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Troy Cordingley Ready to Lead Canadian Women to Gold at Worlds

This year, women will play at the World Lacrosse Box Championships for the first time. There will be many recognizable names from the women’s lacrosse community in Utica for the tournament to be held September 20-29. There will also be some names you know from the National Lacrosse League.

Perhaps the most prominent is Troy Cordingley. The two-time winner of the Les Bartley Award as the NLL’s Head Coach of the Year and current offensive assistant with the Calgary Roughnecks is the head coach for Canada’s inaugural entry at the Worlds.

Cordingley and his staff held initial tryout camps in late December at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville and early January at the Langley Events Centre. A total of 213 women registered for the camps, 48 of whom will be split into Canada Red and Canada White for scrimmages this weekend at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Six Nations, which will be a round robin with the Haudenosaunee and Ireland.

The talent and passion at the initial camps was impressive. The quality of the players who made it to the final 48 is breathtaking. The final team of 23 players that arises from that group is sure to be the gold medal favourite in Utica, and Cordingley is thrilled to be part of the whole process.

Cordingley had coached both of his daughters when they played on boys teams at young ages and wanted to be part of it when they got chances to play with other girls.

Troy Cordingley does an interview while at the Langley camp

“I just wanted to be involved and I applied for Team Ontario,” Cordingley says. “I coached a couple years there and I was lucky enough to be the coach at the Canada Summer Games and I just thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It was a different pace for me, a different challenge. It was nothing but positives. Being on the boys side of things for the majority of my playing and coaching career, I had overlooked how much the girls weren’t recognized or given chances and opportunities like the guys were, so I wanted to change that.”

Canadian lacrosse legend Dana Dobbie recognizes the draw that having daughters in the game had for Cordingley and is glad that he came on board.

“I think a big part of it, when you have daughters or you have a sister, you understand the importance of having a voice for the women’s side, being an ally, promoting it, getting behind it,” says Dobbie, who is from Fergus, Ontario. “And that’s what Troy has done from the very beginning [with] his daughters, he’s been pro women’s sports. That’s really what it takes.

“We’re just really thankful that Troy sees the future of Lacrosse Canada women’s box lacrosse and put his name in there, with that resume, and say these girls have got it just like the men and I want to be the one to take them all the way to that gold medal.”

Given that Dobbie will turn 40 the day after the box Worlds end in Utica and has been a coach at Loyola University for a decade and a half, some people thought she might have been a candidate to coach the team. Dobbie, who is among the 48 players selected for the final camps, says it was not a difficult decision.

“No, honestly the way women’s lacrosse has been progressing, I feel like it is at its most exciting peak that we’ve ever been,” Dobbie emphasizes. “Obviously, I’m on the older side of the sport, but I feel like the way I started to play lacrosse, the first time I fell in love with it, that’s what women’s lacrosse is turning into now.

“So being a part of that evolution and getting to see our ability to be creative and show our skill and physicality and aggressiveness, this isn’t a time to put down the stick, this is the time to put on the jersey, and every day that I’m able to play I’m just very grateful and appreciative of the opportunity. I’m just having so much fun.”

Dobbie is renowned in women’s lacrosse for the creativity of her game, which hasn’t always been appreciated.

“Yeah, it’s so funny because when I first started playing women’s field, I was getting yellow cards for behind the backs and around the worlds and I look back at that now and it’s so funny… everyone is growing up watching that on Instagram or on ESPN,” she says.

Dobbie is a role model for legions of female lacrosse players. Partway through the tryout camp in Oakville, Dobbie threw an underhand flip pass, the first of the weekend. Within the next couple of scrimmages, four or five other women emulated that pass. While she doesn’t take herself too seriously, Dobbie does take that responsibility as being a role model seriously.

