Lack of players, lack of commitment.
For those two reasons, the Armstrong Shamrocks have announced they are taking a one-year leave of absence from the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League, effective for the 2019 season.
“We haven’t had an influx of players for a couple of years,” said former Shamrocks governor Jeff Hanley, now commissioner of the three-team loop (Vernon Tigers, Kamloops Venom, South Okanagan Flames).
“With the graduating midgets (from North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse), the lion’s share has gone to Vernon. There was one eligible midget this year. For the last couple of years, we’ve had declining numbers and declining commitment. Players that just don’t want to show up for most of the stuff.”
New head coach/general manager Andy Sadorsky of Salmon Arm had 14-to-16 players’ names on paper, but was only getting four-to-six players out for practices, according the Hanley.
“It’s the same issue we’ve been fighting the last couple of years. It was a matter of begging kids to show up constantly, and the out-of-town games were a struggle to field a team,” he said.
Due to unforseen circumstances we have to announce that the Armstrong Junior Shamrocks Lacrosse Club will not be flooring
a team for the 2019 season. We are working diligently to revise our league game schedule and will release it when completed.
— TOJLL (@TOJLL) March 31, 2019
The league is scheduled to play its annual Archie Jack Ice Breaker tournament Saturday, April 13, at the Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.
A 15-game unbalanced scheduled had been proposed for the four-team league with Armstrong scheduled to play its closest rival, the Tigers, six times.
A conference call will be held Tuesday evening to confirm a new 14-game schedule with each team playing the other two clubs seven times prior to playoffs.
The phone call Tuesday will also deal with the dispersal of the players from Armstrong and Kelowna Raiders, who remain on a leave of absence that took effect in 2018.
“The BCLA (B.C. Lacrosse Association) and our league policy is the players are supposed to go into a draft,” said Hanley. “The problem with that is, again, such a low commitment level. I’m trying to get a list together of players that are still wanting to play. There would be about six kids on that list from Armstrong and Kelowna combined.
“But how do you put them into a draft? The kids are not going to go to Kamloops or South Okanagan because they can barely show up for their own home practices, never mind travelling. I think a couple of kids might be keen enough.”
The 2018 Shamrocks finished third in the four-team league with a record of 2-9-1. They fell to the Venom in three straight games in the league semifinals.
The Raiders are entering a second year of absence from the league, though Hanley said the Raiders were close to being able to field a team for 2019.
“Kelowna is pretty much in the same boat (as Armstrong),” said Hanley. “The amount of players showing up is not quite enough. There’s nothing worse than trying to muddle through, we’ve done that the last couple of years. It hurts your team. Players get discouraged. They get tired of losing, tired of showing up for practice when half the team doesn’t.
“It’s a widespread problem throughout the entire province right now, but especially in our area. Kelowna can’t field one team with its population base. The fact Armstrong was able to do it up until now is pretty spectacular.”
Armstrong joined the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League in 2003, and were part of the league for 16 straight seasons, playing in the smallest community in the loop. The Shamrocks’ absence this season will be sorely felt by the Tigers.
“It’s such a great rivalry,” said Vernon general manager Duane Barr. “Most of the players played together in minor lacrosse and now face each other in junior. It’s such a good rivalry between the towns. It will be a real shame to lose them because you want to see them continue playing. It’ll be a tough go this year. We hope they come back next year.”
The future does, perhaps, bode well in Armstrong. There are a projected 10 or so graduating midget-aged players from Shuswap Minor Lacrosse in Salmon Arm after this season, and a few more coming out of North Okanagan, leaving optimism that player numbers will be higher in 2020.
The Shamrocks have played at least one home game in Salmon Arm over the past few seasons to draw interest in the team and the league from the Shuswap.
(Editor’s note: This story has been changed from its original form to show the conference call was moved from Sunday night to Tuesday)