The Glenlawn Lions have been a consistent member of the Manitoba High School Field Lacrosse League (MHSFLL) for close to ten years, and during that time, the program – which won a city championship in 2015 – has maintained a strong culture of positivity and inclusivity for both current and past players.
“We have a lot of alumni who want to help and come out which is very nice. We’ve got a number of kids who’ve played for the [Manitoba] Blizzard. Ethan Bahniuk is one of the kids playing for the Blizzard right now, and he’s going to be back to help coach this year. In our short-term plan he’s kind of the guy that’s probably going to take on the lead role of what we have going on,” noted teacher and coach Colin Holowachuk, who played box lacrosse as a kid in Thompson, and enjoys being able to give back to the sport.
“It’s pretty grassroots and it’s really about exposing people to the game, and hopefully having them hang on for a little while and gain a little more experience, and maybe do a little more with it after. The fact that we have kids continually coming back to coach, and alumni that are rolling back in and happy to help out, shows the community that’s been developed within the program itself. When you see alumni that are coming back to coach, and then you graduate, it’s easy to picture yourself as another alumni that’s going to come back and help out with things.”
Holowachuk takes particular pride in the team that graduated just before COVID hit. There was a draw for female players at the time, three of whom played three seasons with the Lions.
“Watching them grow and watching them improve – one of them scored a goal in a game – that culmination of years of development and growth in that respect, I think that’s probably one of the better things that I’ve seen,” he noted.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for players of all skill levels to fit in. It’s a blessing and a curse that we have a lot of people that want to come out and play. A lot of the players aren’t terribly experienced, but we can find a way to fit them in, and fit them in at a pace that works for them. If they’re new to it and they want to, the first couple of games they might sit on the sidelines. They’ll dress for the team, but they may just watch and observe and when they start to feel more comfortable we’ll find opportunities to put them in in a safe situation that feels comfortable for them and keep them wanting to come back.”
Word of mouth is huge for generating interest amongst kids at the school. Conversations with those who have experience in the game usually begins in September, and then others join along the way. Because there aren’t a lot of cuts, along with room for a larger roster, it creates further opportunities for multi-sport athletes to gain experience and meet new people.
“Once they hit that grade ten year of school, kids start to fall off a lot of times from other sports and they’re not making maybe a volleyball or a basketball team. It’s an easy way for them to continue their athletic career at the school, and to be involved in the school community,” said Holowachuk.
“In that respect, if we can find some of those athletes that are looking for something to fill that void, that works well for us as well.”
This year’s roster is sure to see some fresh faces, but there’s also players who’ve been waiting years for an opportunity to debut in the MHSFLL. They’ll finally get that opportunity in 2022.
“It’s exciting to see. There’s a handful of kids that are in grade 12 that were really excited, and had a couple of years taken away from them. Some in particular have been waiting to play, and to start their lacrosse career for two years now, and at least now they’ll get that one year in,” added Holowachuk. “When you’ve got kids who have been waiting since grade ten to step out on the field, they’re pretty excited about it, and that’s been growing amongst the group.”