Reflecting on his first five games at the helm of the Valley Rebels, Ted Downey doesn’t mince words.
“They’ve been a team by name (in years past), but not generally, at times, on the floor,” said Downey, the new head coach of the local senior B box lacrosse squad.
“Sometimes that’s what you’ll find in older team sports. Guys have their agendas, what they think they’re good at. But I think that’s the coach’s job – to define roles and get guys playing in them.”
If the early returns are any indication, Downey’s message is getting through.
The Rebels dropped two of their first three games of the West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association (WCSLA) campaign, but fashioned a pair of impressive victories last week.
On Thursday, the Abbotsford squad knocked off the first-place Ladner Pioneers 13-12 in overtime on the road. Ryan Gladiak, a junior A call-up from Langley, played the hero – he scored with just over four minutes left in regulation to tie it, then potted the game-winner 27 seconds into OT. Curt Callard (three goals, one assist), Brian Poole (two goals, four assists) and Sean Kelly (two goals, two assists) also had productive performances in the win.
The Rebels rode that momentum to a 10-8 victory over the Nanaimo Timbermen at MSA Arena on Friday, as Poole (four goals) and Geordie Wells (three goals) led the offence.
In the aftermath, Downey lauded his team’s “thoughtful play.”
“Guys are starting to control the ball a lot better than what they were earlier in the season, and just generally playing together,” he said. “It gives us a lot of momentum. I think it just shows them what they can do when they work together like that.”
Jim Nishiyama, an erstwhile Rebels player, coached the team last year, and said it was tough to find a balance between delivering hard truths to ex-teammates while also being their friend.
With Downey, there’s no such ambiguity. He’s a veteran WCSLA bench boss who piloted the Langley Knights to bronze at the Presidents Cup national championship tournament in 2004.
“These are 30-year-old guys who need a kick in the butt,” said Nishiyama, who is back playing with the Rebels this season. “He (Downey) wears the suit and he’s the boss.
“It’s been a good transition, I like it.”
The Rebels (3-2) are back in action on Friday, when they host the North Shore Indians (8 p.m., MSA Arena).