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Inclusion & safe play top of mind for Gloucester Lacrosse

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Gloucester Lacrosse Association

Like the world as a whole, the Gloucester Lacrosse Association has absorbed its share of COVID cross-checks, but bubbling in the background is the prospect of emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever.

Though the sticks and balls haven’t seen as much action as usual lately, the GLA has remained active in advancing sport inclusion initiatives, and ensuring that lacrosse activity can return safely.

The stay-at-home lockdown delayed the start of an indoor program out of the RA Centre’s Ray Kinsella Arena, but it did get going in late-February (players can still join in up to April 1 if space remains). The revised 10-week session (for $120) will now lead into the “regular” start to a summer season that certainly won’t be regular.

“We’re going to have to be incredibly mindful of, obviously, the public health guidelines,” indicates Operations Director Stephanie Pagan, noting the GLA will have dedicated COVID safety officers, and will offer flexible programming options (check for more details in mid-March).

The plan is to run May to August house league and competitive programs for boys and girls, though traditional travel to provincial competitive tournaments is not anticipated.

“We’re hoping come June or July that we might be able to have interlock play with other teams in our zone,” Pagan signals. “We’ll of course have to innovate quite a bit to adapt to the situation.”

The outlook is nonetheless miles ahead of the agonizing 2020 summer when all group activities had to be cancelled. Lacrosse did return with a fall program that put safety first, while allowing players to build skills, be active, and have fun.

During lockdown, the Ottawa Physiotherapy and Sport Clinic provided videos that included at-home exercises and stretching for GLA players to follow, and nutrition and concussion/injury management information.

“It’s been fantastic to have them as partners,” Pagan states. “They’ve given us some great guidance and knowledge with all their expertise.”

GLA commits to enhancing inclusive culture

Amid the global awakening on racism, the GLA formed a new committee charged with renewing its pledge to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion.

“We know that bullying and racism exists in sport, and certainly lacrosse isn’t exempt from that,” Pagan highlights, noting a first task for the committee will be to update the GLA’s code of conduct to specifically address racism and bullying.

“This is an area that is not going to change overnight, there’s a ton of work to be done,” she adds. “But what we’re saying is the GLA is going to commit to building inclusive policies and procedures, and to take a proactive approach.”

In the works is an OWN-IT campaign to promote the GLA pillars of dedication, respect, community, tradition, humility, and perseverance.

“Education from a very young age is going to be particularly important in order to instil the values for which we want GLA to be known,” Pagan underlines.

Upon announcing the committee, the GLA received an “outpouring” of interest from “individuals saying I want to help you with it, and I want to be a part of this,” Pagan recounts.

The committee of 12 includes representation from military, police, community housing and teaching, plus youth players and referees.

“Everyone’s wearing different kind of hats in terms of experiences that they’ve had,” Pagan notes. “Being open to the lived experiences of our membership is going to be very important and will help the committee identify what some next steps are.”

National summer sport can help rejuvenate community

The big-picture objective is indeed to make the next chapter in the GLA’s history of 50+ years the best one yet.

Pagan anticipates there will be a strong desire from youngsters who missed out on winter team sports to pick up a lacrosse stick for the first time this season.

“The hunger is definitely there, so it could actually bode really well for the growth of the game,” she explains. “We see it all the time: once kids try lacrosse, they’re hooked and they just fall in love with it. It’s really amazing to watch the friendships and bonds they develop, so we’re definitely all very keen to bring the community back together with our national summer sport.”

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