NLL Breakout Players 2015: Joey Cupido

I went one-on-one with Joey Cupido (pronounced “Capeedo”) to get his thoughts on being signed by the Colorado Mammoth again this year.  He was extremely excited to give the interview and had some great information to share with all the Colorado Mammoth and National League Lacrosse fans as well.

Just to give you a little history on Joey, he plays Transition for the Mammoth; shoots right; was born on August 14, 1990; is from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; and played for Six Nations Arrows a Junior A Box Lacrosse league out of Hagersville, Ontario, Canada.  He was drafted by the Mammoth in the fifth round (38th overall) in the NLL Entry Draft in 2011.  He was on the practice squad in 2012 and played in only one game that season, the regular-season finale.  In 2013 he became a member of the line-up and led the team with 101 LB, which was sixth in the NLL among non-faceoff men and 11th overall. 

I asked Joey how playing football helped him as a lacrosse player.  He said:

“They kind of translate one another, and compliment each other.  Physical skills; quickness; speed; and agility are obviously used in both sports, and above all else, anticipation; mentally and more understanding because a lot of what I see in football is very similar in playing defense in lacrosse as far as anticipation, understanding what the teams are trying to do and how to stop it.”

So, being 24 years old heading into the try-outs and with the smaller rosters, what things will you work on to make you stand out as a player from the new draft picks?

“The biggest thing for my game has always been speed, being the fastest guy on the floor, and the hardest worker on the floor at all times.  Now that I have a few years under my belt, I have gained some great experience, and on top of that playing with speed and being a smarter player as well.  I’ve always been the kind of guy who goes 100 percent at all times, but I think I’m starting to couple it more with understanding what other teams are trying to do and it’s definitely helped me to be more confident where I don’t have to think too much, and I can really go out and know what I need to do and I can get that done.  All the experience I have gained will definitely help me this year.”

In 2013, you were named to the NLL All-Rookie Team, an accomplishment that only five other Mammoth players have had the honor of achieving:  Brian Langtry (2003); Dan Carey (2006); Nenad Gajic and Jamie Shewchuk (2007); and Adam Jones (2012).  How did that make you feel?

“It was an incredible honor and I was absolutely thrilled with it, but at the end of the day, individual honors like that are great, but they are out of your control.  I mean it was something that I played my hardest all season, did everything I could to help my team win lacrosse games, and it’s great to be recognized, but ultimately I hope that can we can translate that over to winning a championship and I can continue to progress and help us get to the next level.”

Tell us what you feel your Canadian background and experience can bring to the game of box lacrosse?

“Well, the Americans are very skilled and promote more field lacrosse so kids there are growing up to that and get more exposure to that.  For us, it’s all about interacting with people and promoting the league.  When you look at the kids and even the adults who come down to the Mammoth games, interacting with them, making them want to go out and try box lacrosse, and help grow it is what we try to do.  I think it also goes down to all the American guys who are living down in the states.  They help promote the game from where they’re from to get kids out playing and the more people are playing, the more it’s going to grow.”

So what made you decide to start playing lacrosse and how old were you?

“I started playing when I was three years old.  My dad is a high school teacher up here, and one of his students was Merrick Thompson.  He knew a lot about the game and he was one of the first players, the first pro guy I ever met.  My dad also worked with a guy who was a General Manager in Junior A and kind of got him started in lacrosse.  Once my dad started watching the sport, he put me in it and I fell in love with it right away.  It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed playing, I have a passion for it and it’s always suited my physical strengths well, quick plays, and I’m good hand-to-eye.”

What types of drill do you do to strengthen your game?

“I do drills simulated to lacrosse.  Lifting is one thing, but speed and agility, sprints, 30 second shifts of shuttles, then 30 seconds off to simulate the break, most importantly always having a stick in my hand.  I keep it with me when I go to school, and whenever I have a chance, I pull it out and shoot around the net, and getting a ball going against the wall.  But keeping a stick in my hand has definitely helped me progress.”

Since the positions are different between box lacrosse and field lacrosse, can you explain to those out there who might not understand what it means to be a “Transition” player?

“A Transition guy is someone who can play both sides of the floor.  For me it’s playing solid defense in the back end first, really focusing on hunting down whomever I’m guarding but as soon as the ball gets on the carpet or we get possession, my job is to go, take up off the floor, try to get the odd man opportunities and generate some offense from the back end.  So really, it’s creating offense out of the defense in that unsettled situation.”

With the 2014 season only months away, what will you do as a player to help the Mammoth with their success?

“I will do whatever it takes and whatever I can contribute.  Obviously I’m going to focus on defense, try to be the best defender possible  My job is to set up the floor and give us a spark in transition to create as many odd man opportunities; breakaways; two on ones; and things of that nature.  I’m going to continue to do the little things, work harder than anyone on the floor and try and generate some offense out of the back door.”

What are your thoughts on the new draft picks?

“We should have a strong team and I’m looking forward to getting down on the floor.  We’ve got a good core of people and having Ward back will be fantastic.  We’ve got some good guys surrounding him, guys like Cam (Holding) and myself in transition approaching the net; Grant Jr., Gallant and Jonesy.  Every aspect of the game we should be very strong and I’m really optimistic.”

How did the 2014 mid-season coaching staff change affect you as a player and how do you feel about the retention of the formerly “interim” coaching staff of Pat Coyle, Chris Gill and Dan Stroup being signed for a two-year agreement?

“Those guys are phenomenal.  I’ve never experienced anything like that.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the same coaches all the way through at every level I’ve played so it was a bit of an adjustment at first, but it was an easy transition.  They’re also passionate about the game, and knowledgeable.  They’re really “player’s coaches.”  They know how to communicate with you, and interact with you.  They’re guys you wanna get out on the floor and play for.  For me, I deal a lot with Patty Coyle, he’s one of the more knowledgeable players and coaches I’ve ever met, he’s so passionate and he really knows how to get the best out of me.  I’m looking forward to learning from him, and I’m very excited about the season.”

And last, but not least, inquiring fans want to know.  Tell us about your “high-calf” black socks and why you wear them?

“Some guys get on me for that to be honest.  I started doing it in Junior lacrosse for my family when they came to the games or when they watched them on the internet because they’d have a hard time recognizing me or identifying me on the floor.  When I got here, I just continued with it and I wore them first and foremost so my parents and grand-parents would always know who I was on TV.  It just kind of stuck, something I’m known for and I’ll continue to do for the rest of my career.”

I would like to thank Joey Cupido for his time in allowing me to interview him and allowing not only me, but fans everywhere, to get a better insight into his life, his love of lacrosse and his passion for the game.