Arena builders

Local girls lacrosse have their own team for the first time

CALL ProAll Ruckus women’s team offers older regional lacrosse girls, including eight Innisfail players, a viable option to continue playing the sport

INNISFAIL — The regional builders of Canada’s national summer sport have answered the call to make sport much more equitable and accessible to young women.

The Central Alberta Lacrosse League (CALL) has launched its first-ever all-female regional team.

There are 20 young female athletes, including eight from Innisfail, who have enthusiastically joined the U14 team, which also includes the same number of players from Red Deer, as well as a few from Sylvan Lake and Blackfalds.

The team is officially called the CALL ProAll Ruckus, partly named after Olds’ team sponsor, ProAll International Manufacturing Inc.

And best of all, they won’t have to join the boys on a mixed team anymore; they can rightly say that their team is a full team.

“That’s the idea. It killed me to see these U6 teams with fifty percent girls and U16 teams with no girls,” said head coach Jon Weddell. “On one of the classes I worked on as part of this girls’ project, one of the statistics we learned was that for every male athlete who drops out of sports in their youth, there are seven girls. who give up.

“Especially in sports like lacrosse, there are fewer girls at the start. We simply cannot afford to lose these great athletes,” Weddell said, adding that as young players get older, the often punishing body contact becomes harder and heavier.

“In the higher divisions, girls should have a choice. They shouldn’t have to play mixed if they want to continue. They should have a girls only option.

Serious talks for an all-female lacrosse team for the region began in 2019. It was spearheaded by Weddell, who is also president of the Innisfail Minor Lacrosse Association (IMLA); Kim Smyth, president of CALL as well as the league’s executive director, Angela Nygaard.

They hoped to have the team in place and ready for action in 2020, but that schedule was temporarily derailed by COVID.

Weddell said there were girls playing on mixed IMLA teams, mostly at the younger levels. But in the older categories, including the highest level U16, there are only one or two girls playing.

“During the six splits they go through, they leave the sport. The idea is to build a sustainable supply of players by reaching that wider network,” he said.

“By expanding this network and bringing girls from all communities into CALL, you gather enough players to form a team and have sustainable numbers to hopefully maintain the team next year, and give really girls who don’t want to play mixed a viable option to go play in an all-female environment.

But where does the new CALL ProAll Ruckus team play?

Weddell noted that there are girls-only leagues in Edmonton and Calgary, but added that the excessive number of trips to compete is taxing on players and parents.

In order to make the new initiative attractive, sustainable and affordable for area families, the team instead uses a “showcase” or “academy” or “tournament team” model used by some private hockey leagues.

“Basically, we didn’t join a league. We will try to play three tournaments during the year and try to get as many exhibition games as the team can,” he said. “The objective is to derive development, pleasure and competition from it, but not the overload of the schedule and travel.”

And on April 23, at Innisfail Arena, the first-ever girls’ lacrosse game featuring a CALL team took place.

The CALL ProAll Ruckus took on the Calgary Fury Outlaws. Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay, herself a retired athlete, was invited to participate in the puck drop.

The game was open to girls, and only girls.

“There has never been a CALL team like this. There has never been a regional approach,” Weddell said, adding that there has been a lot of effort in the lacrosse community. minor to develop the sport for girls. “Everyone wants to see this side of the game grow.”

The Ruckus’ next exhibition game at Innisfail Arena is scheduled for May 14 from 4:45-6 p.m. They take on the Sherwood Park Titans.