KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City has proven itself to be a city that is a home for everybody.
Ethan Walker found that out quickly.
A professional lacrosse player for the Waterdogs of the Premier Lacrosse League, a touring professional outdoor league, Walker was sitting at home last year in Charleston, South Carolina when he got a call from his old high school teammate and KC native Wheaton Jackoboice‘s father.
He had a coaching opportunity for Walker at Homefield, an indoor training facility for athletes for a number of sports that was looking to expand its lacrosse program.
“The next day I got on a flight to Kansas City,” Walker said. “I toured the facilities of where I was going to be potentially working, and then I flew home the next day and then I called him up the, the day after I flew home and I said, ‘Yep, this is something I want to do.’
“It’s coaching lacrosse. It’s something that I’m passionate about, and it’s something that I think that I could excel in.”
The Peterborough, Ontario, native moved to Kansas City in September and is now the director of Homefield Lacrosse, which is also starting a club program called Building Champions, the same name as Homefield’s travel baseball academy.
Walker is one of a few players that play the sport professionally year-round in two different leagues.
The PLL operates in the summer from June to September. Walker also plays for the Albany FireWolves in the National Lacrosse League, an indoor lacrosse league with 15 teams throughout the U.S. and Canada that can run from December to as long as June. Walker has also spent time with the Canadian men’s national field lacrosse team.
Some pro players pick one league and have a full-time job, such as coaching. Some players, like Walker, play in both leagues and coach.
So what made a Canadian professional lacrosse player choose KC besides his job? Walker said the city is a hidden gem.
“I had never been to Missouri or Kansas before I flew out for that flight to view the facilities,” Walker said. “And in my head, I’m like, ‘Oh man, there’s gonna be farmland, there’s gonna be cows everywhere,'” Walker said.
“I mean, we’re in the middle of the country. And then I show up and I’m like, wow, it’s a giant city with half a million people in it. Like this is kind of a hidden gem that I don’t think a lot of people know about.
“And so, you know, I’ve enjoyed my time. It’s a great spot. There’s a lot of good athletes out there in the Kansas City area and now we know we would like a lot of them to convert to lacrosse, but obviously, you know, there’s a couple other sports that take priority over to that.
“I’m super excited with my decision to live down there.”
The 25-year-old is just one of many who have moved to Kansas City to grow the game in this area and in the Midwest as a whole.
“We already know how good lacrosse is on the East Coast, but it’s sort of this Midwest where you have a couple areas that have started to excel in lacrosse,” Walker said.
“But then when you think of Kansas City, I mean realistically you think of baseball, football, basketball, and if we can get lacrosse on the map, too, as one of those, Big Four, Big Five sports, then I think we will be in a really good position.”
Walker said his favorite KC experience so far is going to KC Current games to support his girlfriend, Current defender Jenna Winebrenner. He’s also already found his KC barbecue spots in Joe’s and Q39.
As he embarks on the next stage of his coaching career, he always keeps in mind his motivation: giving back to the game that helped him get where he is today.
“Lacrosse has given me so much in my life,” Walker said.
“I have been fortunate enough to play at the levels I have because of lacrosse and the sacrifices that my parents gave for me. Getting their weekends completely filled up by lacrosse from both me and my brother.
“I think it’s only fitting that I can give back to, you know, certain communities. And I think the lacrosse in Kansas City is growing and I think that I could potentially come in and continue to grow.”
The PLL is switching its format to have host cities for teams, and Kansas City is one of the areas that could have a team if voted on by fans.