(WINDSOR, ON) – What is more cute than watching 5-year-olds run around and having a blast? Watching them do it while chasing a ball in lacrosse gear. On May 14, the Windsor Warlocks Minor Lacrosse Association paved a fresh, new path for youngsters interested in the game of lacrosse; the Paperweight Travel team.
In a loop with teams in Sarnia, London, and Wallaceburg, the Warlocks are the upstarts. Boasting a paperweight house league that has almost doubled in size in recent years, the board of directors felt it was time to bring their youngest tier in line with the rest of Zone 7 lacrosse.
“Just getting parents and the players introduced to the travel program earlier is going to be huge,” said Warlocks President Jerry Kavanaugh. “For the last 4 or 5 years, the Tyke teams have struggled to get bodies out. We’ve almost done more recruiting than doing tryouts. So, this year, we had a bunch of Tykes out and to be able to do that with Paperweight, going forward into the tyke years, you’re gonna have 8, 10, 12 kids that have already experienced the travel part of it.”
Part of the conditioning is not just for the kids, but for the parents as well.
“I think it is a little intimidating at the tyke level for some parents,” explained Kavanaugh. “Some of [their kids] play travel hockey, some don’t, they’re not sure how much commitment level there is to the travel parts, but if we introduce it to them in Paperweight right away then it should roll into the tyke program more seamlessly.”
For the first time in over 15 years, possibly ever, the Paperweights travelled to a rival town and competed in a zone travel game.
“To be honest, I am not sure if we even ever had a travel team,” reflected Kavanaugh, who is also the head coach of the Windsor Clippers Junior B club. “I have been here for a little over 15 years on the board, president for 10, and we’ve never even thought of having a Paperweight travel team. We’ve always had between 20-25 kids for Paperweights, just enough to get out on the floor and introduce them to the basics of the game, but I think we are pushing 40 right now which is huge.”
Meeting the Sarnia Pacers for the first time, it became evident that the other centers in the region have had a little more prep time at this level. The little guys squared off with the Pacers on the morning of May 14 at the Point Edward Arena, and met an opponent that was not only big in size and skill, but also numbers.
Suiting up only 10 runners and a goalie, the Warlocks trotted onto the floor against an opponent with 17 players of their own, not including the tender.
The inaugural Paperweight squad that morning consisted of Luke Montgomery, Jacob Guenette, Barry White, Leo Martinez, Logan Viale, Logan Senay, Boston Cole, Brody Brochu, Andrew Oldridge, Kolten Brochu, and Emma Mighton. As the weekend wore on, they were joined by Ryan Dralle, Ella Warren, and Pearce Johnstone.
Despite losing their first game 16-4, Kolten Brochu was able to score the first goal in team history only minutes into play. Logan Viale added a pair of snipes and Luke Montgomery picked up a single marker.
Kolten’s younger brother Brody was in net for the young guns.
As the matches wore on, the numbers game became a real issue. The lacrosse arena is a big space for little feet and it soon became apparent that the seven extra bodies on the Sarnia bench would play a big part in the scores.
Kolten himself hopped in net for the second game, but the little guys in front of him quickly ran out of legs against the Pacers. Sarnia won this one 20-2, with Windsor’s scoring coming from Logan Senay and Luke Montgomery.
There were some sleepy children after the game as almost all parents reported that their pups, ranging from 4-6 years old, were asleep in their booster seats before they left the Sarnia city limits.
“They get to put on that Warlocks travel jersey, I think it’s a little different for [the kids], there is a pride part of it,” explained Kavanaugh that night after the Clippers game. “They are a Warlock now. It’s not like you are just in the house league. Regardless of the score in paperweight, I think at that age very few of them remember what’s the score 10 minutes after the game is over. It’s coach, players, and team; you’re in the dressing room as a team, not just all over the place like house league is. It is big just to understand what it means to play travel lacrosse.”
The next morning, the Warlocks were at it again, hosting the London Blue Devils at Forest Glade Arena.
This time around, young Emma Mighton donned the goal gear for the Warlocks. Windsor was out-shot badly, which was a common theme all weekend, but with each game the team grew stronger on defence.
Emma made a lot of decent saves but, unlike the two previous games, the shots were coming from further out as her defenders learned how to better pressure the ball carrier.
The Warlocks still lost 10-1, most coming late as the numbers game began to effect energy levels. Their lone goal came from Kolten Brochu, but the team seemed to be building confidence on the floor.
The afternoon’s game made for a much more entertaining affair. Windsor kept up with the Blue Devils and were only down by a goal midway through.
Leo Martinez put on a show in goal, jumping like he was on a Pogo-stick before, during, and after every shot. The extra motion may have been off-putting to the London shooters, who could not seem to hit the net with the same efficiency as in the earlier game.
The Warlocks defence was much stingier and the game was a tight checking affair with Kolten Brochu and Luke Montgomery constantly throwing hard hits on their competitors. Boston Cole and Logan Viale bent the mesh for Windsor and, until a late flurry from London, kept within striking distance.
The final score was 6-2.
“[We’re] trying to let them enjoy the game with a little more structure against other travel teams,” said coach Lloyd Land after the game. “[There is] nothing better than a road trip and to hang around an arena with your teammates that quickly become friends. This is the main goal in paperweight, to allow them to love the game and all that comes with it. These players will have gained skill and friendships leading into playing tyke.”
The coach was happy with how his kids came along.
“[The] weekend went great,” he said, while adding an old adage. “Winning isn’t everything, but trying to is. These little Warlocks gave everything they had and had a smile on their face and on [the faces of] every single person in the arena lucky enough to watch this team. I was very proud of them.”
Coach Land, whose daughter Jaime is the captain of the Intermediate Girls’ and a Team Ontario alumni, and niece Megan is one of the Intermediate goalies as well, doubles as the Ladies’ coach for the 17-21 age group.
The 14-player Paperweight roster, which dressed for the weekend, included two girls.
“The younger [girls] can start, the better,” Land said. “This will help grow the numbers. Most sports now-a-days, girls play alongside boys. Lacrosse is great because, when they do split, [there is] no rule changes. I know from the girls I coach [that] this is what they like about it. They are not treated different and the game is the exact same. The goal is to have girls divisions all the way up.”
The Paperweights hosted the Wallaceburg Griffins on May 21, but will visit the Wallaceburg Memorial Arena for a return affair on June 5. The next action in Windsor will be the home finale on June 12 when the Warlocks host Sarnia for a doubleheader.