The lacrosse program in Innisfail has been benefitting from some top level help when it comes to teaching the game to some eager players.
Calgary Roughneck Andrew McBride has been with the program for several years now and shares his expertise through the winter months as these players prepare for the season.
“He comes in and runs just a great program at teaching the kids proper cradling, proper passing, proper shooting and then he gets into play making,” said Daryle Zimmer, coach with the peewee and midget teams within the Innisfail lacrosse system.
He got involved in the sport as a coach 10 years ago when his five-year-old son wanted to play and Zimmer says he had no lacrosse knowledge at all but wanted to help.
The program includes players ranging from the novice age up to the midget classification and this year there are two players who are enrolled in the training who have never touched a lacrosse stick before.
“They’ve actually loved the fact that they can come work with somebody who has played lacrosse for so long,” said Zimmer. “Once you start putting that stick in your hand and catching and passing and whatever, most kids catch on quite fast.”
The eight-week program is run out of the Innisfail High School and will close out around the end of the month but Zimmer says there is also a Sunday session which is run by an Innisfail graduating player Trey Christensen who plays for the Red Deer Rampage.
“The kids who have graduated from the program and are playing now at high end junior are now seeing the evolution of what lacrosse is,” said Zimmer. “So trying to get those junior coaches back to help out is huge.”
Zimmer says he’s learned plenty along with the players as they get to tap into the experience from some young junior coaches.
Getting into the school was a big boost as the school board had some objections about allowing lacrosse teams to practice in the gym, fearing there might be some damage done given the weight of a regulation lacrosse ball but that situation has been worked out with players using all the right gear with the exception being the ball they use.
“We use a little pink ball. It’s a spongy ball and so it’s not as hard,” said Zimmer.
“They (the school board) were accommodating to us so we thought we’d be accommodating to them.
“It’s still good in the fact these kids get a stick in their hands two months before we start the season,” he said.
The Phantoms program has had some great success over the past few years with the midget team placing first in the league and then it went on to win a silver medal in provincial competition.
The bantam team placed second overall and followed that up with a provincial silver medal as well, said Zimmer.
The tyke program is very strong and should be able to feed the program’s higher levels of play in a few years’ time but Zimmer says it’s the peewee group where the lowest numbers are but he hopes the interest will grow as the local teams keep having success.
“It’s a very physical game but it can also be a finesse game,” said Zimmer. “Once you try it I would say 90 per cent of kids like it.”