When Kahnawake Survival School’s (KSS) field lacrosse head coach Kirby Joe Diabo sat down to the final game of the season on May 23 against Westwood High School, he knew the fate of the game was no longer in his hands.
“We had played the same team the week before, and they beat us. They had a taste of victory, momentum was on their side, and they came in pumped,” Diabo explained. “But all the preparation we had done over the past 12 weeks meant that the boys stayed calm. They showed discipline. It shows that all the hard work pays off in the end.”
When the final whistle blew, KSS had won 17-13, meaning that the team officially became 2022-2023 Greater Montreal Athletics Association (GMAA) sixes field lacrosse champions, in the juvenile boys D3 six vs. six division. The team was made up of boys from grades seven and eight.
“Our older boys on the team really pulled this squad together. It was good to see. We were calm and we knew what we were doing, we played with class,” Diabo said. “The other team got a little bit chippy in the championship game, so we used that. The mentality was awesome to see, especially because usually it’s the opposite way around.”
A particular standout in the game was Karonhiakehson Jacobs, who was team captain. Jacobs was awarded the most valuable player award for his performance and leadership throughout the season.
“He was a big part of our success,” Diabo noted.
The team has committed fully to their sport throughout the season, Diabo explained, but the boys have had to stay focused – Diabo firmly believes that academic wellness cannot be compromised for student athletes.
“I talked to them a lot, because academics are the most important, so we make sure that they’re getting in the study hall. For the kids that were having a bit of trouble, we made sure they got extra time to work on their stuff, and extra help,” he explained.
“The teachers, sports directors, everybody was in on helping these kids. I can’t say enough about these kids. They really came together as a group.” Diabo also credits the team’s success to their sportsmanship and their ability to lift one another up during difficult times.
“I’ve coached a really long time, and that’s one of the things I’ve really stressed forever. What helps is if we’re all close, and they do already all hang out together, so they’ve already got something there, you just kind of have to direct them a little bit,” he said. “The chemistry was there, even if some strayed away for a little bit, we managed to pull them back in and things are looking up for everybody.”
The biggest highlight of the season wasn’t the victory for Diabo, but rather the journey that got them there.
“The effort that these kids put into those 12 weeks prior to the season starting was pretty amazing. That was the biggest part for me. All the rest of the wins were just a bonus.”
Diabo rounds out the season proud of his team – and the team rounds out the season with gold medals around their necks, a reminder of what can be achieved with hard work and a healthy dose of teamwork.
“The boys worked really, really, really hard for this,” Diabo said. “They gave 100 percent.”