Remaking the Mold: MLL Players Giving Back to the Sport

Working in the restaurant business has ups and downs, much like any other job.  This past week had more of the latter with one of the other managers covering a shift at another location, last minute schedule changes, cold weather and rain shutting down the deck, and the realization that all of this cut into my usual writing time.  After a certain amount of self pity and I hate my life, I starting thinking about how MLL players get through the pre-season, regular season, and play offs.  Scott Rodgers posted on Twitter that the Monday thru Thursday work week creates a work load crunch as game time gets closer.  Jerry Ragonese posted that he was off to Boston and would be back in a minute.  All kidding aside, it takes a special kind of person to work that kind of schedule, dedicate themselves to staying in shape and playing professional lacrosse.

Perhaps that is dedication and passion for lacrosse why MLL players are more approachable than any other professional athlete.  Players do not make much salary per game and depend on other sources of income.  Employers are usually not okay with their employees needing to leave early on Thursday and have Friday through Sunday.

Speaking from personal experience, a general manager will look at you like you are crazy when you say that you need a weekend off to fly to Denver for the Outlaws open tryouts.  MLL players are highly productive during their short work week; they have to be.  Perhaps the lack of lacrosse friendly supervisors and the short week crunch is another reason why so many players own their own business and that business involves lacrosse.  Some players even work at and own multiple businesses. There are several of these companies across the nation but I would like to focus on the one whose camp I had the privilege of attending as a spectator in Lakewood Ranch, Florida

Jerry Ragonese, Greg Gurenlian, and Chris Mattes founded The Face Off Academy and run clinics across the country molding the next generation of face off athletes.  Jerry also cofounded Pro Athletics, a producer of cutting edge uniforms, tailgating tents, and helmet decals (check out JoJo Marasco’s Syracuse Alumni helmet). Greg owns Brawlic Strength Training, cofounded Beauty and the Beast Nutrition and is the president of Tribe 7 Lacrosse.

Chris Mattes is an assistant varsity and head JV coach at Westfield high school in New Jersey, current German National Team member and trainer at X-tra Mile Fitness.  Greg’s brothers, Mike and Mark help out with the numerous FOA events.  Check out the Team Beast clips on You Tube and you get an idea how devoted these guys are to the art and science of the face off.  The Face Off Academy has recently added Brendan Fowler to the list of coaches.  Unless you have just taken up an interest in lacrosse you know his resume.  If you do not know about Mr. Fowler check out his performance against Syracuse and his 2013 Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament Award.

These gentlemen possess a wealth of knowledge about the art of facing off and their clinics run like an MLL training camp.  They focus on the mental as well as physical aspects of the art.  The face off and get off midi is not found here.  As a student you have to contribute as an athlete offensively and defensively for your team.  If you check the NCAA box scores, their alumni are having an impact on the college scene.  Ben Williams and Trevor Baptiste are just two of those alums.  I would have to devote another column to cover all these young athletes and would probably not do their work justice.  Even the high school scene is being dominated by their disciples.  If you start extrapolating the effect this company is having on the sport it is staggering and it leads to a better caliber of lacrosse.  They are also molding a better brand of person.

I was fortunate to meet a wonderful woman and our first date was over the Notre Dame versus Loyola championship game.  She is from Ohio and lived briefly in Germany.  She had never been exposed to lacrosse and was surprised to know that Ohio State had a team.  She took to the sport because of the “whacking with sticks” and the coolness of “that face off thing.”  She picks up on things quickly and became a fan of Greg Gurenlian.  When she found out that Chris Mattes was on the German National Team and Jerry Ragonese was an accomplished cook she became a fan of the Face Off Academy.  A case of food poisoning caused us to miss the New York Lizards play at the Florida Launch.  I surprised her with a trip to the Face Off Academy clinic at Lakewood Ranch.  Rather wonder who these crazy people where the guys were friendly and signed Mel’s shirt and took a picture with her.  This might seem trivial but in a time where most professional athletes are in the public eye for the wrong thing, these guys are standing for the right things on and off the field.  That is why I love the MLL and think it is the greatest sport going.