SHOWDOWN – Paige Sweetnam of the Red Deer Rage Sr. Women’s lacrosse team takes on a pair of Sherwood Park Titans this past Sunday at the Kinex Arena.

SHOWDOWN – Paige Sweetnam of the Red Deer Rage Sr. Women’s lacrosse team takes on a pair of Sherwood Park Titans this past Sunday at the Kinex Arena.

Lacrosse picking up steam in the City

The Red Deer Rage senior women’s lacrosse team took on the Sherwood Park Titans during a match this past Sunday at the Kinex Arena. The Rage lost out to the Titans 5-0 in the mid-season game.

Coach Harold Albrecht wasn’t concerned with the loss on Sunday or the five previous losses this season, stating his team of around 20 players is composed of primarily players who are new to the sport with a core group of seven or so experienced players.

He added the continuation of women’s lacrosse in Red Deer has been a struggle in the past, noting there are some essential differences between men’s and women’s lacrosse. Primarily the differences can be viewed in the speed between the two sexes and the level of contact present in the game.

With lacrosse programs in the City starting kids as young as four and programs available to adults 18 and up – female lacrosse players play alongside their male counterparts until the bantam age group when the rules of the game play begin to allow cross-checking.

“At this age boys are becoming men and they tend to be quite a bit bigger than the ladies,” explained Albrecht. “They move faster and hit harder.

“Even though there is a lot of contact in women’s lacrosse there isn’t as heavy of contact as in the men’s.”

One of the struggles he finds as a coach of new players is to instill that level of contact into inexperienced players.

“If you listen to me yelling from the bench it usually sounds something like, ‘Hit anything that comes through!’ meaning I want them making constant contact.

“That contact isn’t there to hurt, it’s there to move players from the other team into inopportune scoring locations.”

He explained another difference easily viewed between coaching men’s and women’s lacrosse over the last 20-plus years, is the team dynamics.

Where as men tend to compete more with one another within the team, Albrecht notices a quite tightly knit atmosphere on this year’s team – which he adds is a common theme when coaching women.

“We’ve been working a long time to keep growing the women’s and girls’ programs in Red Deer – Calgary and Edmonton have a full lacrosse program from tykes up to senior women’s and we’d like to see that happen here.”

Currently there is only the Senior Women’s Rage team and a girls’ bantam team operating in the City, with hopes of starting a junior women’s field lacrosse team this summer.

Promoters of lacrosse within Red Deer continue to work to grow the programs with Albrecht adding much of their recruiting is done through other minor sports leagues in the City.

“For years when lacrosse first came into the City I would go out to hockey teams, ringette teams, basketball teams – you name it. I would show them lacrosse over the winter and show them how it can improve their abilities in other sports.”

He added professional hockey players such as Wayne Gretzky and Adam Oates have long preached the benefits of cross-training opportunities present when playing lacrosse.

“They openly attribute much of their success in hockey to lacrosse,” explained Albrecht. “The skills they learned in lacrosse such as the softening of their hands and the ability to always be looking for the people coming from behind and the side really helped their hockey game.”

He added fans love lacrosse because of the high level of contact and game speed but expressed there’s much more to lacrosse than a high number of hits.

“The game of lacrosse has a grace to it – whether it’s the players controlling, passing, or catching the ball under duress or the behind the back passes and the speed at which they are shooting, lacrosse is truly a graceful game.”