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Outside the box
Three Canadian-born Quinnipiac lacrosse players adjust to a different style of lacrosse
Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the United States. According to the United States Lacrosse Association, more than 750,000 athletes are playing stateside as the sport continues to boom with schools adding teams.
In Canada, meanwhile, the same sort of boom has taken place, just in different form.
Many Canadian lacrosse players prefer to play a lacrosse variant called “indoor lacrosse,” instead of traditional field lacrosse.
In indoor lacrosse, sometimes known as “box lacrosse,” teams are only allowed to have six players on the field. as opposed to the traditional 11 in field lacrosse. The game also takes place in a court the size of a hockey rink.
For Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse players Ryan Keenan, Adam Bellamy and Riley Palmer, indoor lacrosse comes more natural than the type of lacrosse they play at Quinnipiac.
All three Canadian-born players started playing box lacrosse before they were 7 years old, and had to undergo certain adjustments to the United State’s version of the game.
Keenan explained his increased comfort in playing indoors as opposed to on a field.
“Growing up in Canada, indoor [lacrosse] is what we do better because it is what we have done longer, and it honestly just comes more naturally,” he said.
Keenan’s father is a former player and current head coach and general manager for the Edmonton Rush in the National Lacrosse League. The attackman admits that he is still adjusting to U.S. lacrosse.
“I am still learning how to play field [lacrosse] even now as a junior,” Keenan said. “We are normally taught to play in tight during box, so learning the spacings in field lacrosse is an adjustment.”
Bellamy, a freshman defender, played his junior indoor lacrosse as an attackman for St. Catharines Athletics. He attributes much of what he learned playing indoor lacrosse for where he is as a lacrosse player today, and says that playing box lacrosse provided some major advantages to his current game.
“It is definitely easier to switch to the bigger field, after playing a season of box [lacrosse],” Bellamy said. “The nets in field are a lot bigger than the ones used in box, so it is easier for you to pick your spots as a shooter. Also in box, the surface area is smaller and makes you have to play shiftier, so having the extra room to work in field is nice.”
Keenan added that there are many positive things that come from the transition.
“I think being able to play in tight spaces, which you learn playing box, helps you learn how to catch and finish in tighter spaces,” Keenan said. “That definitely helps you get recruited. Shooting on the smaller nets also makes it pretty exciting to go back to the bigger ones in spring.”
Palmer, a freshman midfielder, played his junior lacrosse alongside Keenan for the Whitby Warriors. He believes the experiences playing indoor helps give him a mental edge.
“We gain a mindset that the Americans don’t because most of us have been playing box since we were 5 or 6 years old,” Palmer explained. “[Box lacrosse] is just a little bit of a faster game, and growing up with it helps us gain some extra mental quickness.”
For Keenan and Palmer, their time with Whitby also represents a high point in their young lacrosse careers.
The Warriors won the Minto Cup in 2011, a 114-year-old junior lacrosse tournament in Canada. Keenan played during that season with future professional lacrosse players Mark Matthews and Zach Palmer, who is Riley’s older brother.
Then, in 2013, the younger Palmer joined Keenan and the Warriors, who went back to the Minto finals.
“That was without a doubt the highlight of my lacrosse career so far,” Keenan said with a smile on his face. “I am looking forward to going back with him this summer, and hopefully coming back with another cup.”