Thomas on comeback trail
Erralyn Thomas has been a leader for youth on the Snuneymuxw reserve for several years, now she is being looked to as a leader for the Haudenosaunee women's lacrosse team as they prepare for their second world cup in 2013.
Thomas was part of the Haudenosaunee's first entry into the World Cup in 2009 but she also knows her spot is not guaranteed for the next team. So far she has made the short list of the top 27 first nations female lacrosse players from across the country, and later this week she will be reconvening with the team as they prepare for the North American Challenge in Oshawa, N.Y., July 13-15. The final roster will be selected in January.
Thomas, 26, has been one of the Island's top female lacrosse players for the last decade, playing mostly out of Duncan.
Thomas has played only sporadically since her senior year of lacrosse at Niagara Falls University in New York in 2009, thanks in part to a knee injury. She is now in her third year of law school at the University of British Columbia but she has learned just as much about herself as she focuses on her studies.
"It's definitely tough, it has caused some tears," she said. "Even though it breaks you down it builds you up in a way to where we can practice law independently and shift our brains to think that way."
In June 2011 Thomas was elected by the chiefs of B.C. to the position of B.C. Assembly of First Nations youth rep for three years to help lead the younger people of the Snuneymuxw first nation. It is with this goal in mind that she hopes to put her law degree to good use, focusing on business and criminal law.
Being a leader in lacrosse, however, is something she is just getting used to - but she has plenty of experience to draw on.
If she makes the final roster, she will be one of the few 2009 players on it.
She has always been a top offensive player - in her junior year of school in 2008 she led the Niagara Purple Eagles in scoring with 37 points (28, goals, nine assists) in 13 games.
She was primed for a big year in 2009, but tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her knee in their season opener when her cleat stuck in the turf.
What was most heartbreaking was this happened just months before the World Cup was to take place in the Czech Republic.
She defied the odds and was back playing two months after surgery - usually recovery is a six-month process.
"I wasn't going to give up the dream and miss the World Cup," said Thomas. "I made a choice and I did it."
But the experience of the injury left her emotionally scarred and questioning everything, including her beliefs. She still is not completely at peace with what happened.
"It took me a while to turn it around and say it was an accident," she said. "Everything in my life, in the way that I think - linearly - everything is certain. Something happens for a reason and I'm still figuring out that reason now and why it happened."
The most important thing, however, is she has learned a lot about herself from the injury.
"It's given me a new understanding of lacrosse and how I fit into it . . . (I am) for sure stronger," said Thomas.
Thomas is young by society's standards, but walking into the first training camp in early March, she suddenly felt old. Not only was she nowhere near where she wanted to be fitness wise - something she has since rectified - she found herself surrounded by a group of mostly 18 and 19 year olds.
But she also recognizes with this talented group of youngsters they stand the chance to improve over their 11th place finish in 2009 - they won the third tier Pool C but lost to Pool B champ Ireland.
"They're all dears, they're really young, all of the U-19s are coming up," said Thomas.
"The calibre is way better . . . and we're expected to move up to eighth or ninth . . . I think we might move into Pool B."
At the North America Challenge they will play the Canadian A and B Teams as well as the U.S. national team. It will be an opportunity for them to see where they are as a team where they have to improve on for the World Cup. It will also be the first time Thomas' father John Thomas will get to see her play internationally.
"It should be good, it means a lot to have family there," she said.
At the very least she is hoping to continue to set an example for the youth in the territory, that they can attain their dreams.