Grow the Game®

Wes Berg Chris O'Dougherty Vancouver Stealth Calgary Roughnecks NLL 2016 Photo: Garrett James
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From Coquitlam to San Diego – How I Made It

Before the championships, before the professional contracts, and before the gold medal, there was Coquitlam.

Growing up, box lacrosse was lacrosse. Field was barely an option in Coquitlam, British Columbia, where I lived. Not until I was already leaving for college did the field game build any real presence in the area. Some schools had teams, but I’d almost consider them beer leagues. The competition was low, games were constantly cancelled for snow, and hockey was king, anyway.

As a kid, box was what I did. In 2010, I started playing for the Coquitlam Adanacs of the British Columbia Junior A Lacrosse League. At the time, if you were 16 like I was, if you played in any junior games, you had to play in as many intermediate contests to be eligible.

I played a lot of box that summer.

Consider the normal amount of lacrosse included in a summer season, then double it – that’s how much lax I was getting in.

There were times where I’d play in back-to-back games, first intermediate, then junior. I was playing lacrosse every day, often twice a day. I could barely keep any weight on because of all the running and sweating. I was exhausted.

But it took my skillset to the next level.

In junior, I was learning from guys years older than me and absorbing their knowledge and wisdom, then bringing it down to intermediate and testing out their advice with buddies my age. I was getting so many reps that specific skills, like catching in traffic, became second nature. Little details that would have been lost otherwise became clear.

It also gave me an early taste of winning. In my first year of junior, we won the Minto Cup – the first time Coquitlam had reached the mountain top – and we did it in Coquitlam. My friends, family and community were there to see my teammates and me celebrate a championship. It remains one of the coolest moments of my lacrosse life and taught me what it takes to get to the top.

I was also fortunate with who surrounded me. Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh, Robert Church – these are just a few of the names of people I met in Coquitlam who strongly shaped and guided me to where I am. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the incredible teammates and coaches I did growing up, and there’s no knowing what my outcome would have been in a different set of circumstances. For that, I am grateful.

Before going to Denver, I had little field experience at all. I was recruited off my box game. I didn’t learn how to truly play the field game until arriving at DU, which had a history of recruiting Canadians. That meant I had a bit of a network of fellow countrymen around me, and my coaches were accustomed to transforming box competitors into field stars. The way Bill Tierney, Matt Brown, and the rest of my coaches at Denver taught me the game and helped with my adjustment made my success – and the success of our program – on and off the field possible.

I’ve been a professional lacrosse player for five years now. In that time, I’ve played for two NLL franchises, won two MLL championships, featured for three PLL teams to double as the league’s suitcase, and traveled to Israel to represent my country on an international stage. But before all that, it started with the Coquitlam Adanacs, a Minto Cup, and a dream.