“It’s just so important for someone to show, you know, the boys have been doing it but so have the girls, and if you give us that spotlight, give us that platform, we can inspire someone that looks like us, too,” Dobbie explains. “I don’t take that for granted. I love the creativity, I love throwing a little bit of flair, a little hot dogging out there.”

She gives a shout out to her second cousin, who plays for the NLL’s San Diego Seals, to conclude her thought: “I think, I’m a Dobbie, it’s probably in our blood, Dane does it better than all of us, but I’m chipping away to catch up.”

Megan Kinna, who, like Dobbie, has won multiple medals for Canada in field and sixes, attended the Langley tryout near her home town of Maple Ridge, BC. She appreciates Cordingley being involved and what he brings to the table.

Megan Kinna

“I just remember watching him with the Bandits and being in awe, he’s just such an exceptional coach,” Kinna says. “But having the opportunity to be coached by him, it’s just another level of knowledge and expertise and just intensity. I don’t think I’ve ever had a coach that intense before. That is something that I was really impressed with. It just got me absolutely fired up to play, I think, it was so fun to be under that. It’s an energy that kind of passes on to other people and I was really fired up being able to play for him. It was pretty cool.”

One thing that stood out to me at the Ontario based camp was that, even though it was the first national box team tryout camp for women ever held in Canada, nothing felt unusual. It just felt like a lacrosse camp.

“That’s actually weird,” Kinna replied when I mentioned that to her, “because I felt very similar. It didn’t feel out of the blue or not normal to be going on. It was like, oh yeah, this is what we deserve.”

But it is unusual, in fact unprecedented, for women to get this opportunity.

“Growing up, I played with the boys for the majority of my youth career. It was never an option for me to keep playing box lacrosse beyond juniors. You have to go the field route if you want to play in college or at Worlds. But box, that’s just it, you’re stopping there,” Kinna says.

Cordingley isn’t the only National Lacrosse Leaguer to be part of Canada’s group. Rochester Knighthawks’ goalie Riley Hutchcraft served as an evaluator to help the coaching staff with the assessment of the 30+ goalies who tried out for the team.

Riley Hutchcraft spreads the knowledge

Hutchcraft’s wife Haylee plays in Women’s Major Series Lacrosse in Ontario, and Riley helps in the league as a coach, a scorekeeper for games and however he can offer assistance.

“It’s good to see the women’s game grow so big in the last couple of years, just because it’s something that needs to happen,” Riley says. “The women’s sport needs to be just as popular as the men’s sport, in my opinion. In the last couple of years I’ve seen huge growth and it’s kind of rewarding to see that. Now that it’s in the Worlds I guess it’s something I take pride in. To have coached some of those girls and to see them have success in the camp is pretty rewarding.”

Growing the women’s game is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. For the game to grow domestically, there needs to be international growth so that women have somewhere to go beyond minor and local leagues. But for the international game to take off, there need to be thriving domestic programs in enough countries to drive the game’s evolution around the world.

“I think it’s just people buying in and growing the game the way it should be,” Hutchcraft points out. “Men’s programs all have these opportunities, so there should be the same resources for the women’s side as well. I think every program, if they can do it, should have funding to promote the women’s game. I think it’s only better for the game if you can promote growth of men’s and women’s at the same time.”

Ashley Bull is a veteran player and has been coaching for 10 years at the club level, for Team BC (where she coached against Cordingley and Team Ontario at the Canada Games) and for the last two years with Canada’s sixes program. Now she is among the 48 players still vying for a spot on the team for the Worlds.

“Ultimately, I do want to represent Canada but at the end of the day I’m proud that I went and I’m very proud of myself for how I performed. Now I just cross all my fingers, cross all my toes,” Bull concludes. “The fact that four-year-old me, with no future in box lacrosse… is now 29-year-old me at a Team Canada tryout for box lacrosse in 2024. It’s just surreal. I didn’t even realize I could have thoughts to dream a dream like that. I know a lot of people are saying it’s a dream come true. I didn’t even know I could start dreaming like that.”