Moving into unknown territory by introducing lacrosse into an Elmira school, a teacher met with a much greater response than he expected.
Some 40 girls from Park Manor Senior Public School have taken up the challenge of learning a new sport.
Led by physical education teacher Ken Lubert, the girls have been introduced to the basic skills of field lacrosse as part of a before-school program.
Long involved with lacrosse, Lubert saw an opportunity to promote a sport that he says provides many pluses to the women who participate. He wasn’t sure what kind of response he’d get, however.
“I thought, ‘how many kids are going to get up before school to come?’ and we had 40-some-odd people come out – it’s just nuts,” he said.
Although now running it, he says he can’t take all of the credit: his own daughters got involved in the sport after a former university lacrosse player began the program at their school.
With this current endeavour, Lubert has seen students come out to practice twice a week in the gymnasium. The program is open to players of all skill levels.
Grade 7 student Ayla Brubacher is one of those who comes out to practice Tuesday and Thursday mornings. She hadn’t played lacrosse before starting the program, but is happy she did.
“I thought that it would be fun, and lots of my friends have been doing it,” she said. “I like that all of my friends are here and that we can just learn a new sport.”
Brubacher said she hopes to continue on with the sport.
That’s just the thing Lubert is encouraging with his program, providing an opportunity for girls to start early and develop a drive for the sport.
“Like any sport, there is a lot of ‘the arts and crafts’ – the stick-work and stuff. The more time you spend on it, the better,” he said, noting that as director of girls’ field lacrosse with Kitchener-Waterloo Minor Lacrosse Association, he hears that a huge barrier to actually going up for lacrosse is that the youth haven’t been exposed prior to it.
“So at least now we are giving them some basics and stuff like that, so they can play this game. The reality is if they are good athletes, they will do well.”
Having seen similar skills used across many sports, Lubert says the crossover for athletes is easy.
“It is about speed. It’s about skill. It’s about finesse and agility. So a lot of girls that are good at other sports find the transition easy. If you’re a fast runner, you do really well at field lacrosse. If you’re a good defender in basketball, your footwork is down, you’ll be a good defender in lacrosse. There are restraining lines like they have in ringette. There’s passing and shooting like you have in hockey, so the transition from traditional winter sports to lacrosse is outstanding,” he said.
Although the program is just to teach fundamentals before school, he isn’t looking to stop there.
“We are hoping to get some games with some of the private schools,” he said. “We are actually one of the few areas that doesn’t offer lacrosse in schools. If you go to Oshawa, which is where all of the great players come from, or Orangeville – places like that – they have it in their high schools, so they will take teams to CWOSSA and OFSAA.”
“We are not there yet,” he added. “But we are hoping to start getting it in schools.”
Particularly partial to field lacrosse, Lubert has seen firsthand the opportunities the sport can bring women, both his daughters having gone on to play at the postsecondary level. For one, lacrosse helped her to reach her goal of being a teacher and the other is currently playing in California on a scholarship.
The before-school program has received a great response, timely now with the introduction of a full girls’ house league through the Kitchener-Waterloo Minor Lacrosse Association.
“In KW we are starting a house league this year,” he said, noting over the past five years interest has grown to include some 200 competitive players in the league. “It has gone nuts, so we want to start a house league this year to get more people to come out who are not necessarily looking to get a scholarship but just want to play.”
Thus far, Lubert is running the program only at Park Manor. However, if any other girls want to try their hand at lacrosse, registration for house league begins in January and includes all ages from their Little Laxers program (age 2) all the way through to seniors (19 and older).