The Future of Junior A Lacrosse in Alberta

Posted: November 7, 2013 by Paul Rai in Alberta Lacrosse, Box Lacrosse, Junior A Lacrosse, RMLL, Vimy Lacrosse

As a coach in the Alberta Junior A Lacrosse League I really have no idea of the the overall mandate of the league.  The Junior A League plays under the governance of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) and the RMLL has a Mission Statement that reads as follows:

To govern and promote Alberta amateur post midget box lacrosse and provide continual participant development opportunities for the pursuit of excellence and enjoyment while fostering fair play, sportsmanship and a general community spirit among our Members, Members of Members and supporters.

I am a second year coach in the league and I have looked online to see if there is something published about the overall vision of the Alberta Junior A Lacrosse League, but I have not found anything.  Something might exist in writing, but I have not seen it.

The reason I am trying to figure this out is because the Alberta Junior A Lacrosse League is at a crossroads with the proposed changes in the Minto Cup formula.  The way things are going, Alberta is now going to have to play a Western Final against BC to gain access to the Minto Cup Championship against Ontario.  This change has partially occurred due to Alberta’s continued failure to compete at the Minto Cup for the past 10 years.  Our path to the Minto Cup looks to be much harder.

For me, the mandate of the Junior A League is to provide box lacrosse players in Alberta an opportunity to develop and play at the highest level of lacrosse at the Junior age level.  I think, however, the mandate is clouded as I think many people in the game believe that the mandate is to win games and challenge for the Minto Cup.  Yes, that is the end goal, but when teams focus primarily on the end result they forget about the process.  Alberta can not challenge for the Minto Cup until our development system in minor lacrosse can produce the depth of talent required to support the four teams in the Province.  This has to change or Alberta will never be able to compete at the National level.  As teams, we are so intent on protecting our turf and getting upset with each other, we can not look to the long term future of making the game stronger for everyone.  I understand the desire to win games and beat the other team.  That is competition.  But there are some aspects of the management of the game that should change.

One primary thing that could change is the 50 Man Protected List that each team is allowed to carry.  Cut that down to a 35 man list that contains a 25 man roster and a team’s top 10 prospects.  If a player is not on the 35 man list then he is free to play where he likes in Alberta.  This allows the possibility that a player that can not make one team can play for another team and will develop.  The entire league benefits as the league gets stronger.  If a team wishes to add a free agent to their protected list they need to sign that player.  They can not just add him.  Teams need to market their team and explain what their program is willing to offer the player.  This adds accountability to each team to improve its overall program to attract players to the organization.

Get rid of the draft.  Add players by getting them to come to tryout for a Junior A team because they love what teams are providing.  The draft makes the player a hostage and then he is added to the 50 man list with the possibility of never being able to go to another team.  Since each team would only be able to sign 35 players, then players will know where they fit on the depth chart and where they may possibly have the best opportunity to play.

Create vertical alignment from Junior A to Mini Tyke.  Create a community lacrosse system that shows young players that as they move through the system there is a Junior B and a Junior A team in their community that they can play for.  Then the coaching will trickle down because coaches know the end result is a lacrosse program built on tradition that will carry on.  Junior A programs will be more willing to give back and help minor programs because the end result is a stronger feeder system into Junior lacrosse.

Allow Alberta players to go to BC and Ontario to play.  There will always be restrictions on imports so BC and Ontario teams will not load up on Alberta players.  They already have a deep talent pool to choose from.  Let our Alberta players go there if it helps them improve as a player.  Alberta Junior A teams should be in the business of helping Junior A lacrosse players develop their skills to be the best player they can be.  If that means going to BC or Ontario then that should be allowed.  Protectionism only curtails our competitiveness because it does not force us to make our system better.  Since we know we can keep every single Alberta player in our province, we do not make the necessary improvements to create better teams and better organizations.  If BC and Ontario can offer players a stronger league and competition I do not believe I have the right to stop a player from going.  I think my focus should be getting my league better so players are more willing to stay then leave.  I think we are on the right track with this, but still have a lot of work to do.

These are my thoughts.  I am not trying to bash anyone.  I am proposing my changes to stimulate conversation to see what we can do to improve Junior A Lacrosse in Alberta.

  1. Tammy says:

    well said Paul !

