OLDS — Olds minor lacrosse players have finally had a chance to play some games before the season ends at the end of this month.
The 14U (Bantam) and 16U (Midget) athletes will be playing exhibition games in Sylvan Lake and Ponoka during the weekend of June 26 and 27.
On June 19 and 20, the 8U (Tyke) and 10U (Novice) athletes got in a couple of exhibition games in Stettler.
“After that sadly we will be shutting down for the season as the end of June is when we are done in a normal year,” Olds Minor Lacrosse Association (OMLA) president Joe Berreth wrote in an email.
“I have heard that most clubs would be shutting down after these weekends, as most are thinking about going camping or doing other sports.”
Berreth was still hoping he could find some other clubs that are interested in playing some exhibition games, because up until now, under pandemic restrictions, OMLA players could only train and practise for the sport.
He's grateful that under the provincial government’s Stage 2 reopening plan, kids could play games again. However, he was told they can’t play tournaments.
Berreth said the pandemic restrictions were “very frustrating” for OMLA officials, coaches and players because he said while practices are useful, they’re not the same as getting in some contact during a real game.
That had an immediate effect on registrations this year.
“The kids, they all wanted to play games," he said during an interview. “We’ve had quite a few of the older kids not sign up because we couldn't guarantee games. So our numbers are definitely down because we couldn’t guarantee any games.”
He said only about 55 kids were registered this year, down from an average of 80 to 90 in previous years.
“I mean, they’re very happy now that we were able to at least give them two games, one Saturday and one Sunday. So we’re ending the season on a high note because we are able to play a couple of games,” he said.
On another positive note, he said pandemic restrictions did give players and coaches a chance to work on skill development.
"We did do a lot of skills and drills as best we could for being a contact sport and not being able to have contact,” he said. “They were able to work on their passes and catches and (improve) that -- especially for the younger kids, because that’s one of the main goals is (teaching) that passing and catching.”
Berreth is hoping the pandemic will be over next year and that as things return to normal, so will their registrations.
"It definitely gives us a (challenge) for next year to get the word out and hopefully get this sport built up again,” he said.