A local youth is shining some light on Wallaceburg Minor Lacrosse, after being selected to join an elite level field lacrosse program.
Wallaceburg’s Kaelen Smith, 11, was recruited last fall by the Evolve Elite Field Lacrosse Program, which is located out of Aurora, Ontario and consists of some of the top lacrosse players of all ages in the province.
Kaelen was successful in making the Under 13 team and is the only player from the Wallaceburg community to be selected.
While participating in the fall program, Kaelen traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Michigan. While in Milwaukee, he was the second-leading scorer in the entire Under 13 division.
Kaelen recently started the summer program with Evolve. He’ll be traveling to Jersey Shore, New Jersey, Long Island, New York, Ann Arbour, Michigan and Niagara Falls, Ontario with the team this summer.
He is also a member of the Wallaceburg Peewee Griffins box lacrosse team.
Kaelen said being a part of the Evolve program has been a great learning experience.
“The practice from when I started really paid off,” Kaelen told the Sydenham Current.
“It’s nice to see all of these (National Lacrosse League) coaches teaching you this stuff. You know they are right about it because they are NLL.”
Kaelen added: “They are teaching us different plays and teaching us our hand work and how to improve it. They are teaching us a lot of good stuff about where to keep our hands, what to do in certain situations. Teaching us conditioning, what to drink, what to eat and be healthy.”
Kaelen said he got involved with lacrosse after moving to Wallaceburg with his family from St. Catharines.
“I always use to play soccer in St. Catharines, then we moved to Wallaceburg and my Dad just asked me if I wanted to play lacrosse, because he played when he was younger. I said I would try it. I got a net and a rebounder and I just played in the backyard for the rest of the summer. Eventually I got most improved that year. The year after that, I got most valuable player. I always have my stick out. I love it.”
Kaelen said he hopes to one day become a professional lacrosse player.
“I want to get to the Junior Varsity team on Evolve, because most of those people are getting scholarships and great opportunities for Team Ontario for box lacrosse. I eventually want to get to the NLL.”
Big positive for Wallaceburg Lacrosse
Rory Smith, Kaelen’s dad and the president of the Wallaceburg Minor Lacrosse Association, said traditionally any of the focus on elite level programs for lacrosse has been concentrated around Whitby, Peterborough, Oshawa and the GTA.
“The bigger lacrosse centres,” Rory said.
“Between Peterborough and Whitby, you probably have well over 2,000 kids involved in lacrosse programs. So you have a lot of kids to pull from. There isn’t a lot of recognition or opportunity necessarily for kids in Southwestern Ontario. There is a few kids that get to play Team Ontario and things like that but there isn’t a lot of opportunity.”
Rory said it has been great for a centre with 200 kids registered to have one of their players join an elite level program.
“Not just for Wallaceburg Lacrosse but for the entire zone,” he said. “This Evolve program has two kids from Sarnia and then Kaelen. So three out of Southwestern Ontario is a pretty big deal.”
This added focus on Wallaceburg Lacrosse has created a big boost, Rory said.
“Our numbers have grown like crazy,” he said.
“The Red Devils program, the attendance is through the roof. We have got a lot of players that are asking to come play for the Red Devils. Where it use to be such a focus on that GTA area, Whitby, Peterborough and Oshawa, they are starting to realize that these small centres can produce just as good, if not better players that some of the these big centres can. I think a lot of that is a reflection of what the community does. We have got so many camps that we offer for free for these kids.”
Rory said the entire staff for Evolve consists of elite level lacrosse players.
“They have all played field lacrosse in college and universities and almost all of them have played or are currently playing in the NLL,” he said.
“So they are all elite level coaches and they know what to look for.”
Rory said Kaelen was spotted by one of the Evolve coaches after a provincial field lacrosse tournament last year, and was asked to come try out.
“We thought ‘let’s give this a try’ and he went to the first tryout,” he said.
“After the first tryout they sent us an email saying they were really impressed with him and they wanted him to join the club.”
Putting on his dad hat, Rory said he is proud to see his son doing well.
“I grew up around lacrosse and he hadn’t played until we moved down to Wallaceburg five years ago. He instantly just fell in love with it. He is that kid that is always walking around town with his stick in his hand, walking to the Sugar Shack, he never goes there without his lacrosse stick,” Rory said.
“He quickly fell in love with the game. It’s nice to see. He attends every single free camp that we offer. He attends every program he can get involved with. It’s nice to see that if you put in the effort, you work hard, good things will happen.”
Rory added: “It’s definitely a proud moment when you see your son is the number two scorer for a tournament that has got six of the top teams in North America playing in it. It is a pretty proud moment for sure.”
For more information about Evolve, click here.
For more information about Wallaceburg Lacrosse, click here.
– Photo credit: Aaron Hall