Former Steamboat lacrosse player plays for Team France in World Championships | SteamboatToday.com

Former Steamboat lacrosse player plays for Team France in World Championships

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Kevin Bertrand didn't know how far lacrosse would take him when he stepped into his first practice in eighth grade, but now he's playing at the FIL World Lacrosse Cahmpoinship for Team France in Netanya, Israel.

Bertrand, 28, was born in France in 1989 and moved to Steamboat in 1995, so his dual citizenship made him eligible to represent his home country.

"I grew up watching the French soccer team and all that," Bertrand said via WhatsApp from Netanya. "You have the dream of representing your country and to have that become reality, it's surreal, you wake up and realize you're in a different country representing your home country."

But his career started on the fields in Steamboat Springs, where he would play all four years at Steamboat Springs High School, then continue his career at Metro State in Denver and Adams State in Alamosa, both division II collegiate programs.

Bertrand would also play for Team France in 2014 at the World Championships in Denver, when the team was still building is roster.

"We didn't do so well, won a couple, but a lot of French guys were new to the sport," Bertrand said. "They taught themselves on Youtube, still contended, lost a couple of close games. A lot of guys who are returning are North American of French decent to help out those guys who don't have that game IQ."

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This year was different; Team France expanded its horizons to recruit the best lacrosse players. Bertrand attended tryouts in France, Scotland and New York, enduring cuts from 50 to a 23-man roster.

Bertrand said this team is the best yet, winning its first game against Korea on Friday 10-6. He'd score three goals.

Beyond the winning and losing, Bertrand enjoys exploring places like Israel, which weren't necessarily on his travel list.

He also hopes the national team continues to help grow the sport in France, where it's mainly played in the town of Lille.

"Our goal is to start raising money, collecting equipment, building youth programs and bring the game of lacrosse to France and bring it to more than just one city." Bertrand said.

His father, Mark Bertrand, loves that Kevin stays connected to his French roots, while also representing Steamboat.

"From the time he put a stick in his hand when he was younger, now to watch him representing my country of origin, France, the country where he was also born. I'm in heaven," Mark said. "He's going to have memories to last him for the rest of his life."

Kevin said that he's also proud to represent Steamboat in a new way.

"Steamboat's history, we're known for our winter Olympians," Kevin said. "For me to represent in a summer sport, it's something not very many people do."

But he'd run into Mike Knezevich, his former principal, at lunch in Israel. Knezevich and Kevin used to coach the youth programs together in Steamboat. Now, Knezevich is coaching the Croatian national team.

"Yeah that was crazy," Kevin said. "Crazy to have someone who's been around from my early years in lacrosse and see him years later in a country across the world."

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.