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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
The lacrosse transition of Felix Cote
by Randy Pascal

The next six to twelve months are sure to offer a period of transition for Félix Coté, but that's probably only appropriate, given that it is his "transition game" that has accounted for much of the change he is about to experience.

A Sudbury native, Coté has been a familiar face, throughout his youth, both on local "AAA" hockey teams, and in many of the same arenas in the summer, perfecting his game of lacrosse.

Four years ago, as a peewee, Coté broke through, cracking the Team Ontario roster for the first time. This summer provided the third opportunity for the 16 year old to don the provincial colours, one that would open the door to an even more enticing possibility.

Recently named to the U17 Team Canada roster that will compete at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Syracuse (New York) in September, Coté looked back on the gradual progression that would take him to this point.

"Four years ago, I was not nearly as confident playing for Team Ontario as I was this year," said Coté. "It kind of surprised everyone that I made the team that year. When I was playing with those guys, it kind of felt like I didn't belong there."

"The first time I made it, even the second time, I think I was just looking to get rid of the ball, to play off the ball," he added. "This time, once I had the ball, I was making plays. If you feel confident in lacrosse, you feel like a whole different player."

In a sense, Coté is a "different" player. While many of those who take to the floor at his level specialize within the offensive or defensive components of their game, the well-spoken northern Ontario lad brings a little mix of everything, a "transition player", if you will.

"In lacrosse, there's kind of like three different players - offense, defense and transition," explained Coté. "In transition, you play both. When you're playing transition, you get up the floor quickly. I had to play strong defense, and play on the offense once in a while, spend some time on the power play."

"Defense is first," he stated. "You have to be smart, you have to be fast. Offensively, you have to be able to score. If you're playing offense and you can't score, you're really no use, because it's all about scoring. For transition, you have to be a good all-around player."

It's a role that Coté embraced. With the eyes of the national team scouts upon he and his Team Ontario teammates as they cruised to a Canadian midget crown the week prior to the U17 tryouts, Coté was hardly intimidated, for very good reason.

"I didn't think I was going to make it (Team Canada) at all going in," acknowledged Coté. "I thought I was going for two days of lacrosse, maybe one, depending on when they make the cuts. But the tryouts started and I felt pretty good."

"At the end of the first day, no one from Team Ontario got cut," he said. "We were keeping up with everyone. The first day, I thought I played well. The second day, it was just scrimmages, and I didn't play well."

Thankfully, he had already carved out his niche. The versatility he had displayed throughout his time with Team Ontario had not gone unrecognized. "They (the coaches) said they liked my work ethic, and how I can play everywhere. They were taking me as a transition player."

If there was any doubt that lacrosse was to be his calling, it was all but erased. Coté had spent the 2014-2015 hockey season as a member of the Nickel City Minor Midget "AAA" Sons. Like the vast majority of the squad, he went undrafted when the OHL hosted their annual selection of talent in May.

But the pull of lacrosse was already there. "Every summer, when August came and tryouts for hockey started, I always wanted to just keep playing lacrosse," said Coté. "But then a couple of weeks in, I'm was all about the hockey. Then as soon as the hockey season was over, I couldn't wait to start lacrosse."

"I just think that there was something about lacrosse that I've always liked more. I'm not sure what it is." Thankfully, the pathways in his number one sport have created new non-hockey related dreams. This fall, Coté heads off to St Andrews College in Aurora.

While the private school boasts a very strong hockey program, it is the visibility that playing field lacrosse with the Saints that Coté hopes will propel him towards an NCAA scholarship. First, he must continue his transition, from a base of box lacrosse, towards the more open version of the game that is played at colleges south of the border.

"It's a totally different game," admitted Coté, who has spent time the past few summers with the Evolve Elite Field Lacrosse program in southern Ontario. "Box lacrosse is intense, fast, hard-hitting. Field is super slow, and it's all about stretgy, moving the ball around, "spinning" it," noted Coté.

"Field is all about getting a one on one, beating your man, and then making sure the ball moves faster than the defenders slide." Over the next few months, he will hone his game with the U19 Newmarket Redbirds, in anticipation of the spring season with St Andrews.

In between, Coté will suit up with the "JV" hockey team that represents his school. Make no mistake, however, that his focus remains on the workouts which target greater development in lacrosse.

The exposure of the upcoming Team Canada appearance in Syracuse won't hurt. More than anything, Coté is looking forward to catching the Open Men's World Championship final on the Sunday of the tournament, once play has already wrapped up in the U17 ranks.

Overnight, he will transition from player to fan. But when it comes right down to it, transitioning is what it's all about, at the moment, for Félix Coté.

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