  2. Maureen Jomha says:

    Paul this all sounds very nice and simple but I am afraid it is much too naive.I would definitely agree with your first point about strengthening the minor levels but past that … the rest would lead to the total collapse of the A league in Alberta.If each team lost even 2 of their top players to BC or Ontario the A teams would really be nothing more than good tier 1 B teams.You run a lacrosse program and would have no problem getting players to play but not everyone is in this position.Their is simply not enough talent in Alberta presently to even think about implementing your proposed changes.Too lose the talent we do have would lead to the death of the A program in Alberta.Furthermore, I can’t think of any competitive sports program in junior that does not have a draft…players can not be given the right to decide where they play as teams would not be competitive with each other (potentially one team may be very strong while the others are weak which would also kill the league).I could go on about how your suggestions would cause a complete collapse of the league but I think I made my point. I also have no intentions of insulting anyone but felt I needed to express another point of view.Lastly if week junior B players can make A teams in Alberta your argument that not many players would leave is also flawed.

    • Paul Rai says:

      I appreciate the comments. I think it is important to explore all options. I could have it all wrong, but the more important thing to discuss is what can be done to make things better. I believe we have to do what is best for the player first. I do not want to be holding players back to keep our Junior A program going. Things need to change for the better and the more people are willing to discuss things the better the situation will be. Thanks again for the comments.

      • Maureen Jomha says:

        I agree that what is best for the player is important but not at the expense of all the other players in the league or at the expense of the league in general.If there is no league, there is no where where the majority of the players can develop here in Alberta.If the interests of Alberta players and the league in general are kept a priority no one two or three individual player interests should take priority. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts. I agree that more people need to think about the future of lacrosse in Alberta and resolve areas of concern.

      • Paul Rai says:

        I would never suggest that there would be no Junior A League. I do suggest we make changes to the Junior A League to make it more attractive to players and to allow for more movement between teams so players can be given more opportunities to crack a Junior A lineup. It starts in Mini Tyke. We need a better development system. So by the time the kids are in Junior they are ready to play at the A level. We have too many 17 and 18 year olds playing in the league. BC and Ontario are relying on 19, 20 and 21 year olds. We need more depth so we do not have to rely on young players. Those first and second year players should be in support roles or on Junior B teams.

        I know you care about the game because it has been a part of your family for years. We need people to be willing to discuss the issues such as these. Thanks.

    • Maureen Jomha says:

      Correction- I meant to say that if weak Junior B players can make Junior A teams in BC, your argument that not many players would leave Alberta is flawed.

  3. Nadr Jomha says:

    If you wanna do that you might as well just get rid of the junior A league and make junior b tear 1 the top league in Alberta.

  4. Nadr Jomha says:

    I mean If you think that’s going to benefit the league your logic is totally false… It would completely destroy It. You no I have had my doubts too, personally I dont even no if im ever gunna play in that league but I no there’s a lot of people who put a lot of time an effort into that league an they really care about it.

  5. Nadr Jomha says:

    You no I think almost everybody has there issues whether it be a coach a team a player or things arent just exactly the way they want them to be… but in the end it’s about the collective group not individuals.

    • Paul Rai says:

      If you had the desire to go play in BC or Ontario against the best box players in the world at your age group, should I have the right to stop you? This is not the WHL where the leagues (OHL and QMJHL) are similar. We are not big business operations. Kids aren’t leaving the Junior A league for lucrative pro contracts. This should be about the kids.

      • Nadr Jomha says:

        Paul,If you truly care about the A league and Alberta lacrosse in general, the individual interests of players should never be the main concern of the league.Allowing any player who wants to leave and play on any team in any province is irresponsible and detrimental to your club and the league.It again is not about individuals but the integrity and health of the club and the league.

  6. Nadr Jomha says:

    And finally again your getting back to my over all point… By doing what your suggesting the league will be ruined never mind the fun part there wont even be a league, if your going do something like that you might as well get rid of the A league in Alberta all together.

  7. Nadr Jomha says:

    I forgot to say I agree that there are stronger leagues out there but your forgetting the fact there’s also a gap here In our own city thats why the league was set up in the first place, Plus to be honest I don’t really think those select provinces your talking about really need alberta players.. maybe the odd guy here an there.

