Up until three years ago, Sylvan Lake’s Walker Stevenson barely knew what a lacrosse ball was.
He took up the sport at the urging of friends and has been rising in the ranks ever since.
Stevenson was named captain of the Sylvan Lake Buccaneers in his first season in 2015 despite still trying to grasp the nuanced rules of the sport.
“My friends in Sylvan needed someone to play. They said you look like you’d be a good fit. They convinced me to play. I didn’t know how to catch or throw or anything. I’m really glad they convinced me to play,” said Stevenson, 16.
“I could practice in my backyard all I wanted but being a hockey player. I just wanted to catch the ball with my hand not my stick.”
And now next month Stevenson will represent the Calgary Jr. Roughnecks at a National Lacrosse League tournament in Oakville, Ont.
He made the team after a tryout in mid-June, an experience that he said was a huge learning opportunity but also nerve-racking.
“The tryouts were good,” he said. “They were well-coached and organized. It was fun, but I was very nervous.”
The fifth annual tournament puts peewee, bantam and midget age players against each other in a competitive environment designed to sharpen their skills and grow the game.
Stevenson said he thinks his biggest asset on the floor is his size and ability to run up and down the floor. He said that helps him be a better transition player and combined with his work ethic were a few of the major reasons he was named captain.
Last weekend as part of the Junior Roughnecks program, he was also honoured at a white hat ceremony the Calgary Fire Department last weekend.
“It was very cool. Very exciting,” he said.
When he heads to Ontario in August it will be the highest level of lacrosse competition that he has ever played.
Nerves are already high, but Stevenson said he is excited to learn from John Killbride, one of the top coaches in the sport.
“Hope to learn a little bit more about NCAA scholarships and schooling and where I can take lacrosse with my future,” he said.
“(Also) little tips about what I can or should be doing. What I’m doing wrong, anything to work on my game.”
Stevenson will focus on playing lacrosse and has given up playing hockey and basketball. He thinks that will give him the best chance to play junior next year and ultimately at college.
Next summer he will try out for Junior A lacrosse, but if he doesn’t make it he’ll hopes to play for the Red Deer Rampage in the Junior B ranks or the Renegades in Tier 2.
“I just want to get a college education because no matter how good you are you can’t play forever,” Stevenson said.