It was only last spring during exams when Zenon Sirko decided to pick up a lacrosse stick and learn Canada's national sport. Five months later, he's playing with Western's varsity team.
A single summer spent watching YouTube videos and tossing a ball against the wall in his backyard (almost breaking a couple windows) paid off. When Zenon showed up to the tryouts for the Western Mustangs men's lacrosse team, he had no problems making the squad.
"I’d play for a couple hours a weekend and then that was really it," he recounts. "Then I came up the day or two before practice, passed it around a bit and then pretty much played last week."
But Zenon caught the eyes of Western’s coaches early on this summer during an exhibition game that pitted Western against McMaster. Zenon made an appearance and ended up stopping one shot before allowing a goal on a breakaway.
His teammates and coaches were cheering for him in that game and have welcomed him onto the team with open arms.
“The coaches seemed pretty surprised in my first game against Mac and were pretty pumped about that, and everyone has been really receptive," he said. "I knew a bunch of the guys before so it wasn’t so intimidating going in."
Zenon is choosing to play goalie in part because his friends on the team told him that it's not the most popular position to play. Now, after a week of being peppered with shots, Sirko is feeling the after-effects.
"This past week both my thighs are totally purple, I don’t know if we’re supposed to wear any more padding, and my whole chest is pretty bruised," he says. "I even took a couple shots off the head but it’s kind of fun cause everyone gets fired up when you stop a shot."
Zenon is realistic about his expectations for the season. He doesn't expect a vast amount of playing time; he just wants to learn, practice and try to battle for the starting position in the future.
“It actually gives me more structure," he explains. "Before, it was like you had all this time, it was almost too much. So I’m looking forward to that and the season is done before first semester is over, so it’s not going to be too bad.”
Zenon's snagged a lucky spot: Western’s men's lacrosse team is one of Canada's best. While it doesn't compete in Ontario University Athletics, it does participate in the 14-team Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association, which is made up of schools in Ontario and Quebec.
While Zenon says he still has a lot to learn, he's relishing the opportunity of competing at the university level and continuing to perfect his game. At the rate he's learning, it should only be a matter of time before fans see Zenon dressing and appearing in regular season games.
“I’m still pretty new, so once I get the hang of it it'll be better. But our other goalies are really solid. They're looking really good, so I don’t want to jeopardize the team just yet."