Coach says talent definitely not problem
BY MICHAEL PIASETZKI
The frustration on Ernie Smith’s face was evident on Saturday morning as he tried his best to coach the Lindsay Place High School Eagles juvenile field lacrosse team.
Standing on the sideline during his team’s road game in Côte des Neiges against Brébeuf College, Smith barked out instructions, urging his players to do the simplest things, such as keep moving on the field, play as a team, and most importantly, to not be afraid to shoot the ball. His veins literally stuck out as he surveyed the situation. At times, his eyes turned skyward in wonderment.
When all was said and done, Smith’s Eagles lost 7-1, less than 24 hours after they registered a moral victory, tying Howard S. Billings High School 5-5 Friday afternoon at Lindsay Place in Pointe Claire. The visitors scored the equalizer in the dying minutes.
Coaching field lacrosse at Lindsay Place has not an easy job for Smith, a former well-respected high school field lacrosse coach in Peterborough, Ont., where for 10 years, he mentored many players who went on to play at the university and professional levels. Not because his Eagles lack talent or the will to learn. But because they find themselves against the proverbial eight ball, constantly suffering from a lack of funds, and plagued by a dearth of experience and most important, practice time. “Those guys, (Brébeuf) practice every day,” said Smith, a Hudson resident, now teaching at Westwood High School in Hudson. “They probably practice during school hours, as part of their curriculum. They probably don’t have after-school jobs like our kids do. We practice twice a week and are lucky if we can get 10 or 11 players out. Still, this is a well-behaved team with crude skills that need refining.”
Not being able to practice results in a cruel, double-edged sword when it comes to field lacrosse, a game played outdoors on a football-sized field. It varies from box lacrosse in that it does not use a shot clock, allowing players to hold on to the ball as long as they want. It’s also far less physical, although players within three-metres of the ball can throw fierce checks. Slight slashing or poking is allowed. Practice is the only way to get in shape for a sport that requires as much running as soccer or basketball. Many of the Eagles looked physically drained during the second half of Saturday’s contest. “It is frustrating,” said the Eagles’ Scott Pemberton, a Grade 10 student on a squad consisting of an interesting mix of students ranging from Grade 8 to 10. “The potential on our team is there, though.”
Some of that potential exhibited itself during a tournament the Eagles participated in recently in Peterborough. “It was called the Kenner Tournament,” said Eagles assistant coach Steve Brayne, who also serves as president of the West Island Lakers Basketball Association. “It was the biggest high-school tournament in Eastern Canada with 32 teams. We won one game and lost two. It was a good experience for the kids.”