While many Upper Canada College boys may head south to lay on a beach or north to hit the ski slopes during March Break, Grade 12 student Kyung Phil Ko will return to his Korean homeland to play for the nation’s U17 lacrosse team in games against Japan.
“Lacrosse in Korea is still a growing sport,” says Ko. “It lacks a lot of resources and the level of talent is thin compared to Canada.
“However, there has been an increasing number of Korean students learning to play lacrosse in their high school clubs. Also, there have been stronger pushes to grow the sport domestically by setting up more camps and bigger leagues.”
Ko first encountered lacrosse in Korea when he was in Grade 5 and started playing it informally when he moved to Canada to attend UCC in 2013. He joined the varsity team as a goaltender the next year and has worked hard to sharpen his skills since then.
With his parents’ support, Ko flew to Florida during last year’s March break to attend Bill Pilat’s The Goalie School. He took part in a showcase event in Maryland last fall and also played for the Toronto Beaches U19 club team.
“He has worked tirelessly at his game and he has steadily improved,” says varsity lacrosse coach Max Perren. “He was the varsity team’s starting goalie last year. He will be a captain of the team this year.”
While Ko has developed as a lacrosse goalie, he says being a boarding student at UCC has also helped him “gain independence and a world view.” The Seaton’s House member has built camaraderie with other students and become a prefect.
“The intimate feeling is what I think makes it different from other boarding schools,” Ko says of his UCC experience. “Forty-four brothers living with you, and 88 sharing the same backyard.”
Ko has also played soccer and hockey at UCC. He’s the clarinet section leader and soloist of the wind ensemble. He’s also on the executive team of the Environmental Club and is a member of the Science Club.
“Kyung Phil bleeds blue and can always be counted on to support his housemates when necessary,” says Gareth Evans, a health and physical education teacher and Seaton’s senior house adviser.
“Whether it be as a vital member of our house sports teams, providing younger students with extra help in their subjects, or providing entertainment during our family-style meals, Kyung Phil consistently demonstrates a selfless attitude and a sincere love for his housemates. Kyung Phil is passionate about the entire boarding community and, as a member of the student leadership team in boarding, has dedicated many hours to making student life on campus more comfortable for everyone.”
Ko hopes that playing for the Korean U17 team in the games against Japan later this month will be a stepping stone for him to join the senior national team in the summer. The Asian championships will be held in his hometown on Jeju Island, and it would be a thrill to represent his country there.
Ko still isn’t sure of his post-UCC plans, but they could include taking a gap year to both work and further hone his lacrosse skills. He eventually plans to pursue an interdisciplinary education at a university in Canada or the United States.
Perren believes that Ko is good enough to play goal for lacrosse teams in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association or at an American school in the National Collegiate Athletic Association after he graduates from UCC.