On today’s episode of the Lax Goalie Rat Podcast, I’m joined by Ryan Spark, an Australian National Team goaltender who is gearing up for the World Lacrosse Championship later this summer in San Diego with the green and gold.
This will be Spark’s second time representing his country on the world stage, as he played for the Aussies in the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Netanya, Israel, helping his team finish fourth at the tournament.
Ryan got his start playing lacrosse after a friend convinced him to try the sport. He had no clue what lacrosse was but decided to give it a go. After playing in the field for a bit and feeling lost, his team offered him the chance to hop into the goal. He played great in that game, and shortly after, he was named the team’s goalie—a decision he wouldn’t regret.
Ryan learned the game from a former Australian goalie and U19 Team Australia coach, Gary Kennedy, who taught him the fundamentals of the position and passed down a bunch of old videotapes of games for Ryan to watch.
Spark remembers watching the 2002 NCAA finals between Syracuse and Princeton, where he watched Jay Pfeifer and Trevor Tierney battle it out. He was able to learn from watching both goalies and apply the techniques they used to his game.
Wanting to further chase his lacrosse dreams, Ryan traveled to the US to play high school lacrosse at Trinity-Pawling in Upstate New York. Having access to better coaching, Ryan’s game took a huge leap forward, while the level of competition and quality of players around him helped develop his skills.
Ryan then set his sights on representing his country. However, it wasn’t an easy process for Spark. In 2010, as a 20-year-old, Ryan just missed out on cracking the squad and was named an alternate in the final cuts. Leading up to the 2014 games, he suffered an ACL tear, causing him to miss the tournament as he focused on rehabbing his injury.
Knee issues would continue to plague Spark. In 2016, he had a partial tear of his ACL, and then in 2020, he tore his ACL again. Ryan talks about the rehab process and the mental impact of returning from an injury on him and his game.
In 2018, at the age of 31, Spark finally cracked the Aussie squad and played for the Aussie Sharks on the world stage. We discuss Ryan’s experience in Netanya on the show and what it was like facing the best shooters in the world during the games.
Now, in 2023, Ryan is just a few weeks away from representing his country again as he prepares to play for Team Australia in the 2024 World Lacrosse Championships.
I hope you enjoy this episode with Ryan Spark, where we discuss the growth of lacrosse in Australia, recovering from an injury, the World Championships, and much more!
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