A January tournament in San Francisco allowed five North Okanagan field lacrosse players to experience their first international test.
Zack Gares (attack), midfielders Kaden Doughty, Caden Colmorgen and Kael Black and goalie Thomas Mackiewich represented the 21-man Thompson Okanagan Selects, a group aged 15 to 18.
“Other than Thomas, the remaining players were playing up in a division that they would not normally play in,” said minor lacrosse president and Selects program director Kari Gares. “They played extremely well. They went 4 -1, placing fifth overall out of 16 teams. Thomas even had a shutout which is unheard of in field lacrosse.
“We are now moving forward with the implementation of an under 15 and under 13 age group. This program has been so well perceived that we are having players between the ages of 9-10 asking to be a part of this program. Our primary focus will be to further the development of the game by improving skill and talent.”
The Thompson Okanagan Selects is a not-for-profit lacrosse program designed to provide opportunities for players aged 12–18 who have a passion for the game and a desire to experience a higher level of competitive field lacrosse.
“We are committed to helping our players realize their potential and maximize his/her lacrosse experience and exposure,” said Gares. “The program was created for many reasons. First, the Interior has significant talent. Unfortunately, many of our Interior teams find it hard to compete due to sheer numbers. When you are only able to field one team in each community within the IFLC (Interior Field League Commission), many of those teams will have an array of talent that starts at beginner to more advanced. It’s difficult to put a team together where all 20 players have equal or greater talent.”
Gares says the challenge is huge competing against coastal teams with several hundred more players to choose from.
“It became evident over the years, while I was watching my own son play, that there was a real lack of sportsmanship towards other players of other teams. My ideology was simple – bring together players from across the Interior to provide an opportunity to further develop the more elite players while promoting a more positive image of field lacrosse and camaraderie.
“And with the cancellation of the Burnaby Mountain Selects program we knew immediately that the timing was impeccable. If we were to teach the technical and tactical skills required to play at the collegiate level – we were fostering real talent with unlimited potential. We, in essence, are developing a higher level of lacrosse play while simultaneously ensuring all Interior players get to play on home turf.”
Gares says while the Selects program was her vision, it would not have happened without the dedication of general manager Martin Gardner and a fabulous group of parents.
“We will be looking to hold tryouts/evaluations for the U15 and U13 divisions this May. It will be a max of 21 players per division. Tryouts will be held here in Vernon. There will be a rotation of practice schedules throughout the Interior of BC (primarily Vernon/Kamloops and Kelowna).”