Dog days for the Grande Prairie Thrashers

Grande Prairie Thrashers midget lacrosse players Canden Radke and Scott Braun play catch during a recent Monday night practice at the Crosslink County Sportsplex. The birds will finish off the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council regular season this weekend in the capital city. Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune

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The Grande Prairie Thrashers finish up the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council (GELC) Midget ‘B’ season with three games in Edmonton this weekend.

The birds will face the Beaumont Braves and the Parkland Posse on Saturday and finish off with the Westlock Rock on Sunday afternoon. The club is 3-6 and are second to last in the 12-team league. To be fair, if the squad can grab a couple of wins—and have multiple results play out in their favour—they could jump up two places in the standings, maybe three.

With that in mind, here’s what Head Coach Ron Regnier wants to see in the final weekend of the season.

“(This is) the culmination of everything we’ve done all year,” Regnier said. “This is the last opportunity to make sure we’re on track before we go to provincials. We really hope that everything we’ve talked about, after every weekend, everything we’ve worked on with the (players) after the games, all the adjustments we’ve made, will pay off (for) us this weekend.”

The box lacrosse provincials will be in three weeks time at the Calgary Soccer Centre.

Before they can get to this weekend, the birds have an issue to iron out. Focus was a problem at practice on Monday night over at the Crosslink County Sportsplex. The coach hopes it’s a one-time thing.

“At this age, with the midget kids, it’s a tougher age,” Regnier said. “They’re much stronger willed and they’ve got other things on their minds—they work, they have girlfriends and it’s getting to be summertime. We have a harder time—at this time of year—getting them focused.”

The team had a huddle after practice—on the other side of the rink from the bench—and phrases such as, “Do you want to be here?” and, “It’s only one hour” drifted from one side to the other in the quiet rink. The coaches spoke in a quiet tone and the players listened.

“Every once in a while, we have to pull them aside and remind them that, yes, we know they’re giving up an hour of their time but I’ve got to remind them I give up 10 hours of my time every week for lacrosse, during the season,” Regnier said. “Then a couple of hours each week, for the entire rest of the year, so they get a good experience.”

But it’s not about who’s spending time doing what and it’s not a lesson in finger pointing. Eventually, it comes down to results and seeing improvement equal to—or better than—commensurate effort. In a way, the players are only cheating themselves.

“If they want to be competitive and they want to increase their opportunity of winning, or play better as a team, they have to take advantage when they’re out here,” Regnier said. “Focus and practice like we play. Perfect practice makes perfect play. They can’t come to practice and take it easy or jog when they should be running or goof around a lot.”

To his credit, Regnier took a bit of the heat upon himself.

“Maybe I let it go a little long and should have stopped it earlier,” Regnier said. “Some of them were chasing butterflies the moment they walked on the floor.”

Crossing the finish line

Going into the final weekend of the season, Regnier was asked where he has seen the biggest improvement this year.

“We’re playing so much better as a team,” Regnier noted. “Our passing has improved, our team defence has improved and our communication on the floor has improved a lot. That’s where I’ve seen the largest growth with the players, just their ability to come together as a team.”

Rare sighting

In terms of Alberta midget boys lacrosse, Sarah Radke is very unique, an outlier.

The 14-year-old Grande Prairie resident is but one of the few females playing in the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council Midget ‘B’ boys league.

“It’s been fun,” Radke said Monday night after practice at the Crosslink County Sportsplex. “It’s really fast and it’s one thing I had a little bit of trouble adjusting to, at first, how fast aggressive and big everything feels and is. It’s very different from bantam lacrosse.”

With the size and speed of the boys, it’s not surprising there was a little bit of intimidation for the Grade 9 student at Charles Spencer. Nonetheless, she stayed with it impressing—not surprising—Thrashers Head Coach Ron Regnier.

“As the players get to higher levels, quite often it becomes a more physical game and there becomes a much larger size differential (in boys to girls). You see the female players leave the teams and I’m really happy she stuck with it and has continued to grow,” Regnier said.

To her credit, the intimidation factor didn’t last long. Radke is used to the game having played bantam and peewee lacrosse. Radke played for the bantam Thrashers for two years and local peewee before that.

”After the first weekend in Edmonton, that’s where I started to feel I fit in a little more,” Radke said. “Once I played the first three games, and practiced for the next weekend, I felt I was good to go.”

What else is good with the teen?

“After every game (Radke) takes off her gloves and says ‘thanks, coach’ and shakes all the coaches hands,” Regnier said. “Coachability is so important and this is the age group (where) coaching (can be) more challenging. That’s never been an issue for her. Whatever you asked her to do she says ‘OK, coach.’ ”

According to the GELC website Radke has one goal in nine games. The club has six players who haven’t scored a goal this year.

“With her continued growth, coachability and her wonderful attitude, she’s able to keep up with the rest of the team and she’s out there giving it her 100 per cent every game,” Regnier said. “It’s awesome.”

“It’s been fun and I have really enjoyed it,” Radke added. “(The game) gets your adrenaline pumping and that’s fun. It’s a good workout, I just really like it.”

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