Editor’s Note: In the past few weeks we’ve brought you first-hand accounts of professional players Steve Dircks and Jake Tripucka‘s respective roads to the MLL. Today, Boston Cannons long pole P.T. Ricci shares his own story on how he made it to the top of the game.
Be sure to check out Scout It Out Sports as well, which is a project Steve Dircks is currently involved in, to learn more about how YOU can train to get to the highest level, and find athletic services, info, and professional trainers in your area.
My name is P.T. Ricci and Steve Dircks asked me to tell you know about my path to becoming a Major League Lacrosse player. My story is probably much different than most of the athletes who now have the honor of calling themselves professional lacrosse players, and I hope you enjoy it.
I grew up in Wayne, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. I started playing lacrosse at the age of 6 for Conestoga Youth Lacrosse. I started playing because all of my friends had picked up the game, however, I can’t say that I truly fell in love with the game of lacrosse until college. Prior to college, lacrosse was just a way for me to stay in shape for football. The reason I stuck with lacrosse, like football, was that it was fast-paced, and had the physical element to it. Aside from football and lacrosse, I played basketball and baseball throughout my childhood. I would pick up my lacrosse stick the first day of the season, and put it down after the last game, all the way up until my senior year of high school.
Although I never concentrated on lacrosse in high school, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t working hard to become the best athlete possible. Going into high school I was undersized at 5’6” 120 pounds. My dream was to play football in college, and at that size, I knew I’d never have a chance. So, I hit the weight room hard. During the summers I lifted 5 days a week and conditioned with the football team. If I wasn’t training with the football team, I was working out on my own anywhere from three to five days a week. My freshman year I also played lacrosse and basketball for Conestoga High School, and baseball for the local team. Upon completing my freshman year I sat down with my dad to discuss my sports future. If I wanted to excel in football, I’d have to become bigger, faster, and stronger.
I decided to quit basketball and baseball and enter into a conditioning program led by a former Olympic sprinter called Aspiring Champions. This ended up being the most beneficial thing that I ever did as an athlete. Here, I was able to learn the proper running technique and the correct way to put on weight. My sophomore year, I made both the football and lacrosse varsity teams.
On the lacrosse field I was an offensive middie, but when my coach offered me a chance to actually get on the field, as a D-mid, I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to guard future #1 MLL draft pick Pat Heim everyday in practice, which in turn made me a much better player. The most important thing that happened in my lacrosse career occurred during my sophomore year in high school. While playing in a playoff game, Coach Christmas from the Duke’s Lacrosse Club saw me running and asked me to join their team.
Entering my junior year of high school, I finally grew a bit and was able to put weight on my frame, so that I was about 5’9” and 165 pounds. While still considered small by college football standards, I was able to put together a solid junior campaign that put me on the radar of some college scouts. This was the year that I also became a 4-sport varsity athlete at Conestoga. Following the football season, I joined the indoor track team as a sprinter to work on my speed, per recommendation of a college football coach. It was a huge step in becoming a better athlete.
During the spring, I both played varsity lacrosse and was a sprinter on the varsity outdoor track team. Even though I was playing both sports, I still found time after every lacrosse practice and games to hit the weight room and get a workout in. From running track, I was able to turn myself into the fastest lacrosse player on the field in any game that I played in. My junior year I also gave up my hopes of being an offensive middie and picked up a D-pole for the first time since 8th grade.
After my junior year concluded, I spent my summer going to football recruiting events and working out. My summer also included Champ Camp with the Duke’s Lacrosse Club. This was the only lacrosse event of my summer. The only reason that I played in this tournament was because I wanted to see if I could match up with the best players in the country – I always enjoyed challenging myself as an athlete, and trying to be the best player on the field, no matter the sport.
For the Dukes, I was playing D-mid. My role on the team was to pick up any ball on the end line and clear it myself. This was fun for me because I saw it as returning a punt in football. My speed was able to get me noticed by coach Dwan from Loyola, who was at the game watching two of my teammates, who were already committed to Loyola. Loyola would end up being the only lacrosse school to contact and recruit me. Even then I still thought almost nothing of it, as my football dream was still very much alive.
My senior year I grew even more, to 5’11” 175 pounds, and I was finally considered a legit football recruit. I received mostly 1-AA football scholarships, and was contemplating which one to choose when Loyola invited me down for a lacrosse visit. Once I stepped foot on campus, I fell in love with the school and the team. I still can’t tell you why I choose lacrosse over football, but it seemed to work out okay.
Once I stepped foot onto Loyola’s campus my freshman year I quickly realized that I had the worst lacrosse stick skills on the team. I worked hard playing wall ball by myself in-between classes and before and after practice. The hard work paid off, and I played in every game of my college career. Without the work ethic that I was taught in high school, I would never be where I am today as a player.
You may ask yourself how this blog is relevant to me making the MLL, but without every other sport that I played, I wouldn’t be the lacrosse player I am today. As a defensemen, I’m considered undersized in the MLL, but I’m able to take the skill sets that I learned from football and track and apply them to the lacrosse field. Football taught me field vision and gave me soft hands. Track taught me speed, which I have depended on throughout my lacrosse career.
To the younger lacrosse players out there, I plead to you as someone who has been through the process and now is a college coach, please play as many sports as possible. You will learn many different talents and skill sets that you can not learn solely on the lacrosse field. It will also prevent you from burning out once you reach college, as I saw happen to so many of my teammates who spent their high school days only participating in lacrosse, and playing in 6 tournaments a summer.
I firmly believe that you can shape yourself into any kind of player and athlete that you want to be. Hard work does not come easily, but the rewards of working hard are greater than anything else that can be achieved.
We’ll be back with more Road to the MLL stories in the coming weeks. Until then, follow the advice of Dirkcs, Tripucka, and Ricci: work hard, diversify your skill set, and keep at it. You never know what will come of it!