The Stettler Minor Lacrosse Association has “major” news – it has been granted sanction by the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League to host a major league spring camp.
Currently, lacrosse is only available to kids ages three to 16 in Stettler. After completion of the final minor year, kids who want to continue to play have to travel to communities with a major league.
“We wanted to help these kids ‘keep their sticks in their hands,’” Kim Smyth, president of the Stettler Minor Lacrosse Association (SMLA) said. It was for that reason she and the association’s board went after securing a major level training camp.
“These kids want to play,” she said. “I have them asking to play as over-aged, and we have to say no.”
The training camp doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be a major team, but it’s the first step in showing interest on the major level, Smyth said. If the interest in the training camp is there, the probability of a major team finding its footing in Stettler increases, giving a lacrosse outlet for girls and boys between 16-21.
The details of the camp haven’t been entirely hammered out yet, Smyth said, since the news was only received in the past three weeks. People interested in the major training camp can contact her, though.
Since starting the league in Stettler three years ago, more than 100 kids a year are signing up to play the traditional North American sport.
“The National Lacrosse League is gaining in popularity,” Smyth said. “You can take your kids to a professional level game to relatively reasonable prices.”
Kids in Stettler play box lacrosse, which is a five-versus-five field, plus goalies. It has a 30-second clock, meaning that once a team has the ball, it has 30 seconds to make a shot on goal.
“It’s not a lot of time,” Smyth said. “The kids make short order of (the distance) but as a referee, it kills me.”
Unlike hockey, players aren’t given specific roles of offence and defence, but instead each player plays both. The goal when they have the ball is to score, and when they don’t, it’s to defend or get the ball.
As a sport, lacrosse is very affordable too, Smyth said, with costs beginning at $125 a season for the youngest group, and topping out at $250 for the eldest age group. The largest cost factors are insurance and referees, which causes the jump at the higher level since referee qualifications increase.
Having a major team here would require another referee qualification advancement. The older age groups in minor lacrosse require a Level II referee, and the majors require a Level III. To gain a Level III qualification, referees must have experience as a player, something a lot of Stettler’s referees do not, given the novelty of the sport in the community.
Smyth herself is a referee, but has never played the sport in a league.
“I only started (refereeing) when my kids played,” she said. “They’ve loved it since they started.”
Last year alone, costs for out-of-town referees cost the SMLA more than $2,000, and that’s only with out-of-town referees coming in when there was a shortage.
Still, being able to offer options to kids who love the sport but have aged out of the league is something very exciting for Smyth and the SMLA.
“We’re thrilled – giddy,” she said. “We get emails and text messages daily from ‘graduated’ lacrosse players who still want to play.”
The minor league has already started play in the Stettler Recreation Centre, and people are welcome to come watch the fast, athletic game.
“I think it’ll be something that people can come and watch,” Smyth said. “It’s fast and fun. And we’ve had a lot of community support.”