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The trend, in the end, is key for the GSLA
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The Nickel City Shootout is back. Overall registration numbers are up between forty and fifty players. A recent collaborative with the OLA (Ontario Lacrosse Association) and the local Native Friendship Centre introduced fifty youngsters to the sport.

After earning a medal at provincials in each of the last two years, the Sudbury U22 Rockhounds return with a lineup that is virtually intact, ready to take a shot at some of the very best teams in Ontario.

“It looks like we are trending the right way,” noted first year GSLA (Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association) president Dave Lachance, returning to the executive after an absence of five years or so.

It certainly seems that way.

With the start of the local box lacrosse season roughly two weeks away and the crew set to make their way back primarily to the Coniston and Garson arenas, Lachance is pleased to be contributing to the cause, meeting for coffee over Easter weekend along with former NLL pro goaltender and current U22 Rockhounds coach Mike Miron (not to mention GSLA VP).

“Lacrosse is a small community and I could see how much work was being put in,” said Lachance. “We’re trying to get this back to a healthy, successful organizations. We scratched and clawed and it looks like our numbers are up.”

While much of that he credits to the work of Carolyn Hepting on the social media side, Lachance also acknowledged that the pocket of time in which their house league season is held does present a certain appeal to folks in the north.

“For some parents, for some families, I believe the big pull is that we are done when school ends,” he said. “You can get in shape, do your cardio for hockey or basketball or whatever – and still be done by the end of June.”

For those who are new to the game – and there will be many – there is much to learn.

Thankfully, that’s where Miron and a host of others step in, the Capreol native having played in Arizona at one time for a team owned by Wayne Gretzky. Through it all, he never lost sight of the key goals for young boys and girls, competitive and house league alike.

“I am a firm believer that you can teach an athlete pretty well anything, really,” said Miron. “Once you are teaching the game, as long as they are having fun, that’s 100% of the battle. If they are having fun, the effort is going to be there, the enjoyment is going to be there.”

Like a handful of sports in town, the lacrosse folks integrate their rep talent directly in with the house league athletes, largely a function of numbers alone. But at the end of the day, there are benefits on both sides of this equation.

“Even if house league is not the same as rep, at least you’re not travelling three hours for game play – and you still get touches on the ball,” suggested Lachance, whose son Mason has more often than not combined some local recreational play with his primary focus with the Sudbury Rockhounds.

“When a rep player plays house league, the newer kids get to see this level,” added Miron. “They have something to strive for.”

In fact, a great deal of time and effort is spent trying to ensure that the Rockhounds talent embrace their role as quasi on-floor coaches for those who are still picking up the basics. In two weeks or so, Miron is hosting a couple of weekend introductory sessions, with several of his U22 team members lending a helping hand to the ten and under crew.

“The first thing, especially when you open this up to every age, is to make sure that it’s fun,” said Miron, circling back to a theme that is near and dear to his heart. “That being said, learning to pick up the ball is key. If you can’t pick up the ball, you can’t move forward. So focus on picking up the ball, carrying the ball, passing the ball.”

“And once you get to shooting, that’s always fun.”

And for those who want to take the game more seriously, Rockhound tournament play continues into the later summer, including the return of the local end of June/early July event which has already secured their full allotment of thirty teams this year – including some coming from as far away as London and Cornwall.

For the likes of Lachance and Miron, of Benoit Douillette and B.J. Adair and all of their compatriots, this is extremely encouraging news.

Truth be told, there are some lessons that are passed along for those who enjoy a leadership role in the sport locally on to the next wave of those who will show the way.

John Grant Sr (Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer) trained me in Capreol in the off-season,” Miron recalled. “Every camp that he was ever involved with, you always got a ball at the end. He wanted you to have a stick in hand constantly, just playing with the ball – and that’s something I am fostering as well.”

And for as much as he enjoys working with newcomers, Miron is also more than a little anxious to return to his post behind the bench of the defending OLA U22 “B” championship team.

“We have 22 kids who have been more than willing to go the distance,” he said. “We play a system. We stick to that system – and we believe in it. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we stick to that system.”

“Our team has really bought into it,” Miron continued. “We preach a brotherhood, a family. We’re a very tight-knit group and I think that’s where it needs to start.”

For his part, Lachance has marvelled at the influence that the former pro and local coach as had both on his own son, but also that group of Rockhounds who have been part of that progression.

“We use Mike as an ambassador for the game – and he definitely uses his connections to help our association,” said Lachance. “It’s similar to when John (Grant Sr) was involved.”

And that is, most definitely, a positive trend.

Northern Hockey Academy