Dhane Smith wouldn’t be a professional lacrosse star now if he hadn’t been a multi-sport athlete then.
As a kid in Kitchener, Ontario, Smith played everything under the sun, though lacrosse, hockey and football were his main three. He picked up lacrosse at age 3 and hockey at 5, then put a greater emphasis on football when he entered adolescence.
“My dad played lacrosse and hockey, and my cousin, Billy Dee Smith, played in the NLL for Buffalo,” Dhane Smith explained. “My grandpa played in the NFL, so I have that in my blood.”
His siblings – older sister Chelsea and younger brother Drake – were also athletes. Chelsea started in lacrosse, though that later shifted to soccer. Drake was like his brother, putting on the pads for hockey and lacrosse.
“We were so competitive, whether in the backyard or anywhere. We were always trying to beat each other and learn from each other,” Dhane Smith said. “Even though my sister didn’t play lacrosse, she taught me the ways of being an athlete, always wanting me to be competitive and play at the top level. My brother had me to look up to, but I had to show him the ropes and be a role model for him.”
Their presence has been massive in building the middle child’s athletic accomplishments, Smith said.
“I couldn’t imagine not having them,” he said. “They’ve helped me so much with my career.”
When all three were kids, there was a constant barrage of sporting events within the Smith family.
“It’s a big part of my life and my family’s life, having to give up so much,” Smith explained. “It took up all our weekends, it took up all our weekdays. Getting up for morning hockey practice at 4 or 5 in the morning before school, stuff like that. I can’t thank my parents enough for the grind. They sacrificed and put me into so many sports, and sports nowadays aren’t cheap. It was definitely crazy back then, though I didn’t really look at it that way. But now it’s eye opening.”
It was difficult enough to get Dhane to his practices, games and events, plus paying for it all across multiple sports. Add in his siblings, and the chaos deepens. But if not for enrolling their oldest son in so many different sports, Dhane Smith wouldn’t be a pro athlete now, he said.
“If I could give any parent any advice from what I think helped me, it’s to play as many sports as possible,” he said. “Nowadays, kids’ parents put them through one sport and one sport only, and those kids are going to get sick of that sport pretty quick if they’re doing it all year round. I’m a big believer in playing different sports.
“I know if I played lacrosse all year round from 3 years old until now, I wouldn’t want to be playing any more, that’s for sure.”
Some skills and strategies can apply across sports, and even if they don’t, the lessons and attitudes you pick up from experiencing multiple sports can be invaluable, Smith said.
“I like to tell people lacrosse is a combination of hockey and basketball,” he explained. “In basketball, a lot of the sets are alike, like the pick and roll. The systems are very similar. My footwork in football and having to make decisions in small headquarters (as a quarterback) has been valuable in lacrosse. Understanding different sides to other games and bringing that to lacrosse helped me a lot.”
While Smith has been in the NLL for several years, he entered the professional field lacrosse realm later. He received scholarship offers to play college field lacrosse in America when he was a teenager, but he rejected them to enter the NLL Draft. In the subsequent years, he received some opportunities to crossover into the MLL, but chose against them until the Rochester Rattlers came knocking in 2016.
“I figured why not, just see if I could do it. It was one of those things where I could say I played in the NLL, an ‘I did it’ kind of thing,” Smith said. “I ended up loving it. Ended up playing with Rochester again, and it grew from there.”
In 2018, Smith played for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, then made the move to the PLL in 2019, featuring for Chaos. He concluded his second PLL season this summer, helping his team reach the PLL Championship after going 0-4 in group play.
He never thought he’d be here.
“I never really thought I’d be at this level at field, but it was one of those things,” he said. “I always wanted to prove to people I could do it, whether I went to the NCAA or not.”
It serves as more than a proving ground for the pro. While field and box lacrosse are founded on the same game, they’re not the same, and having field in his life means another athletic way to take a break from box.
“I don’t play hockey or football anymore,” Smith said. “Obviously box lacrosse is awesome, and I love it. I grew up playing it all the time. But you want change, and you don’t want to play it all year round. Field lacrosse gives me that. They’re a little bit different games, and playing field lacrosse has opened my eyes. I like it a lot more than I used to.”
Whether it’s another form of lacrosse, hockey, football or something completely different, Smith couldn’t have been clearer about how he values being a multi-sport athlete; it laid the foundation for him to build his current career.
“Being a multi-sport athlete helps you think and understand differently,” Smith explained. “That’s why I am where I am today. I’ve played so many different sports, I wasn’t able to get sick of it.”