Alberta Junior A Lacrosse at Crossroads

Posted: January 21, 2014 by Paul Rai in General Lacrosse

Raiders-logo-red-with-stickIf you have not heard, the Okotoks Raiders Junior A lacrosse team has applied for admission to the BC Junior A Lacrosse League.  The Governors of the BC League have accepted the request “starting in 2015, in principle, and based on travel costs being raised prior to the expansion becoming official and approved”.  The Alberta Lacrosse Association, upon hearing this news, has fired back to the Raiders that they will be looking to replace the Raiders franchise in 2015 to maintain the four team league and the players on the Raiders protected lists will be transferred to this new franchise.  The ALA needs to do this to protect its league and its players from a possible dismantling if its league.

The intention from the BC Junior A League is to create a Western Lacrosse League that would include a team from South and North Alberta.  The concept sounds great in theory, but the cost implications may make this whole idea a pipe dream.  From a purely Alberta perspective it would mean an end to the Alberta League and an amalgamation into the BC league.

Now you can only imagine that all these actions are creating an environment of animosity and mis trust, as if there was much trust before among all the teams.  But the question is why are we at this point?  Why have the Raiders gone to the BC League to ask to be admitted?  What the hell happened?

Maybe the answer lies in our province’s futility at the National level at the Minto Cup.  Our inability to win at the country’s top junior championship may have fuelled this desire to drastically change the Junior A landscape in Western Canada.  There is a feeling that our province’s best players split among four teams in the province are not good enough to compete with the top teams that make it to the Minto Cup from BC and Ontario.  Maybe our depth only can support two teams at a Junior A level.

Maybe the answer lies in the contempt that some people have for others within the league.  The lack of trust that embodies the league does not bode well for building a strong partnership that puts the players and the game first.  I can speak as a member of this league and I can genuinely say that we, the Alberta Junior A League, do not spend enough time building the strength of the league.  We are too focused on the negative than the positive.  We have to remember that just over a year ago the Raiders were on the brink of being kicked out of the Junior A League by other teams in the league.  Do you think that pissed any one off?

Maybe the answer lies in our development program.  We, as a league, are not tied into the development of our youngest players so we have failed to create an environment that produces an abundance of great players to fill our Junior A teams.  So instead of building an in-province league people want to take the next best approach, merging with BC.  We, as Junior A teams, are killing our own product because we are not joined with our minor league teams, working with them to improve their coaches and players.  We are failing the kids that want to play Junior A.

I am not going to get into a history lesson about who did what and when it transpired and how that impacted each and every decision to this day. I will say this.  I am involved in this league and I consider myself a steward of this league.  I cannot say with certainty that all the stewards of the league, including myself, are doing what is best for the young players that participate in Junior A lacrosse.  I do hope clearer minds prevail in the latest Junior A turmoil.  We need a strong direction with all four teams on the same path to success.  One team wins each year and that will never change, but we all have to be on the same journey.  We need to separate the competition of the games from the development of the league.  We need to fix this sooner than later or the other shoe WILL drop and then where do we go?  Urgency is required.  Will it happen?

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Comments
  1. The Raiders share your concerns. 1-a new development plan for lacrosse in Alberta is needed- a house league model promoted to the ALA by John Grant Sr. and Colin Doyle from the Toronto Rock, abandoning the JrA draft, vertical alignment or something similar; 2-the competiveness gap with Ontario and BC at Jr A is real and not acceptable or insurmountable and a prime reason Ontario and BC don’t want Alberta to have an automatic berth at the Minto Cup; 3- the Raiders want to be part of the solution, inside Alberta and believe that we have earned the right to compete and contribute.
    The Raiders want to work with the ALA and the other three Junior A teams. The Raiders see working on interlocking schedules with BC as one way to achieve the goals in the short term. Increasing the number of imports to five is another way to have Alberta Junior A players stay at home and challenge for the Minto. Neither of these will grow the game in Alberta if we don’t address the development model. This is beyond the scope of Junior A and requires the whole lacrosse community coming together.
    Raiders are NOT leaving or abandoning Alberta lacrosse.

    • Paul Rai says:

      Jennifer, thank you for clarifying the Raiders position. Something needs to be done, sooner the better. Players are the ones that get hurt in this entire process.

  2. partytown25 says:

    Some symptoms of why Junior A is so broken:

    The league has been around 10 years, has no league sponsors and no one looking.

    For whatever reason the league office is an office of one person, who babysits adults who can’t be in the same room together.

    Players are PAYING TO PLAY Junior A Lacrosse!!

    Like you said Paul, the players are suffering.

    The solution? Shut down Junior A in Alberta and free players up go to BC.

    Learn from all the mistakes that were made over the last 10 years and next time make sure franchises start up Junior A with things like business plans, a common vision among governors and a spirit of co- operation.

  3. Disillusioned LAXer says:

    This problem is bigger than just Jr. A in Alberta. Where do I even begin???

