Gail Cummings-Danson might not remember exactly how she got into lacrosse, but the lacrosse world is happy she did.

For her many years and contribution to the sport, she was recently featured on the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation show. Lacrosse legends series. It is a recognition that she accepted with characteristic humility.

Cummings-Danson moved to Huntsville with her family in 1975 when she was in Grade 3, attending Huntsville Public School first, then Huntsville High School.

Huntsville being a big lacrosse town – “That’s exactly what everyone did in Huntsville,” she recalls – she also started playing the game, probably because her brother got involved first.

There were no girls ‘teams at the time, so she played boys’ box lacrosse as the Huntsville Hawk. There was only one other girl in her novice team. Her first coach was Barry Webb, and Cummings-Danson says she was lucky to have a coach who wasn’t of a different mindset, who didn’t think girls should play football. It’s an attitude she encountered while playing hockey when she was on the travel team, also coached by Webb, but Ontario minor hockey officials told her she didn’t. was not allowed to play with the boys. A trial ensued.

“He gave me the introduction, the encouragement and the opportunity to be successful,” she says of Webb.

Cummings-Danson was a novice to midget level Hawk and had encouraging coaches throughout. “Lacrosse is so integrated into the culture of Huntsville itself that you knew you were going to have great coaches… I was fortunate enough to grow up in Huntsville and have the coaches that I had.

Its teams have won provincial championships at the novice, peewee, bantam and midget levels, as well as Canadian midget championships.

Her parents supported her love for the game, but her father was not thrilled when she expressed his desire to play junior lacrosse. To make sure she could continue playing the sport she loved, her father found out that there was a women’s field lacrosse program in Toronto, and her parents took her to town every weekend. summer for training.

Cummings-Danson entered the national team program at a young age, while still in high school — she was in the right place at the right time, she says — and played in three. world championships for Canada and later one for the United States. She also received a lacrosse scholarship to Temple University in Philadelphia, scoring an NCAA record 289 goals during her career there and winning an NCAA championship in 1988.

She was inducted into the Huntsville Sports Hall of Fame in 1990, the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1999 (her first female inductee), the US National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2008.

Despite all the recognition, she has always been a team player first and foremost, she says. “I’ve always seen myself that way. If you’re lucky enough to earn individual accolades along the way that’s great, but it’s a question of whether or not you win as a team and I’m going back to my youth playing box lacrosse, the Championship teams that I was there, just to be part of a team, the life lessons you learn… ”

She was not a great athlete, she insists. Rather, it is his work ethic that has allowed him to excel. “I never saw myself as a natural, but because of my parents, they instilled this work ethic in me. If you want to improve, you have to keep working, you have to put in the extra time and effort.

Cummings-Danson encourages everyone to try the sport, especially young women. “I think you’re going to get hooked immediately, it’s so fantastic. And you can find your place in sports without having to be a great athlete. You can just be a great member of the team… I encourage girls not to be intimidated by what they perceive to be sport until they actually try it.

She also advises young athletes to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. It would have been easy for her or her parents to say that they didn’t want their weekends to be busy driving to Toronto to play lacrosse, or for her to decide that the transition from box lacrosse for the boys. at the field lacrosse for women was too difficult. “When it’s something you like, you try to take advantage of every opportunity. You never know when that next opportunity will present itself. One opportunity leads to another and you don’t know where you’re going to end up. Don’t be afraid to take these risks even if you don’t succeed at first… and don’t let anyone else tell you what your fate will be.

She retired as a player after the 1993 World Cup, and now, as athletic director of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, she strives to make sport fair and equitable for women and men, with the aim of bringing opportunities and resources to women. in sport to the same level as what is available to their male counterparts.

It’s a privilege to play a sport, especially at a higher level, she notes. “When you form a team, it’s a privilege, not a right… be grateful for the privilege given to you, because not everyone gets it. “

As for her Lacrosse Legends nod, Cummings-Danson says she is grateful that they are celebrating the many players, coaches and officials who have contributed to the game, and that they thought they would include it. She adds with a laugh that it also makes her feel old. “You have to be there a long time to be called a legend …”

And she hasn’t forgotten where it all began: in Huntsville. “I never forget my roots… I’ve always considered myself to be from Huntsville,” she says. “It was a great city to grow up as a kid.”

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