Ray Barkwill earned 56 caps and represented Canada in the rugby World Cup but has now taken his sporting background in another direction as director of the Royal Bay Secondary girls’ lacrosse academy.
The Ravens won a significant tournament last week in Sisters, Oregon, going 5-0 against powerhouse U.S. high school teams with players heading off to NCAA Div. 1 scholarships.
“We went in with no expectations. All I said was give me your best effort,” said Barkwill.
He said the pivot to girls’ lacrosse was also motivated by another issue. Barkwill’s wife, Laura Russell, has represented Canada in the women’s rugby World Cup and he wants to help lift female sports.
“As a rugby player coming up, I was sick and tired of seeing girls’ sports get half-assed treatment and not the same shake,” he said.
So he is making an impact in that regard in a sport in which he never played.
“I grew up in Ontario in Niagara Falls and went to college in Peterborough, so practically everybody I knew played lacrosse, except me,” said Barkwill.
Not that he didn’t do well in his chosen sport as an undersized but tenacious and gritty hooker internationally for Canada and also at the pro club level in Australia and Major League Rugby.
“We are trying to grow the girls’ lacrosse program and create a high-performance environment, mentally and physically,” said Barkwill, 43, who joined the Royal Bay staff in 2020 and teaches a variety of courses
Sports academies have become a feature of secondary schools and Royal Bay’s girls’ lacrosse academy will pair with Lucas MacNeil’s Ravens boys’ lacrosse academy, which has sent several players on to NCAA programs.
“We have a good group of girls,” said Barkwill, as he looks to match the Ravens boys’ record of success.
“But you can’t come in red hot. You have to be patient and grow it.”
The rewards could be significant for the current group of high-school players with lacrosse on the rise, to the point where it is one of nine sports on the shortlist for the final group of sports to be selected for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics along with baseball/softball, cricket, flag football, squash, kickboxing, karate, breakdancing and motorsports. The decision will be made this fall.
HIGH SCHOOL NOTES: The Claremont Spartans defeated the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags 19-17 in the girls’ Island rugby sevens final in Nanaimo to repeat as champions. The top-four teams, including third- and fourth-place Esquimalt and Oak Bay, advanced to the B.C. championships this month in Abbotsford … Spectrum won the junior girls’ Island soccer championship tournament hosted by SMUS.