    It is a problem at nearly every level, and every association, LGB, league, and all the way up the ALA itself! Everyone is so focused on winning every season, that long term goals are often overlooked, if even considered at all? Success is often penalized, if not directly, then by limiting the future success of said club or team because that is the easier way to stay competitive. Limit others, instead of investing time and effort to learn what made them successful, and possibly adopting some of those tactics.

    There are too many personal agendas! The overall focus of every single volunteer, association, LGB, league, and the ALA itself, “should be” player development at every level. Some kids start late, grow later, develop later (skills and maturity), yet they are often limited early and never get out of that rut. I know, it happens in every sport, but that’s no excuse. My point is, the earlier we can offer a higher level of development, the more it benefits everyone all the way up the line, including Team Alberta, minor nationals, and our Junior A programs.

    I’m sure there are similar issues in the GELC and CDLA, but for instance consider this… Why do the clubs within the CDLA limit player imports and impose boundaries on their ‘A’ level lacrosse? Who does that benefit, besides the clubs themselves? For player development, wouldn’t the following be a better option? – Use registration info from the previous year, have the CDLA estimate the number of players eligible to play ‘A’ at each age level, select coaches for ‘A’ teams, open up tryouts, evaluations and registration to anyone? Mix the kids up year to year, different teams, coaches, etc. Let them adapt, learn new things, grow as players and people. If someone rural wants to travel, they shouldn’t be limited to 1 of 2or3 spots available to import players. And, there is no reason why Calgary can only field 3 ‘A’ teams at the midget level. There should be at least 5, and if you can get more kids playing at higher level and developing sooner, this is all possible. Let the clubs (Hornets, Axemen, Sabrecats, Okotoks, High River, Rockyview, Knights) impose the boundaries, player restrictions, and limited releases for the B and C level lacrosse. Use that as developmental. Then gauge the success of their programs by how many kids they are able to graduate to the ‘A’ level on a year to year basis? This would feed the talent pool all the way through from minor to Junior, and I believe it would strengthen the talent available for Team Alberta tryouts as well!.

    We need to fix the problems earlier in the chain, before they become problems that follow everyone into every level.

    No agenda! Just player development from start to finish!

  4. Tom A says:

    This is my personal opinion not my teams necessarily to be clear but I definitely have to agree that some type of alignment needs to happen. Our development system below the junior level varies hugely between programs. Some players are trying to learn things at the Jr.A level they should have learned in Bantam. Vertical alignment would definitely help this. Also there are not enough former lacrosse players helping out by coaching as we need. Having parents who have barely played the game, as much as we thank them for doing so, are not the ones who should be coaching a Midget A team for example.

    Jennifer, I completely agree this is beyond the scope of just Jr.A lacrosse, everyone needs to get involved and I am for alignment. However, I’m not trying to be “Anti-Raider” here and by all means you have the right to your opinion, but the fact you say “Increasing the number of imports to five is another way to have Alberta Junior A players stay at home and challenge for the Minto” is only adding to this problem. We can’t just keep buying players to make a junior A team somewhat competitive, we need our own home grown kids to be there and win at a national level. And it goes to your point of having everyone get involved, from minor up. Secondly, if only one team goes from Calgary and one from Edmonton I would assume you want it to be called the “Raiders” that will never fly in the Calgary area as the Mounties are by all means, even though losing in game 7 last year, just as competitive as the Raiders especially minus the imports or players you added/paid for. So is having the Raiders playing in BC trying to help the Jr.A League? Or is that simply trying to make the Raider name a powerhouse and play in BC? And is buying 5 imports to put on your roster for the same reason? Partytown25 is right that our teams are a bunch of adults who can’t be in the same room as each other and that is a joke. We all want to win and be the best no doubt but this time we need to cut the BS and get something done or there is not going to be a competitive junior A league here ever. As Paul said “We are too focused on the negative than the positive”. I would love to have our team experience BC lacrosse and play their top teams no doubt and I think the RMLL needs more competition and more teams, but I don’t think the solution involves ruining the league and joining BC with only 2 Reps.

    Either way.. we can agree that alignment is needed I think. We can agree that our top coaches, players and alumni need to be involved in the development of our young players moving forward and that vertical alignment would help this. And we can obviously agree that what we have now.. is not working. I am all for doing something about it! Good article Paul

    • Tom and all,
      Hi again,
      The 2 or 5 import rule is NOT a development plan in and of itself, I agree. Most of those who want the change to player mobility want limits to payments and very moderate amounts to exchange for players, some advocate no money exchanged. I am not sure where the two team limit in Alberta originated. There would need to be AT LEAST two teams from Alberta to create a truly “western league”. Team name is not the point of contention as far as I can tell. For many reasons I don’t buy that someone should be banned from the room. As I have been on the receiving end it seems unjust. Those who are willing to work together should get together. Allowing teams to choose their representatives is part of the respect in sport for the other team. It is that basic.

  5. The Raiders have a press release on the western league strategy. it is at our website raiderslacrosse dot CA You can reach it by clicking on my name. I am not certain if this program will allow me to post the link.
    http://raiderslacrosse.ca/2014/01/31/raiders-look-to-participate-in-growing-the-game/

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