When he met two members of the National Lacrosse League’s Edmonton Rush this month, Stettler bantam Brett Coleman considered it worthy of autograph ingenuity.
He pulled off his court shoes and asked John Lintz and Jeremy Thompson to sign them with a Sharpie.
“I’ve got my shoes signed,” Coleman said with a smile after his bantam team worked out with the pair of pros during a guest appearance at the Stettler Recreation Centre.
“Never met a pro athlete before. It was pretty neat.”
It was a double delight for the likes of Coleman, a Grade 8 student at Erskine School. His school hosted Lintz and Thompson earlier in the day, so he benefited from instruction in the school gym daytime and with his Stettler club team that night at the arena.
“I think the pro league is a lot harder than this one is, the way they play,” Coleman said.
“They helped us a lot with defensive play, because we aren’t very good with our defence.”
Coleman played defence in hockey with the provincial bantam A championship team from Stettler. He’s in just his second year of lacrosse as a member of the two-year-old Stettler Minor Lacrosse Association.
“It’s kind of hard to get used to it, after playing hockey,” he said. “It’s different, because you move a lot more than in hockey, and it’s pretty intense.
“This (pro instruction) will help us out a lot.”
Stettler minor lacrosse president Kim Smyth said about 120 players in the association practised with the Rush visitors during their daylong Stettler-area stay.
“That’s what’s great about both the Rush and the (Calgary) Roughnecks,” she said. “Usually they have some sort of a booster program where they send players out to communities.
“An NLL player has to play for the love of the game, because the average salary is $22,000 for a year. You can’t really make a living on it, so they’ve got to really love it and they want to promote the sport.”
The Stettler association gained about 15 players this season for a total of 120 overall.
“We’ve got full rosters for all of our teams, which is good,” Smyth said. “Most of our kids came back. There’s always kids that don’t like lacrosse because it’s really fast. It’s a lot of work. But we always end up with kids that are interested in picking it up, and as long as they keep coming back, then we’re good.
“This community has been fantastic. We’ve had people willing to sponsor, parents totally willing to drive their kids anywhere to go to these games, and organize something like this (pro clinic). All our coaches are volunteers who have never once played lacrosse in their life, and they’re all out there helping out as much as they can. So that speaks volumes for them, too.”
While lacrosse is a relatively new sport for most Stettler players, that’s not the case for Smyth and her family.
They used to drive to Drumheller to participate in lacrosse.
The 12-year-old Smyth twins — Noah and Derek — are rookies with the Stettler bantam team.
“I’ve been playing lacrosse since I was three, and this was fun, because we always have to go (to cities to see pros), and today they came here, so it was pretty fun,” Noah said after the Rush workout.
“I’d say defence was the biggest (lesson today). It’s protecting the net. It’ll help the newer guys, especially, on defence.”
After attending pro lacrosse games in Edmonton and Calgary, the Smyth brothers were excited to meet Rush players at home.
“It was fun to talk to them,” said Noah, a Grade 7 student in Stettler.