Five local youth lacrosse players are headed to Calgary to play Canada’s national summer sport—and no, it’s not ice hockey. It’s actually lacrosse (ice hockey is designated as Canada’s national winter sport). Brothers Luke and Jake Richey and brothers Nolan, Ben and Hudson Ledwith all earned spots to play for the Cali Lax All Stars in the prestigious Canada Day box lacrosse tournament from June 30 to July 2.
“I would say I’m really excited, but at the same time a little nervous,” Nolan said. “The Canadians are really good so I’m looking forward to seeing how aggressive they are and comparing myself to the best.”
Ben, 13, broke his tibia and fibula five weeks ago and won’t be able to play in the tournament, but he is traveling with his brothers to Calgary. Nolan and Luke are 13 years old and will play in the Bantam Division, while Jake and Hudson are 7 years old and will play in the Peewee Division. Ben and Nolan are incoming eighth graders at Martin Murphy, Luke is an incoming eighth grader at Charter School of Morgan Hill, while Hudson (Nordstrom Elementary) and Jake (Charter School) are both incoming second graders.
Brad Ledwith, who is the father of Ben, Nolan and Hudson and the founder of the South County Outlaws youth lacrosse program, said it’s an honor that the five boys all earned trips to play in Canada Day, which has been around for 43 years.
“The Cali Lax All Stars and a team from Denver are the only U.S. teams that were invited to play in this tournament,” he said. “In August this same Cali Lax team will play in the Box Lacrosse National Finals in Huntington Beach.”
Canada Day is an indoor lacrosse tournament, which differs from the outdoor game in a couple of different aspects, most notably the speed and precision of the game.
“Box lacrosse is faster and a more intense, tight space kind of game,” Brad said.
Nolan, who broke down his time spent playing the indoor to the outdoor game as 60 percent outdoors and 40 percent indoors, said the biggest adjustment has to do with stick equipment.
“The biggest adjustment with indoors is I have to play with a shorter stick, and you need a lot better stick work skills,” he said. “I’ll go from a longer pole to a short stick. … I heard the game in Canada is (officiated) looser, meaning they let a lot of debatable calls go. Whereas in California the refs are strict about pushes, so it’ll be interesting to see the difference. I like the physicality of the game, and I’m fired up and ready to go.”
Nolan said being a left-hander is a big plus in lacrosse.
“Our coach tells the lefties we’re the VIPs in lacrosse,” he said. “Since we want the stick to be toward the inside of the field and the lefties play the right side of the field, it makes it much easier to go to the right side when you’re left-handed. It changes the game.”
The indoor lacrosse game requires a player to move without the ball in an ultra-efficient way since space is relatively tight. That will help a player excel that much more once they get to the outdoor game. Brad said the kids have gotten experience playing indoors at the Silver Creek Sports Complex, which houses 10 indoor rinks. Shaydon Smith, who is the president of the Cali Lax All Stars, started the program in 2006, box lacrosse’s first foray on the West Coast. All told, nine teams from the program will be competing in different divisions in Canada Day.