By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The Oshawa Lady Blue Knights lacrosse program has graduated a handful of NCAA players.
Recently, the organization announced that five of its players had made commitments to play at the NCAA level in colleges and universities south of the border.
“Five at one time. That is the most we’ve had at one time,” Barb Boyes, founder of the Lady Blue Knights program told The Oshawa Express.
The five girls who signed their national letter of intent are MacKenzie Beam (University at Albany), Jacqueline MacLean (Canisius College in Buffalo), Kate MacDonnell (Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Ill.), Corinna Lyon (Loyola University) and Nicole Perroni (University of Louisville).
“It speaks volumes about the opportunities that our kids are taking advantage of,” Boyes says.
Boyes believes it will also help for the future of the program because it will show players the outcomes they can achieve.
“I do think for kids that are coming after them, it is motivating for them to see this kind of success,” she says.
A number of Blue Knights have previously played for NCAA teams, but Boyes says it is more prevalent now than when the program began in 2000.
And if that is something a player wants to pursue, it is a daunting task, as Boyes says it requires a great deal of research and “legwork.”
“The whole process is much more challenging. They are starting the process in Grade 8 and 9,” she says.
Boyes points out that playing at the NCAA level comes with expectations.
“[NCAA coaches aren’t] going easy on them. They’ve got to win. Down there, if they are not playing well, they’re not playing,” she adds.
But with that pressure comes the other side.
“The experience is phenomenal. This is as close to pro as you are going to get, and they treat you like a pro,” Boyes explains. “It’s a business. Hence, they treat you like a pro.”
Over the years, Boyes she has developed a rapport with coaches at several U.S. schools.
“I get emails from coaches all the time. I’ve coached a lot of showcase events over the years and through doing that I’ve made some strong connections. It’s important that they can trust you,” she says.
She explains she has tried to convey to players on the Blue Knight’s secondary-tier teams that they have a chance to go further when they leave the Oshawa system as well.
“There are opportunities. I’m sending [players] all the time, and I’d like to see them take those opportunities,” she says.
However, Boyes points out this isn’t the right choice for everyone.
“Every individual is different and they have to find the right fit,” she says.
And there more opportunities than ever.
Having players move onto higher prospects is a big part of the success of the program, but not the only one.
“I think there are a lot of pieces that are important to our program,” Boyes says. “I think it’s a standard for our young athletes to aspire to, but so it’s kids that are going onto play for national teams.”
Boyes believes the future will see even more chances such as those that Beam, McLean, McConnell, Lyon, and Perroni have discovered.
“The opportunity for girls in sport has grown significantly, and I believe the Lady Blue Knights have been a bit of a trendsetter,” she says.