OLA’s new box lacrosse plan gives hope for a return this season

ONTARIO — The Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) recently publicized new game formats to accommodate the ongoing pandemic, with changes listed under the Return to Activity Plan (RTAP).

By this time each year, lacrosse arenas across the province are usually hosting try-outs for teams, but this year, the RTAP guide will shape a new return to arenas.

Box lacrosse games are set to not exceed 46 minutes total and consist of two equal halves with a half time break and no change of ends, while contact between players remains prohibited by the Emergency Order of Ontario. The RTAP reflects that box lacrosse will become a stick check game only due to the Covid restrictions.

Ontario Women’s Box Lacrosse League Commissioner Sue Finnen said that the new restrictions, especially those towards negating body contact, are a positive signal for players eager to return to playing. But for those that can’t do without, Finnen said that it will be understandable if sign ups are lower than previous years.

“I think there will always be some players that love the contact of the box game,” said Finnen. “And that’s what draws them to the box game. So to have that element removed, yes, I do think we will have some players who elect not to play.”

“I know that we have number of players that really enjoy the stick-check game. We have clubs that have house leagues the are stick check, so I think there will be a number [of players] that will look at it and just want to get their stick back in their hands,” she said, adding that it is her hope that many do elect to come back.

Finnen explained that although the game format has changed to stick-check, being able to play with more control can develop different skills that aren’t exercised with full-contact games for players. This game format puts an emphasis on intercepting passes and careful control of checking and body placement.

She explained that the safe return to playing will be impacted by the specific local health units closest to the teams looking to play.

“Ultimately, we would love to get to a point where we can all be together for some kind of a provincial [tournament], which may or may not happen, but we can always hope,” she said.

As she noted that she is very hopeful of the return of players, she recognized that many of the women in the league are frontline workers including paramedics, firefighters and teachers.

“We are listening to our players, and our [OWBLL] players were the first ones to tell us in 2020 that they didn’t feel safe. We were one of the last leagues to cancel in the 2020 season because we were listening to our players. Ultimately, our players will guide what we do this year. That’s the only reason we’re here, is for them.”

The full RTAP was developed to help Lacrosse Organizations of all factions, not just box lacrosse, in their moves to return to the sport.

“As regions across Ontario begin to reintroduce sports, this guide builds upon the general requirements to create a safe environment to protect our sanctioned members at all levels and disciplines,” wrote Ontario Lacrosse Association President Marion Ladoucer.

Ladoucer included that all involved in lacrosse organizations, from players to administrators, will play a critical role in ensuring that the game continues to combat the transmission of Covid-19.

“It is imperative that the resumption of lacrosse activities must not compromise the health of individuals participating or the communities in which we operate. These uncertain times have necessitated specific measures to allow us to return to the sport we love, and it is important that they are followed for the benefit of everyone. The Ontario Lacrosse Association has worked diligently with its members and experts to prepare our participants in the safest possible manner,” wrote Ladoucer.

The full RTAP is available online in a PDF viewing format on the OLA’s website.

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