Sylvan Lake Buccaneers lacrosse players are preparing to head into their first season as an association next month.
The number of players registered this year has increased significantly, said association president John Hess. Last year there were 84 players; this year there are 155.
The increase was unexpected, Hess said. Players, nonetheless, are excited for the season to begin, he assured.
“There’s a lot of very excited kids, and hopefully we can get the parents excited,” he said.
All nine Buccaneers teams have coaches, but Hess said there is still a need for parents to help at games.
“It takes time and people to run the game,” he said. “I need parents on the benches. I need people invested in their kids. I need their time and their kids.”
At registration, players’ parents write a $200 cheque to the association, which is only cashed if the parents do not fulfill the 10 hours of volunteer service required of them.
“The game is only as good as what the parents are going to be involved,” Hess said. “It can’t be a babysitting service; they have to be involved.”
Hess said the biggest challenge the association is facing is limited facility playing space. He said about half of the season’s games will be played at the Multiplex.
The season begins in April and ends in June.
The first league game is scheduled for the weekend of April 10 in Red Deer. The Buccaneers will compete against other teams from Olds, Innisfail, Lacombe, Ponoka, Didsbury, Drumheller and Three Hills.
Teams will play 12 games throughout the season. Older players will practice twice a week and play at least one game on most weekends, while younger players will practice once a week and play one game on most weekends.
Hess himself will likely coach the Bantam team this season, and will aid in coaching other teams as well.
Coaching and volunteering, he feels, provides an opportunity to give back to the sport, and he has noticed some older players following in his lead.
Hess’s son, along with two other players, have previously attended younger teams’ practices and spent their own time teaching the younger players how to play the game.
“It’s incredible to watch them give back,” Hess said. “It’s a huge part of the culture of this and I really want to grow that.”
Hess said players develop strong lifelong friendships, as they’re disciplined to be competitive on the field, but to be a “brother from another mother” once the game is done.
“You have best friends and it’s part of the culture. It’s part of what we try to develop and it’s what this game is,” Hess said. “You’re making friends and knowing people all over.”
Hess said he’s looking forward to helping his players develop their lacrosse skills and aiding them in becoming functioning adults. He said he takes ownership in helping develop players into mature adults.
“We have fantastic kids and we have really good athletes,” he said. “I learn more from them than they learn from being here. It’s fantastic.”
Hess said he is proud of what the kids are becoming and how they are giving back. Last year, he asked for some older players to help out with younger players, and had had eight kids respond, all ready to volunteer their time.
“That’s their time,” Hess said. “They could be outside playing, skateboarding, biking and whatever else, but they came down to help with these other kids. That’s what I’m proud of.”
Hess’s goal for this season is for the kids and their parents to have fun, and to be interested in and fall in love with the sport so they will come back the next season.
Overall, however, he’s focusing on making the season successful.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish and if I see forward motion in all my kids, then I’ve done my part.”