Regional lacrosse players have new option to help extend their playing careers as Rockyview welcomes the Junior B Tier 2 Rage to the fold when they open their Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) season on April 13 in Olds.
“I moved to Cochrane two years ago, so last lacrosse season was my first coaching the Midget team here in Rockyview, which is obviously Cochrane and Airdrie. I didn’t even realize there wasn’t a (Junior B) Tier 2 team here,” said Rage head coach Kent Proctor who was instrumental in organizing the squad for their inaugural season.
“I had a bunch of graduating Midget players that early on in the season had already come to grips with the fact that they were going to have to retire from lacrosse, which to me doesn’t make sense. It’s the same everywhere. If you don’t have a Tier 2 program, a lot of kids just quit the sport and don’t get to play through high school … I think the sport should be really accessible through high school.”
“June is when I realized a lot of kids were graduating and not playing the sport, all of who were still high school aged and so I started talking to my team manager at the time (Angela Sellwood) and we started to get the ball rolling on an expansion. We did the whole process. We’ve spent the last few months getting ready for the season by signing players … a lot of work but hopefully it’s worth it.”
The team is made up of players aged 16 to 21, and Proctor said the team is looking to add some more bodies to fill out their roster.
“It’s been a lot harder than it should have been actually. I honestly never would have put the bid in if I knew I needed to recruit this year but when the interest list went out, we came back with a lot of names and then less than half the names actually committed to the team,” Proctor said.
“We’re still recruiting locally and we have enough players for a team which is good, but in Tier 2 it’s a division where kids are working and going to school, they have other things that are equally or more important than lacrosse. Typically, you’d like to carry a larger roster than at most other levels. We’d like to fill at least a few more spots, but we’re comfortable now that we can proceed into the season.”
Proctor added players, who didn’t know about the team, or may have missed the original sign up date, can still join.
“There’s just different expectations at Tier 2. When you’re first starting out, people still have the minor lacrosse mindset and the mindset is ‘I have to register by a certain date and I have to be able to commit all my time to this club or I won’t play’ because that’s kind of what you’re taught growing up in minor,” Proctor said.
“Then the other thing when you’re in minor sports is you always want to play at the highest level and excel, so there’s a bit of a stigma attached to if you don’t make a Tier 1 team you might not be a great lacrosse player or something like that. Major lacrosse is so much different … sometimes you get players who are top three on their Midget ‘A’ team, but for whatever reason don’t fit in with the team they get drafted by and feel like they aren’t good lacrosse players.”
Proctor added he makes an effort to ensure the schedule is not overwhelming for players by having only one practice a week along with the two weekly games.
“I’m not going to burn the kids out by having them come to practice three or four times a week, two games and then throw in some video and dry land training, that’s not what our program is about.”
With this being the team’s first season of play, Proctor said he has short-term as well as long-term goals he’d like to achieve.
“When you put an expansion team in you’re usually taking quite a few beatings during the first year or two for sure. However, the landscape has changed a bit and this is seemingly a really good year to be an expansion franchise … there’s another expansion team in Calgary. In Olds, their very strong Tier 2 team is moving up to Tier 1, so their Tier 3 team is replacing them and then there’s a couple other teams in our division that really struggled last year,” Proctor said.
“When you put all that together, we’re going to have quite a few teams that are in a very similar situation to us … my personal goal for this season is to be .500 and then we’ll have to see how it goes. Then my long-term goal is just sustained success. I want this to be a five-year development window, where you’re going to be like any other good pro or junior team, where you’re good for a number of years and sustain it. There will be peaks where you get really good, and then other years where you might have to rebuild a little bit, but our goal is to sustain success for a number of years.”
Once the Rage play their first game of the season on April 13 against the Olds Stingers, they will hit the road for another couple games before returning home on May 11 to host their home opener against the Calgary Wranglers at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre turf.