Canadians training for lacrosse championship

Geoff Snider is aiming for a spot on Canada's Senior Men's Field Team representing their province and country at the Men's World Lacrosse Championships. (Geoff Robins/CP)

While the world counts down the days to Sochi and Olympians are in their prime training days with eyeing on a podium position, Canadian lacrosse players are working toward another goal, their eyes set on a roster-position to represent their country.

Hockey gets the fame and glory as our country’s winter sport, the pride and joy of so many, but our other national sport, lacrosse, has athletes preparing year round for a chance to give their all this summer, with the intention of proving why the game is rooted so deeply in our country’s history.

Geoff and Bob Snider, born and raised Calgarians, are two players aiming for a spot on Canada’s Senior Men’s Field Team representing their province and country at the Men’s World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado, July 10-19, 2014.

They’re well known in the lacrosse community; together they own, operate, coach, and mentor lacrosse hopefuls, giving them an opportunity to travel and play elite teams around North America with their company Elev8 Lacrosse, Geoff is going into his eighth season as a fan favourite and notorious tough guy with the Calgary Roughnecks National Lacrosse League franchise, and Bob is a face-off master playing for the now Vancouver Stealth, formerly of Washington, also in the NLL.

While the Snider brothers are just two names that could appear on the 31-man national team roster from Alberta, the list of team hopefuls is packed lineup of the who’s who in Canadian lacrosse with international experience.

“There are so many good players,” says Geoff Snider. “Kevin Crowley is one of the top guys, the MLL MVP, he was one of the top players in the National Lacrosse League. You’ve got guys like Brodie Merrill, an incredible leader and arguably one of the best players in the world. Wes Berg is a nice fresh young talent, as is Mark Matthews, and I’m leaving out John Grant Jr., I don’t know how I ever did that. You could run through the list that are elite level players both in the disciplines of field lacrosse and box lacrosse.”

Much like the Olympics, the Lacrosse Championship happens every four years and includes national teams from around the world from countries where the sport continues to grow, something Snider says is what needs to happen for lacrosse to become more recognized globally.

“This is the Olympics for lacrosse,” says Snider. “This Championship takes place every four years and this will be the biggest event this championship has ever seen and the biggest stage for lacrosse in the history of the sport. It’s an amazing game, but in terms of its popularity and its involvement in the community, it’s still pretty young in all of the provinces in Canada. It needs to get more exposure on different levels and that ultimately starts with the players promoting the game in the appropriate manner.”

With just over six months until the tournament begins, Team Canada continues to train together, travelling and playing in friendly exhibition games. Canada will take on Team USA in the opening game, July 10, 2014 and will go on to face teams from Australia, England, and Germany, but the one team Snider says shouldn’t be taken lightly, is the Japanese national team, who will be tough competitors in the battle for the coveted World Champion title.

“We played the Japanese Men’s Elite team in Hawaii and I’ll tell you, they’ve come a long way in four years. They’re going to be really competitive,” says Snider. “The Japanese are good and they’re big and I know that sounds surprising. The last time we played them they were really small and running around and they’re hard to catch and harder to manage, but now they’re big and strong and physical and I think it’s a testament to what kind of athletes are now stepping up and playing the game.”

In addition to the long list of talented players available for the final cut, the coaching staff has their own claim to fame within lacrosse, each possessing the skill to coach a national team to a title and the ability to bring home the gold, led by head coach, Randy Mearns.

“Randy has been a party of the program for I couldn’t tell you how many years, the executive director of the Canadian Lacrosse Men’s National program is Dave Huntley. Dave is a Hall of Famer in Canada and the U.S. and was one of the first real players to travel down to the United States for lacrosse purposes, he went to John Hopkins University,” says Snider. “Our coaching staff, Randy Mearns, Taylor Ray the defensive co-ordinator, Matt Brown the offensive co-ordinator; it’s an unreal coaching staff. These guys have so much experience.”

There are far more talented lacrosse players in Canada than the mere 31 that will be named for this national team. In total 97 players submitted tryout applications which were all considered, but Snider says this team went through a refining process before the selection for the training camp roster.

“They essentially hand-selected 50 plus guys for the tryouts and they’re widdling it down to 31 based on those players. Every player you see on this roster has NCAA field lacrosse experience, whereas four years ago at the last World Championship, you couldn’t say the same thing about Men’s Team Canada,” says Snider.

This is Snider’s third training camp as a member of Team Canada ahead of the championship with the potential to return as the go-to faceoff man for our country. He was the 2006 tournament MVP and he’s looking forward to the experience he’ll share with his younger brother, but most importantly, with the country he calls home.

“I think to be able to represent Canada and wear a maple leaf, I think you truly do feel like you’re representing the whole as a nation and it’s such an honour to put that jersey on.”

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