As a rising high school JR from Toronto, I knew that geography would make getting on the NCAA recruiting radar screen a little more challenging. I’m sure guys from outside the Baltimore and Long Island lax hotbeds have to face the same reality. Although I planned my summer schedule around getting in front of NCAA coaches I soon realized the best thing about the summer was getting the opportunity to just play lacrosse almost every day for three months.
Inside Lacrosse has asked me to share my experience from a summer that included playing Lacrosse in three different countries.
Box Lacrosse tryouts – Had to let my Mimico Box lacrosse coach and former player NLL Brian Shanahan know that I would have put Field lacrosse first this season and planned to attend two American prospect camps and four tournaments. In Ontario kids grow up playing a short outdoor field season in May followed by 30 to 40 Box lacrosse games during the summer. Also spoke with my teammates and got their support about missing upcoming box practices and games.
Our St. Michael’s College School varsity team finishes a great season by winning the Ontario High school Championship. Strong game by our goalie Brennan Donville who showed why Cornell has him going there in 2012. Felt good about my contribution on offence. With the help of my teammates I was able to score seven goals and feed for two assists. With only one NCAA coach traveling up to Toronto to scout the game I’m glad my parents are supporting my upcoming tour of U.S. camps and tournaments.
June 6 -17
Back to academic reality. Hit the books, write my final exams and try to get some box games in. Like most Canadians I love playing box lacrosse and will miss the rush of not playing a full season for the first time since I was seven.
Arrive at Duke University, the first stop of my trip, home of the Blue Devils and the place I’ve dreamt of since reading my first Inside Lacrosse article on Zack Greer, my Canadian lacrosse hero. The North Carolina weather was a bit of an adjustment for a Canadian, temperatures in the 100’s and air so humid you could feel it in your lungs, I quickly learned sun screen was my best friend. Unfortunately it was too late; it only took a few hours to get the worst sunburn I’ve exprieneced. My night session on the field went well meeting Duke attackmen Ed Loftus and Ned Crotty. Both are great guys and spend time with me allowing me to ask questions about the school and the team. With the following days seeming longer as the heat grew hotter, I packed my bags to head to Rochester, so that I can join Ontario’s U-16 Team in a tournament.
Arrive at the Durham Raleigh airport to find that my flight to Rochester is cancelled. Have to phone my parents to let them know that my first flight alone will involve me booking into a hotel and catching a flight the next day. Was looking forward to joining my buds on the Ontario provincial team but it’s out of my control so I make the best of it.
More bad luck. Leave hotel at 5:00 am but my connector flight in Philly gets delayed. At the airport I end up watching England play Germany in world cup soccer and I’m reminded why I love playing lacrosse. Arriving late to Rochester, I thank my mom for picking me up. Dressing for the game in the backseat of the car, still ecstatic from my visit to Duke I tell my mom all about my trip. Arriving with just minutes to spare I rushed out fully dressed to make the end of the semi-final warm-ups. We went on to win the Irondequoit tournament that day, but the victory celebrations were short. Time to get back in the car and head south to Baltimore. Glad my buddy and high school teammate Justin DeMarchi is making this part of the trip with me. While my mother drives we string lacrosse sticks and talk lacrosse.
June 29 – July 2
Arrive at Towson University for the Rising Jr. Top 205 camp and battle it out in Maryland for the next couple of days in front of coaches from all the top schools, I definitely felt the nerves. After the second day at camp, I start to feel at home and remind everyone in the dorms that July 1 is Canada Day.
With the anthem playing loudly, and my flag I hung in my room tied like a cape I made sure everyone on my floor was aware of the celebrations. My newly acquired friends from Calvert Hall even tried to sing their version of the anthem for me, with mentions of moose, beavers, igloos, and hockey. I played my final games of the camp before leaving to make the Gait Cup in Gettysburg, where my Edge 2012 team was already settling in.
July 2 – 4
Arriving at the Gait Cup I got to play with my Canadian Edge teammates and I was excited to be back to pick and rolls, behind the backs, and “run n gun” lacrosse. The tournament was action packed and our team created a “buzz” with our creative Canadian style. I was lucky enough to be selected the youngest player to the all-star game. With the stands full with spectators and the sidelines full of coaches I was eager to step on that field. By this time I was getting used to blocking out the clip boards on the side lines and just wanted to have fun playing lacrosse. Played with a great group of guys who moved the ball around. Ended the night with three assists and four goals and didn’t feel the pressure I had at Top 205. Time to make the seven hour drive to Rhode Island.
I thought the Duke camp was hot, but the 113 degree temperature at the Blue Chip 225 elite camp at Bryant University in Rhode Island definitely topped it. Starting to feel a little tired I tried my best to compete on the field and was again honored to be selected to the two all star games. Like Top 205 there were a lot of NCAA coaches in attendance.
Before the game I watched Team USA practice and got excited knowing that I would be seeing them again in England. The USA roster is full of All Americans and Tewaaraton winners who I have grown up watching and reading about. As they left the field to a loud chant of, “USA USA USA!” I was one of only a few Canadians in the stadium and became aware that I was wearing the Canadian leaf on my sleeve, helmet, and gloves. I felt obligated to show well for my own country and to play some tough Canadian lacrosse. During the two all-star games I was able to finish five times and also make some good feeds. Later I would find out that my play at the camp would be written about on Inside Lacrosse blog .
