Cold. Rain. Snow. Pain. Sun in my eyes. This field is a desert. This field is a swamp.
As the sun goes away early in the afternoon and the cold wind whips across the Northeast, I’m reminded of so many experiences around lacrosse that, at the time, may have seemed miserable but, upon reflection, made me mentally and physically tougher.
These challenges can be summed up in a single, very important word: adversity.
Adverse conditions and situations in lacrosse often kick us into sort of a “fight or flight” mode. You can choose to whine and limp through to the last whistle, or you can meet the challenge head-on with dedication, commitment, toughness and focus.
One of the nice things about lacrosse is that we can endure adversity with our teammates by our side. We can encourage one another and work together to develop solutions to overcome it.
Cheer each other on when participating in tough conditioning drills. Embrace bad weather conditions and yell and smile and laugh, recognizing that your opponents are playing in the same crappy weather you are. The negative outlook on bad weather can quickly be flipped into an opportunity for you and teammates to take advantage of a team that may just want to get off the field.
Conversely, a lack of enthusiasm and resilience under adverse playing conditions will show, and be a real advantage for those willing to embrace their situation and persevere in spite of adversity.
Two examples. My dog, Kona, and I visited this young man for a private lesson at his home in 30-degree weather. The sun had gone down and we were doing passing/shooting drills by flashlight! The photo was taken at the end of the lesson and I think the smiles on both faces tells you that we did not let the weather keep us down that day.
One of my high school athletes broke a bone in his foot and was cleared for minimal activity. We utilized a TRX Rip Trainer to develop core strength and stability, and familiarize his body with positioning and check patterns while his foot heals. Some creativity combined with his commitment to starting the training process now has him weeks ahead of where we would have been had he chosen to sit on his couch and feel sorry for himself.
One of my toughest teammates and opponents over the years was Major League Lacrosse stud midfielder Martin Bowes (Quincy, Mass.). He and I got together recently to discuss adversity.
You were not recruited out of high school. How did you get on Hartford’s radar, and then become one of their best players in program history?
“The recruiting process was not nearly as cut-throat as it is now. I honestly knew nothing about it as I was coming up in high school. Knowing that I wanted to play at the next level, I looked at Hartford as a solid option for me to try and play Division 1 as well as study engineering. I remember going to a Hartford vs. Holy Cross game as a senior. I believed I could play at this level, so I applied there and the rest is history.”
When did you know you wanted to play pro lacrosse? What were you prepared to do and what did you do to reach that level?
“I wanted to be a professional athlete from the moment I can remember being conscious, 3 or maybe 4 years old? First, it was basketball, then I fell in love with lacrosse in seventh grade. I believe I’ve reached that level by having some luck with natural athleticism, coupled with a growth mindset. There will always be something about my game I can improve upon.”
“Injuries suck; I’ve had a few. If you want to play an intense and physical sport, then injuries are a part of what you sign up for. Sometimes the time you spend away from the game, recovering/rehabbing/conditioning can reset or realign your mental space for the better. Every setback is an opportunity in some way.”
What is the toughest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
“I believe I’m still attempting to overcome it; that would be cracking an NLL roster. I’ll have to get back to you in a year or two and let you know how it goes.”
Any other words of wisdom for our young readers when things aren’t going exact according to plan?
“If things are always going exactly as we had planned, we may not be thinking big enough. Knowing what you want and setting realistic (yet lofty) goals may not come naturally, but figuring those two things out is key to happiness in my opinion.”
Malcolm Chase is the owner and head trainer at RPM Athlete Performance in Natick, Mass. In 2003, he founded Long Stick Middie, producing the first specialized instructional clinics and DVD devoted to the position. He is the national director of programming for RPM Lacrosse and has worked with youth, college and professional athletes across the country. Chase currently lives in Boston.