Red Deer’s Connor MacDougall is playing international lacrosse this summer for his ancestral homeland of Scotland.
After acing try-outs in Dundee, Scotland, and Prague, Czech Republic, MacDougall was selected as one of four “non-passport, heritage players ” to represent Scotland’s national team at the European Box Lacrosse Championships in Germany.
“The biggest challenge for me has been the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with playing so many games in a short period of time,” admitted MacDougall. But he also had to adapt to a subtly different style of play.
The Europeans have more of a “finesse approach,” he said, “whereas, back home it is a lot more physical… I have also found that the rules are called much stricter by the referees in Europe resulting in a much cleaner and safer game being played.”
Once MacDougall overcame jet leg and got used to an opposite sleep schedule, he began to really enjoy the experience.
“The team atmosphere that the Scottish men bring is unparalleled in any other group sport I’ve been a part of,” he said. “Right from my first day of training camp I already felt as though I had been (with) the Scottish lacrosse family for years. My teammates have been nothing but welcoming and I feel truly honoured to work with them on and off the floor.”
Scotland was one of 14 nations competing in the European indoor lacrosse tournament held in Hanover, Germany. MacDougall said all players had to have a heritage connection to the country they represent. He was on the Scottish team among three other Canadians — two from Ontario and one from British Colombia. “All other members… had Scottish passports.”
When the championships wrapped up on Saturday, the Scottish team had placed seventh of 14 teams. “It was a huge accomplishment for myself and the Scottish box program,” said MacDougall in an email from Europe.
The Red Deer native started playing with the Red Deer Chiefs minor Lacrosse program as a six-year-old. He later played junior with the Beaumont Junior B Outlaws and the St. Albert Junior A Miners.
“Back in 2019, I was put in contact with the management of the Scotland field lacrosse program who were looking for heritage players to possibly represent Scotland. I went over to Edinburgh for a training camp that November and was then approached by members of the Box organization who were interested in having me tryout for their team as well,” he recalled.
COVID put plans for competing for Scotland on hold as all international tournaments for 2020 were postponed.
But “after all the time waiting and training,” his dreams were finally realized this summer.
MacDougall credits “fantastic coaching” from his time with the Red Deer Chiefs for laying the foundation for his success.
“Patrick Vellner and Steven Kennedy are two coaches that stood out to me. Not only did they help develop my playing skills but they also taught me the importance of sportsmanship. I learned to take pride in how I represent the sport and to do so with respect for the referees, players, coaches and volunteers who help make the game happen,” he said.
This fall, MacDougall plans to return to the University of Lethbridge to finish his finance degree. “My goal is to finish school and then see where my lacrosse opportunities can take me,” he said.
“I hope that I will be able to represent the Scottish national team again in the future as I have had an amazing experience.”