrosse for him,” Merkley said. “Isaac took to it like nothing I had ever seen before. He loved the game right from the get-go.”
Now he’s among 20 peewees representing Alberta at the high-profile nationals in a lacrosse hotbed.
“The gold-medal peewee game last year actually had 10,000 people attend,” Merkley said. “That’s how big it is in Ontario.
“Alberta goes to medal. They don’t go just to say they went. They go to medal. Every year, they’ve medalled. I think Isaac is hoping to come home with a national medal of some sort.
“Team Alberta is made up of 18 runners and two goalies. The kids are mainly from Edmonton and Calgary. Isaac is one of the few rural Alberta kids on the team, despite the fact that the tryouts had kids from everywhere.”
Since the team was named in the spring, the Alberta peewees have had retreat weekends in Calgary and Edmonton and practices in Red Deer.
“They have a lot of physical conditioning,” Merkley said. “They do yoga. The coach is very into making sure that the kids are in top physical condition. You can’t sit still, at all, in lacrosse. Unlike hockey, you can’t glide.”
At home, Lee has a spacious backyard where he trains for lacrosse and hockey. And his mother said the Stettler association has helped him develop his lacrosse skills.
“We may be a small club, but we have opportunity, and lacrosse brings opportunity,” she said.
Stettler made gains in the Central Alberta Lacrosse League this past season, and wins were more frequent than in the association’s maiden year.
This past spring, Erskine School and the Stettler minor lacrosse group welcomed two members of the National Lacrosse League’s Edmonton Rush for a daylong seminar that introduced kids to the sport.
Warming up for the nationals this summer, Alberta defeated an Edmonton all-star team 13-4, as Lee scored a goal and two assists. In earlier exhibition action, Alberta lost 8-5 to the U.S. box lacrosse all-stars — with Lee picking up an assist — and tied Burlington, Ont., 5-5.