Jason Rudge began coaching lacrosse when he was 17 years old. This weekend he’ll make his national debut as an assistant coach when the Canadian National Men’s Field team heads to the Fall Classic south of the border.
Rudge hopes to help steer the team to a win against the US in the annual two-day event at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Baltimore, MD. The Canadian Men’s National Field team will play against the US Men’s National Team, and the 2021 NCAA Champions UVA Men’s Lacrosse.
The exhibition tournament is an opportunity for Canada’s coaches to “bring in some young possible national team members as they look to scout for the Worlds in 2023,” notes Rudge.
This year, the national team decided to bring in two assistant coaches who develop youth lacrosse in Canada to work alongside the national team coaches. Rudge is representing Eastern Canada, while Chris McKay is representing the West.
Rudge has long been a supportive force for youth lacrosse, and his accolades right up to the provincial level are many, but for him it’s all about giving back to the sport.
He played in St. Catharines as a youth, and continued into his 30s on a senior team out of Niagara. He began his coaching career when he was just 17.
“I had great mentors in St. Catharines and just always wanted to give back to the game that gave so much to me. And then I just became very passionate about it and have continued to coach since then,” he says.
He’s been heavily involved in lacrosse with the Huntsville District Minor Lacrosse Association for the past eight years, working to introduce the field lacrosse game to a town that was big on box lacrosse thanks to local greats like Jack Bionda. He also introduced the women’s game in Huntsville and is always around to help athletes and coaches progress in the sport.
Five years ago, he decided it was time to step up his coaching to a more competitive level, and was “lucky enough to join the Team Ontario program” as assistant coach. He is now head coach of the U16 provincial men’s team, as well as for Nipissing University men’s lacrosse. He continues to promote the sport locally through the Huntsville Hawks league.
Rudge notes that lacrosse team players tend to make friends for life. It’s also a “great sport to improve hand-eye coordination, athleticism, and it is Canada’s national summer sport,” he says. “But also for hockey players, it’s great cross-training in the summer.” Many famous NHLers like John Tavares and Wayne Gretzky used to play lacrosse, he adds.
The Huntsville Hawks organization usually runs a try-lacrosse program in the winter. “That’s a great way for younger lacrosse players to try the sport without the big commitment of joining a league.” (Visit hawkslacrosse.ca for more information.)
As for this weekend, “we’re hoping to obviously beat Team USA,” Rudge says, “but also see how these young athletes can represent the country in hopes for them to possibly be part of that World team in 2023.”
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