ASCNWT hopes to have a lacrosse team together for the next games in 2016.
Canada’s national summer sport is finally coming to the Northwest Territories thanks to the efforts of one dedicated recreational organization.
Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT (ASCNWT) recently kicked off its campaign to bring the game of lacrosse to the territory with a coaching camp held in Yellowknife on the weekend of Oct. 18.
“There are no lacrosse programs being run in the North so we thought this was a good opportunity,” said Derek Squirrel, traditional games manager with ASCNWT, who believes the game will provide a traditional alternative to more mainstream sports like hockey and basketball, both of which are popular in the territory.
“It’s something different and it’s relatively inexpensive,” Squirrel said, comparing it to the burdensome cost of hockey equipment. “It’s for girls, boys, anyone who wants to play.”
About 10 people attended the first coaching session, several of them from the smaller communities.
“I’d never played before but I loved it, it’s such a fast, amazing sport,”
One of those attendees was Cynthia White, recreation programmer for the town of Fort Smith.
“I’d never played before but I loved it, it’s such a fast, amazing sport,” White said. “We’re hoping maybe before Christmas we’ll have Derek come down from ASCNWT and I guess we’ll be doing it in both elementary and the high school, but we will also try to do some sessions here at the rec centre just for anybody to come.”
Over the summer, White introduced lacrosse to some younger kids at the rec centre’s day camp. She said the kids loved it and are enthusiastic about developing a league. The sport will run during the hockey off-season, allowing players to use the community’s arena facility for games once upgrades to the building are complete.
“I think it’s going to be great. I have nothing but positive expectations for it,” she said.
Shooting for success
This isn’t the first time the outfit has aimed to establish a strong base for a traditional Aboriginal sport in the North. About four years ago, ASCNWT initiated a pan-territorial archery program, bringing in a fun new activity to many athletes old and young.
“We’re going to use the same model as the archery program,” Squirrel said of the lacrosse initiative.
This means ASCNWT will plan workshops and training camps with a variety of communities over the next four years, giving them the proper guidance needed to get started with the sport. Squirrel said they would even provide equipment for the new teams to ensure they have the same access to the activity as the regional centres.
The organization is also striving to bring in lacrosse experts, like British Columbia coach Russell Sheppard, to work with newcomers to the sport.
Enthusiasm for lacrosse is already showing, according to Squirrel.
“They’re really excited to get started,” he said. “We already have communities asking for equipment.”
In addition to the Yellowknife session, ASCNWT will be bringing training camps to Inuvik, Deline, Fort Smith, Behchoko and Hay River in the next 12 months. Following that, they want to keep the same pace over the next four years, training in at least five regions annually.
“We’re going to hold the first territorial archery championships soon, hopefully in June of next year,” Squirrel said.
He hopes that in another four years he will be in the same position, planning out the first ever territorial lacrosse championships.