Newcomer SK lacrosse team nearly hits the podium in first NAIG
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | July 31, 2017
Darcy Ratt didn’t know what she was getting into when she decided to manage Saskatchewan’s 19U (19 and under) female box lacrosse team for the 2017 North American Indigenous Games.
“Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy things; I took 19 girls to Toronto,” said the Prince Albert mother.
Because she was the only female staff member for the team, Ratt also needed be a coach. She studied the game from November to June so she could be certified before the games in July. She was also dorm supervisor, medic and all-around team mom to the girls throughout the week.
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The girls needed the support. During their stay in Toronto, many of them injured their ankles or knees and some even needed an IV to combat dehydration because of the hot weather.
But creating a team in the first place was the real challenge. This was the first year that box lacrosse was open to females at NAIG. Known as “the medicine game,” the sport is traditionally played by men. Coach Tyson Fetch had a hard time finding players to fill the roster for Team Sask.
“What I was looking for was maybe some strong girls that could play defense, or some really fast girls that could maybe handle the ball a little bit and play offense. When selecting the team, I didn’t have a whole bunch of choice,” said coach Tyson Fetch.
The game was new to a lot of the players who made the team. Some had never picked up a stick before practices began in November.
Getting together to practice was also a challenge. The girls came from all over south-central Saskatchewan to practice in Davidson. Fetch estimates they had seven practices total. Their first practice as a full team happened a day before they played their first game at NAIG.
Despite all this, the team made it to the bronze-medal game at NAIG and, according to their coach, improved every game.
“We were playing against girls that had been playing their whole lives and so they played really well,” Fetch said, explaining that the game originated in Six Nations on the land where NAIG was held. Team Sask lost 3-10 to Eastern Door & the North.
The bronze-medal game was the last one for Fetch’s daughter, Olivia Fetch, who has played box lacrosse for seven years and at 18 is calling it quits. To end her career playing offense for Team Sask with her Dad as coach was emotional.
“He’s kind of been with me for the whole ride. It was sad, but to be at NAIG for (my) last team, I couldn’t have been happier to have that group of girls,” she said.
Darcy Ratt’s 15-year old daughter, Annakah Ratt, also played on the team. She started out by practicing with her brother and is now looking forward to playing in the next NAIG.
“I was not the best at the start, like no one is, but you’ve just to go have that determination to keep going,” said Ratt.
Both Ratt and Fetch said the biggest takeway from the games was how close their team became and how they supported each other. For Darcy Ratt, the hope is that those friendships will make a lasting impact.
“That’s the neat part about it is that that strength that they built as a team is now being distributed across the province and they’re going home and sharing that experience with the community members,” said Ratt, who’s notice some of the girls’ communities are holding lacrosse clinics.
Tyson Fetch said that getting more girls and women to play is the ultimate goal and that is was a humbling experience to travel with 20 women to NAIG.
“I would probably do it again even though it was so humid,” he laughed.