  8. Nadr Jomha says:

    I commented a lot on this but something else came to mind, an Alberta guy goes to one of those teams chances are he’ll be middle of the pack at best, but if hes playing here in Alberta hell get lots of playing time and have lots of fun an success, he’ll probably develop more by staying in Alberta then going somewhere else, you also got to remember the other provinces stack one or two of there teams for a minto cup run… And to make it as a go to guy on one of those teams from Alberta would be real hard to do.. you would have to be something real special when it comes to today’s game of lacrosse.

  9. Nadr Jomha says:

    I mean just look at one of my teammates from the crude who came from Ontario, he was not even like the top prospect or anything he came here an tore up the junior b league this year as a first year, absolutely tore it up, An the reason why hes so good is not because hes always looking to put himself over his head or do things hes not capable or ready to do yet, Its because he looks for the opportunity ware he’ll get lots of playing time have lots of success and have lots of fun while doing it.

  10. Nadr Jomha says:

    Maybe you just want your son to be released, If its true I don’t blame you for it, I hurd the Minors offered a couple things but the Titans didn’t take It… but that does not mean you gotta go on a venture hear to take down the whole league.I hurd a lot about that and to be honest if I was making the decisions for the Minors I would put him on the trading block for nothing more then a big bag of chips, Ive hurd some stuff about that and I’m not a big fan of the way your handling that whole thing… that’s my last comment I was debating whether or not I was going to put this up. I’m not joking I actually would but unfortunately for you iIm not making the decisions there.

  11. Kris Partington says:

    To this point, I have supported a protectionist policy like Paul alluded to and thought that limiting player movement was the way to grow the league. I thought that if Alberta’s best players stayed here, that eventually the Junior A teams here would catch up. That has not happened over the last 10 years. Facts are facts.

    The reason that I now support free agency is because Alberta Junior A teams clearly need more of an incentive to improve their programs and the overall lacrosse culture in the province so that Alberta born players want to stay here and at the same time, believe that they can win a Minto Cup with a hometown team. The simple fact that players have to pay over $1000 in registration to play Junior A lacrosse shows how complacent all of the franchises in the league have become. They truly have a ridiculous amount of control over players that want to play lacrosse at this level.

    To suggest that opening up the import rule more would destroy the Junior A league is pure speculation and short sighted. Even if it did, the league cannot get much worse. Blowing up this thing and starting from scatch might be the best thing for lacrosse in Alberta.

    Now to address Nadr’s personal shots at Paul. These are totally uncalled for. If you would like to open up the floor to questioning how the Jomha’s have conducted lacrosse business over the course of the last number of years, I am sure there are a long list of people who would like to weigh in on all of ways they are not fans of how your uncle AJ and your dad have handled certain situations. I see Paul on the bench coaching three different teams over the course of a season without a child of his own on any of them, so I am not going to question his integrity or his desire to do good by Alberta Lacrosse. You shouldn’t either. To suggest that he is trying to bring down the league just because of the situation with his son is laughable and you owe him an apology. In my opinion, Paul and Jimmy have had an extremely positive effect on Alberta Jr A lacrosse so far.

    Back to the topic at hand. I would eliminate two of the current Alberta teams, and because I support vertical alignment, the Titans and Raiders would continue to operate because they have a minor lacrosse organization that identifies with their junior A teams. I would also continue to encourage Red Deer and the SWAT to start franchises before expanding junior A in the Calgary and Edmonton markets. When it comes time to expand, the teams would have to be aligned with a minor organization. I also think that following the Raiders approach to building coaching staffs is essential for growth of the game in the province. They have allowed numerous coaches the chance to get experience at the Junior A level, allowing those individuals to move on to higher levels. The Mounties have provided similar opportunities for young coaches. The same has not happened in Edmonton. As for the import rule, I would allow players to go to BC or ON to play in a better environment. They will come back when the franchises here provide a more appealing alternative. If they choose to play their Junior A and Senior A careers out of province, they will bring all they have learned back to pass on to future Alberta lacrosse players. The fact is that Alberta lacrosse players do not get good enough exposure and are less likely to be considered by NLL scouts. The more Alberta born players that play in the NLL, the better, even if that means playing out of province to do it.

    This is my take on it.

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