Eight hour drive back to Canada but I’m looking forward to seeing my family and playing some box lacrosse. Getting in the box is the best feeling for Canadian lacrosse players. I’ve missed the intensity, speed and physical contact. Our Mimico Midget team plays last year’s Ontario provincial champions, Six Nations. I have always enjoyed playing the Nation and respect the lacrosse players they turn out like Syracuse stars Cody Jamieson and Sid Smith. We lose a close 5-4 game but I’m happy to get 3 goals on the smaller 4 by 4 nets after shooting on 6 by 6 Field cages for the last couple of months.
Feeling a little sore but next up is a Team Ontario practice and a few days at home getting packed for my first trip to England, the host of the FIL World Lacrosse games. Looking forward to competing with my Mimico teammates in the U-16 Field Lacrosse tournament.
Arrive in Manchester after an 8 hour flight and track down my dad who arrived with Team Canada four or five days earlier. Guess we both got our wires crossed and I realize neither one of us has booked a dorm room at the University. Used my lacrosse bag as pillow and slept well on the common room floor of the dorm..
Excited to play the England U-16 team and we aren’t really sure what style of play to expect from them. We win 15-3 in pouring rain which is fine since Canadians sometimes play in snow. Or at least that what we tell the guys in the U.S. Have one of those rare games where everything just seems to hit and I finish the game with five assists and 10 goals.
The games that followed against Vermont, another England team and a tough team from Lake Oswego in Oregon were a lot closer. With a large crowd and a lot of red and white on the sidelines, I had the honor of carrying our flag onto the field leading out our team to an eventual 10-9 win, which ironically was the score of the Canada – USA Men’s round robin game later that night.
With my team’s tournament finished I look forward to being a lacrosse spectator and seeing the best in the world play. My younger brother Ben is one of Team Canada’s ball boys and I also volunteer. Anything to get on the sidelines with guys I have grown up watching play lacrosse. Feel like I’m now in a classroom studying the player’s moves and how they string sticks. John Grant Jr. is one of the best to play the game at Attack and watching him practice and play made a real impression.
After a one day layoff Team Canada takes the field for a morning shoot around before the final game. After keeping a low profile I take Dan Dawson up on his invite to join the team in the shoot around. On a team of practical jokers I trust Dan won’t get me into trouble with the coaching staff. I spent two summers as an intern coach at his box camps and he’s one of my favorite players. I look around to see Greer shooting on one side and Brodie Merrill on the other. This goes down as one of the highlights of my summer.
Later that day I sit quietly in the corner of the dorm common room converted to a Team Canada locker room and listen to coach Dave Huntley prepare his team for their greatest mission, the gold medal game. Coach Huntley was one the first Canadians to play in the NCAA with Johns Hopkins. He was also on the first Canadian Team to win the World’s in 1978. When he talks, everyone listens.
With the game under-way it was back in forth lacrosse and became the most exciting game I’ve ever watched. Unfortunately our boys fell short and lost a close one to our lacrosse rivals the Americans. As I stood on the field and watched the Americans hoist the shield it made me realize how bad I want to make the Canadian Men’s national team and have a chance to play the and have a chance to play the Americans on the men’s world stage, it is truly the greatest motivation for me.
On our long walk to the dorms as a team, fans greeted us with chants and “pats on the backs”, even some American fans were cheering for the Canadians which made the loss a little less hard to swallow. Waiting for the team at the dorms was a huge bbq that celebrated the trip as a whole and really put into perspective for the team, the honor to wear a Canadian jersey at any event. Among the guests at the bbq were the Japanese, who turned out to be great roommates in sharing our building. During the bbq I was challenged to enter the suomo ring and wrestle a Japanese long pole. With no background in wrestling, or sumo for that matter I was forced to learn the fast way, like baptism through fire. it was back and forth and I lost the first point but was able to win the second to end the match in a draw, again a moment I will never forget.
Spend the two days following the loss in London with my brother and father. It’s a great city to visit before returning for one last lacrosse tournament.
July 28- 30
Join my Edge team for the NCSLA tournament in Gaitersburg, Maryland. Great to be with the guys again. Many of us have been traveling to the U.S. with the Edge program for the last 4 years and it’s helped us better understand the Field lacrosse game and how to best use our Canadian box skills. Not one of our better tournaments and makes the 10 hour bus ride home feel longer.
I’m back home in Toronto and get to sleep in my own bed only for the 5th time this summer. Tomorrow I have a Team Ontario practice that will help us prepare for the fall Canadian national tournament in Saskatoon. Then I’m off to the cottage.
Sitting on the cottage dock which is on the Canadian side of the at the St. Lawrence river. We are less than a 5 minute boat ride to the American side of the river.
Plan to spend the last month of the summer here in the Thousand Islands with my family. Played more lacrosse than ever before in an effort to get better and to get on the NCAA radar. Through trial and error I learned that even at the rising Junior age it all works out when you block out the sidelines and just play for fun like you did when you were a six year old kid.
If you were to ask me before my summer what i would be doing id say playing lacrosse, but if you to ask me now what i did this summer id say, “living my dream”. The road to recruitment can be stressful and nerve racking, belive me. But at the end of the day, if you’re playing lacrosse and you love the game the way i do, there is nothing more special than seeing the world with nothing but yourself and your stick.
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