Minor lacrosse thriving in St. Catharines
Head coach Mike Lines addresses the St. Catharines Athletics peewee minor team before practice. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
It has been a banner season for the St. Catharines Minor Lacrosse Association.
All five SCMLA travel teams (tyke, novice, peewee, bantam and midget) have advanced to the A division provincial qualifiers this year.
“There are 60 cities that have registered teams in the Ontario Lacrosse Association and to be among the five out of 60 cities, it’s an accomplishment,” minor lacrosse president Sallah Hamdani said. “It’s not by accident.”
Teams are ranked based on their record in regular season play and in Ontario certified tournaments. There is a ranking, formulated system of who teams have played and who their opponents have played and it all collaborates to rank the top 16 in each division.
The St. Catharines peewees are the highest ranked local team at No. 2. The bantam and midgets are in the top 10 as well.
Hamdani beams with pride when discussing the success of SCMLA teams.
“This is awesome,” he said. “I love the fact St. Catharines is growing (in registration) for the past few years. In Ontario, it’s been on the decline, but on the rise in St. Catharines.
“Usually kids tend to go where success is— if the Blue Jays do well there is a spike in baseball — kids are coming to lacrosse because they are seeing the benefits of the sport and they love that it’s Canada’s national sport and the stigma of lacrosse being a violent game is slowly being removed.”
Hamdani believes success breeds success.
‘I’m a believer when the kids taste success, they tend to stay in the sport, whereas if you are part of an organization or team that is continually losing, you may look for another sport where you may have more fun,” he said. “These kids have a reason to come to practice and get better because they see if you make that No. 1 team you are a provincially ranked team coming from St. Catharines that has that rich history.”
Hamdani pointed to coaching as a big reason for that success.
“A lot of good coaches are starting to give back to minor lacrosse. They are appreciative of what they went through when they played,” he said.
The travel team head coaches are all familiar names in the lacrosse community — Tim Luey (tyke), Jason Howe (novice), Mike Lines (peewee), Mark Steenhuis (bantam) and Bob Fisher (midget).
Registration this season is about 800 for travel and house league thanks to a number of initiatives put forth by the SCLMA.
The association last year began hiring former players to take over physical education classes in both the District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association.
“It gives kids who have never touched a lacrosse stick to play lacrosse in phys-ed,” Hamdani said.
As well, the association last year opened up free lacrosse sessions in January where players could try the sport and then register.
“We’ve had great success with that,” Hamdani said.
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