Coach and Airdrie Knights ready for new season
The 2011 season was a transition year for Gareth Barley. After playing the game for 25 years, Barley stepped behind the bench for his first season as head coach.
Barley played most of his minor league lacrosse in Calgary before playing two years with the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask. He then returned to Airdrie and played 12 years with the Knights before taking over as head coach.
“It was a change from playing,” Barley said.
“I initially didn’t like it. I don’t know if I was ready to start coaching last year, but towards the end of the year I found my niche and the team came together. It’s tough going from playing to coaching.”
The Knights went 8W-10L last season, but made it to the Alberta Lacrosse Association’s (ALA) Senior B provincials, losing to the St. Albert Sr. Miners 10-11. It was the team’s sixth silver medal in seven years. This season, Barley is hoping to push past second place and reach the top spot.
“Last year, we didn’t have a great season, but we came together in the playoffs and came together as a team,” he said.
“I think the coaching change factored into that. The guys had to listen to someone who was a teammate and now is coach. It’s a different mentality that way.
“We’ve got some goals set out this year and everybody seems to be focused on finishing the task and winning. It seems to be a common theme this year to finish what we started.”
While 2011 was Barley’s first year coaching lacrosse, his hockey coaching experience is extensive. He coached minor hockey for several years, including Bantam AA, Midget AA, Novice and PeeWee, before spending the past two years with the Airdrie Thunder Junior B club.
Many consider lacrosse to be hockey’s summer counterpart and while Barley acknowledges there are similarities between the two sports, coaching each has its differences, especially when it’s different age groups.
“You prepare your roster the same way and you practise the same way,” he said.
“With coaching the Knights, we have two or three guys who have played in the States on scholarship, so the preparation is way different than coaching kids who are just reaching the junior level.
“These guys have been there, so they know what it’s like to play at a high level. They’re more focused. When you’re coaching junior, it’s about getting the best out of them. With senior, it’s about keeping them motivated.”
The Knights recently finished the pre-season and have whittled its roster down to 25 players in time for their season opener May 5 against the Spruce Grove Slash. The team will play its home opener May 11 against the Okotoks Sr. Raiders at the Pete Knight Arena in Crossfield.
The rest of the team’s home games will then shift to Airdrie June 16 when they host the Calgary Sr. Mounties at the Plainsmen Arena. It has been four years since the team last played in Airdrie.
“It feels like we have two home openers,” said Barley. “We’re trying to make sure we get the fan base back and get involved in the community early. The guys are getting excited (for the start of the season) and for the opener in June.”