Five Sylvan Lakers will be representing Team Alberta at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) this summer.
The four athletes and coach will make the trip to Halifax, N.S. to compete in lacrosse this summer, July 12-18.
Colton Ferguson, Tosh Marshall, Justin St. Germain and Josh St. Germain are the four Sylvan Lakers on the boys U16 Team Alberta roster.
Travis St. Germain, one of the team’s three coaches, says the team of players from all over Alberta has been picked for about nine months and has been practicing about once a month.
“We’ve been super fortunate this way that we’ve had months and months and months to get to know these kids,” said Sylvan Lake’s St. Germain. “We’ve sent them to a little 4-on-4 tournament where they built a bunch of friendships, so they’re already coming together as a group really well.”
He added the players have never been to these games before, and a lot of them have never been to national level competition.
“I haven’t attended the games before, going on hearsay from what people that have been there before think we’re definitely in the run for a medal, so that’s pretty exciting,” said St. Germain, adding the Sylvan Lake players are “high end athletes” and “darn good players.”
During registration the Alberta Lacrosse Association asks players if they have any Indigenous history and anyone who signifies they do can be reached out to during the tryout period.
St. Germain says numbers at this year’s tryouts were good, but they still notice a lot of athletes do not come forward as Indigenous.
He explained the NAIG consists of a multitude of sports and that youth who can prove Indigenous ancestry should go out and try out to get these experiences.
“It’s way bigger than I ever thought it was and honestly until two years ago I didn’t know this existed,” said St. Germain. “I think it’s going to be a life changing thing for some of these kids to see sport at this level.”
The first ever NAIG was held in Edmonton in 1990, and the games have been held about every three years since then.
St. Germain says the experience is to build the life-long bonds, build character and see things at a level they may have never seen otherwise.
“Hopefully we do well, even if we don’t they’ve built friendships and they’re having fun so it’s already a win,” said St. Germain, adding he and the other two coaches are all on the same page with that outlook.
“… When kids have fun and they make friends they tend to win games, honestly,” continued St. Germain.
The boys U16 team have already started working on their fundraising and sponsorship efforts through team efforts and FlipGive to help cut some of the costs.
So far the boys have sold beef jerky and hoodies, and the Sylvan Lake boys are looking to hold a bottle drive.
St. Germain says anyone interested in sponsorship or donating can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team Alberta will also be sending a boys U19 and a girls U19 team to compete in lacrosse at the NAIG.