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Dual-sport captain Connor Cole knows a thing or two about leadership and the Kinsmen Arena

colesWaterloo Chronicle   By Adam Jackson
Every fall and spring, Connor Cole has to switch stalls.
“I just have to get a different seat every time. It’s a long time to spend in one stall,” said Cole, who essentially lives in bowels of The Aud year-round.
Cole, a forward, is the captain of the K-W Braves Junior A lacrosse team and he’s also captain of the Junior B Kitchener Dutchmen hockey team.
Both teams use the exact same facilities at Kinsmen Arena inside The Aud — from the dressing room to the laundry room.
In total, Cole spends nine to ten months of the year in the arena, three to four nights a week for both the Dutchmen and Braves.
And while hockey and lacrosse may be very similar sports, the two teams couldn’t be any more different.
The Dutchmen, a perennial powerhouse in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) loop, are consistently a veteran squad made up of older junior players.
The Braves, which will enter the playoffs shortly, are a young team — and they recently got a whole lot younger.
The Braves traded away last-shot forward Chris Cloutier to the rival Six Nations Arrows in exchange for a pair of young prospects, along with cash and a draft pick.
So for Cole, who still has one full season of hockey and lacrosse left in his junior career, his job changes just a little.
“He’s a guy who leads by example and shows the guys what it means to compete,” said Chris Driscoll, the K-W Braves’ head coach, who is in his second year coaching the team.
Driscoll, who played 20 seasons in the National Lacrosse League with the Detroit Turbos, Rochester Knighthawks, Buffalo Bandits, New York Saints and Toronto Rock, played Junior A lacrosse while playing in the OHL, so he understands the type it takes to play both sports at such a high level at the same time.
“He’s really the example of the type of athlete who excels at that,” said Driscoll.
Cole agrees that being the captain of the Braves is a role that requires him to set a positive example over really getting into coaching the young players.
“These guys are all extremely talented,” said Cole. “It’s just about setting a good example for them. Some guys don’t bring the same game every night because they’re just learning.”
Admittedly quiet, Cole says he picks his spots when it comes to stepping in and giving direction.
“Hearing it from another player who has been here for a while — you seem to get more out of it than if it comes from a coach,” he said.
Cole, who was named captain of the Braves as a fourth-year player at the beginning of this season, said the title is a compliment.
“It’s humbling. Obviously people respect me and know what I bring to the table as a leader and as a player,” said Cole.
Greg Bignell, head coach of the Kitchener Dutchmen, named Cole captain at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season.
“Connor leads by example. Plays hard practices hard. Good example for our young guys. (He) has taken a leadership role last year and we are excited to see this year how he has developed into his leadership responsibilities,” said Bignell in an email.
The Braves will be up against a very familiar face in the first round of the playoffs.
Cloutier and the second-place Six Nations Arrows will face the Braves in the opening round of the playoffs. Initially in first place, the Arrows were penalized for using an illegal player — a move which cost the team four wins.
“We’re going to have to play perfect lacrosse to beat them,” said Driscoll.
While many players decide to specialize in either one sport or the other, the decision to stay with both was simple for Cole.
“I was still able to compete at a high level in both sports, so I didn’t see any reason to stop either one,” he said. “I just wanted to keep going with both of them to see where they could go.”
As soon as lacrosse ends — and at this point, it could be a little while until it does — Cole will embrace the little bit of time off that he gets before the Kitchener Dutchmen camp in August. That gives him about a month and a half off this summer.
The two seasons are so close together that there is a little bit of an overlap in the spring.
Through his career, Kinsmen Arena has been home to some special moments — a 25-game winning streak with the Dutchmen in his rookie year and some big wins with the Braves.
Starting next week, the Braves look to make more memories. For an updated playoff schedule, visit olajralacrosse.pointstreaksites.com.