(WINDSOR, ON) – Avery Garant is your typical high-schooler. The 16 year-old Holy Names Catholic High School student hits the books hard and hangs out with her friends.
As a youth, she participated in school sports, as well as gymnastics, cheerleading, and learning survival skills in Scouts Canada.
She still competes in badminton in high school, but her ambition is lacrosse.
“When I was ten I really started to take a liking to lacrosse,” explained Garant. “I watched my brother [Andrew] play almost every night and had also heard stories of my Dad playing when I was really young – and I got to watch him and my brother do these things together because my Dad was my brother’s coach for years. It was that year that I started asking my parents if I could play.”
She didn’t get the start she wanted.
“It was a big no,” said Garant. “My parents didn’t want me playing with the boys and it was the same reason they had told my older sisters no when they asked to play. I asked to play every year at registration time and it was always the same answer.”
Women’s field lacrosse has been common in the Toronto-area for decades, but never caught fire west of London. However, in recent years, the Ontario Lacrosse Association and the Windsor Warlocks have begun to cater to women’s box lacrosse.
“I finally got to actually play the sport when my coach, Lloyd Land, started the all-girls team,” said Avery. “It was actually my brother who told me about it. I’ve been playing with the same group of girls for four years now.”
Despite the expansion of women’s field lacrosse in colleges and universities across North America, the box game has always been overtly physical and intimidating. To date, only two girls have every graduated to junior-level lacrosse – Windsor’s Katie Campbell and Wallaceburg’s Emily Van Damme – both goalies. It is not uncommon to see a smattering of girls throughout the minor lacrosse ranks, but girls often walk away from the sport at a young age due to the physical grind of male-dominated play and the shortage of female
compatriots to fraternize with.
“Lacrosse makes up a big part of my life,” said Avery. “I spend almost every day at my arena, whether it be for practice, timekeeping, or coaching my Peewee house league team. My favorite things [about lacrosse] would be meeting the new players that come and helping them learn something new and the bond that I can
make with my teammates and coaches. I love the difficulty that comes with the sport both physically and mentally. It takes a lot of mental strength and motivation to play lacrosse and I find that even though the game is mainly physical, our IQ plays a big role in how much we enjoy the game – which is probably why so many people enjoy playing – people love a challenge.”
This year, Avery has been selected by Team Ontario to represent her province at the Canadian Lacrosse Championships in Halifax.
“The Team Ontario experience for me was extremely nerve racking,” said Avery. “When I first went out two years ago, it was a completely different experience for me. I went to learn new techniques, observe different tactics, and experience the caliber that I had the potential to play at, but going into it this year, I was there to make the team.”
“She’s always had this desire to play Team Ontario,” said her father Barry Garant. “She was new the first time she went to the tryouts, she saw the level of play that she had to be at and she worked towards it and got there. She made the final cut this year, which is one of those achievements that’s pretty exciting.”
And make the team she did, becoming the third Warlock from the girls’ program to make the team in as many years – following Jaime Land and Reese Stewart.
“She’s definitely not going to beat you with her feet, but her IQ in lacrosse has really picked up over the last three or four years,” said Barry, who is also her Warlocks’ coach. “[She has] great stick-handling ability, especially in traffic, and she controls the offence really well. She sets really good picks and she rolls off
well, so her and her teammates work really well together – Tash Atherton and a few others.”
“Going into the tryouts with 30 other girls with the same goal as me, same skill level – some even higher – and same mindset was terrifying at times,” explained Avery. “You were constantly trying your hardest
just like everyone else, you were constantly watching the others – nervous that maybe you weren’t keeping up as well – just like everyone else.
But, despite all of that, being there was an amazing experience that I hope other female players can experience as well.”Four years with the Windsor Warlocks has helped mold her into an excellent lacrosse player and a responsible young adult.
“She is definitely one of those girls who is a leader that leads by excitement, leads by praise,” explained Barry. “Never, never gets down on the girls – always trying to pick them up. Even if something bad happens in the game, she’s always continually doing that”
“Being a part of the Warlocks … is amazing,” said Avery. “I love how tightly bound everyone is and how connected and supportive all the teams are to each other. Myself and quite a few Intermediate girl players coach a younger team and I know that some of the boys do as well. Also, a lot of the Warlock teams watch each other’s games and go to watch the [Windsor Clippers Junior B] games as well … My favorite aspect of being in the Warlocks Association is most definitely how intertwined we all are with each other.”
The Warlocks are a tightly knit community of 350 players and countless coaches and volunteers. The people involved with the Warlocks never seem to leave Forest Glade Arena and everyone seems to know everyone
on a first-name basis.
A good number of Avery’s favourite memories are framed by her time with the Warlocks.
“Some of my favorite experiences as a lacrosse player happened at tournaments,” said Garant. “By going away and temporarily living with the people on your team, on the same floor of a building, you really get know people. These tournaments are where I made most of my friends. Last year, both the Intermediate and Midget girl teams went to Ottawa for a tournament. I remember sitting in front of the parliament
building with the girls and watching the light show with them, and I know it wouldn’t have been the same if I had been there without them. All four of my years playing on these two teams could be classified as
favorite moments, because even the small things like laughing together at a practice that we can’t remember now, shaped our relationships with each other. Sure, there were lots of down points that I can guess we would like to forget and definitely aren’t my favorite moments, I know that those times were important because we stuck through them together as one.”
With two years left in high school, Garant is starting to focus on where the future is leading her.
“Balancing my sports and my education is difficult, just as I believe it will always be,” stated Avery. “I plan and schedule and I still get jumbled and crunched for time in both sports and school, but it will always be that way. The part that makes it work is the fact that I try my hardest and completely dedicate myself to whatever I’m doing. In my family, school always comes first and I agree with that, probably because that has always been the way I’ve known it. Balancing lacrosse and school is getting easier over time but I believe that I do okay, because of the effort I put into my work and sports.”
Avery looks to her parents for guidance in her life, in sports – particularly her father.
“Not only is he a very intelligent and skilled lacrosse player, he also teaches me a lot of lessons on being a good leader and how to keep myself motivated,” said Avery. “My Dad taught me that you don’t have to be rude to be in charge, that you don’t have to yell at people to make them listen, but that you can instead encourage them and reward them. He taught me how to be the lacrosse player I am today and he still works hard on making sure that I never slack and he reminds me that while we both know I am a good player, that there is a lot I still need to learn and practice, so I can’t ever get down on myself because it just makes it that much harder to see yourself at that final goal.”
Girls’ lacrosse is still a relatively new endeavour for the Warlocks organization, only in its fourth year. For her part, Avery would like to encourage other girls to give the sport a chance.
“Try it with an open mind,” advised Avery. “You will never know if you actually like the sport or not if you go in there with the mentality of ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’ll ace this, I don’t need help’. Come try it out and be willing to accept help and branch out of your comfort zone a bit. This sport is different from almost every other sport you may play and the people who you will play with know that because it was new for us too at a time. So, to all the new girls who would like to come out, you should, and it may not before you, but it may just be.”
The national championship is just around the corner.
“As a father, I’m extremely excited for her to have an opportunity to play for a national championship,” stated Barry. “It is so exciting and it’s one of those experiences she may never have again – and I hope she does.”
Avery and Team Ontario will soon be travelling to Halifax to compete in the national championship. The tournament will run from July 17-21.
For more information on the Windsor Warlocks lacrosse program, visit the Warlocks Lacrosse website.