It’s been called the fastest game on two feet, and it’s Canada’s national sport.
No, not hockey – but lacrosse, and with more than 100,000 players registered with the Canadian Lacrosse Association, the game that Canadian First Nation’s people put on the map nearly 500 years ago is now one of the fastest-growing sports in North America.
Despite the lack of an official association in the township, however, lacrosse has made its way into the sporting conscious of Woolwich as well. Every year, more and more players are recruited to play in the Kitchener-Waterloo Minor Lacrosse Association, and the U19 Girls B field lacrosse team is a perfect example of the growing popularity of lacrosse across the region.
Six girls – Yi Wang, Amy Schwindt, Kristen Kaster, Kiirsten Barriage and sisters Jocelyn and Jessie Lubert – have become integral members of the KW United U19 girls’ team. They all live in Elmira, except for Schwindt, who is from Maryhill.
In fact, the entire coaching staff of Ken Lubert, Brett Barriage, Lisa Collee and trainer Connie Kaster all hail from Elmira, making for a very tight-knit team.
The girls have jumped out to an impressive 8-3-1 start to the season following a pair of wins last weekend over Mississauga (12-3) and Burlington (6-4) at Budd Park in Kitchener. Head coach Ken Lubert isn’t surprised that lacrosse has caught on in hockey-crazed Elmira.
“I’ve noticed an awesome transition from hockey and ringette to lacrosse because of all the stick skills, so it’s a really easy sell to those kids,” he said.
It’s clear that the girls love the sport, and although Wang and Kaster are both in their first year with the squad, they’ve become important components of the team’s defence.
“Lacrosse is different because almost everything goes in,” laughed the goaltender Wang, a five-sport goalie now, including ice hockey, field hockey, soccer and ringette. “You have to not get depressed, so that’s a bit different.”
“I play baseball and hockey so it’s kind of similar to that with the hand-eye coordination, but again it’s totally different at the same time,” added Kaster. “It takes a certain skill to be able to catch and throw and cradle with this thing,” she added, gesturing to her lacrosse stick.
With more than seven years’ experience, Schwindt is by the far the most senior player among the six; she’s amazed by the growth in the sport in her past few seasons.
“The program in the past few years has improved so drastically, and it’s amazing for me to watch it from when I started to now,” she said of the KW association, which has doubled in size in the past two years.
“It’s grown and become more organized and more developed and kids have been able to get more skilled coaching, so it’s improved a lot.”
Many of the girls even tried to start a team at Elmira District Secondary School, but say they were stymied by the school’s administration despite having 35 players and a coach in place, and they’re not sure why.
The head coach said that the thought of setting up a lacrosse association in Woolwich had also crossed his mind, but added they are still a few players short of making that a reality. For now he just hopes that the sport will continue to grow and that the coaches will continue to progress so that the sport can gain more visibility in the township.
“We’ve had very, very few kids come out and say ‘no I don’t like it, this isn’t for me.’ Usually when they come out they’re hooked. I think if we can just get people to come out we will get them to stay.”