For 20 years, I resided within a diameter of 18 feet: an 18-foot crease that buffered me in front of the 36 square feet of goal from the opposing team. Training day in and day out, becoming as fast as I could with both my hands and my feet, while also being able to react with cat-like reflexes, I intended to become the best version of myself as a lacrosse goaltender as possible. But as a lacrosse goalie, there has always been an itch – an itch to run around and take it to the cage. Let’s be honest for a second: the distance from one crease to the other … too far for any goalie to “want” to run. I think once you find your knack for success as a goalie on the field, you don’t really want to take your talents to any other position.
I knew there was a way to do both with literally half, sometimes even a quarter, of the running. That was playing box lacrosse. I could play goalie on the field, then run on the box floor. That was something that made me giddy, because after 20 years on the crease, I was ready to try something new. I forgot that I could have a lacrosse life outside the goal.
I truly discovered box lacrosse in 2003 while growing up in Southern California when the NLL founded the Anaheim Storm. Fast paced, hard hitting, and quick-thinking finesse. Box lacrosse was not big in SoCal when I was a kid, but my friends and I had season tickets every year they were in Anaheim. I watched names like Casey and Ryan Powell, Scott Hochstadt, and Damian Davis. We had a high school box league, and my friends and I decided to play and replicate the guys we idolized.
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But I was still stuck in goal. Except we didn’t wear the typical box lacrosse goalie pads, we wore normal field goalie gear in a 4×4 goal with old Warrior “no bounce” lacrosse balls. Damn those balls hurt. Thank you San Diego based Great Western Box Lacrosse League. Still finding success, I would come home on Saturdays with the biggest bruises, welts, and hematomas on my arms and legs. One thing made sense: why box goalies wore their pads, and the least sensible, why they didn’t make us wear them. Good thing it didn’t scare me off the field! After the one season of that, I was done. Field only! My first box experience wasn’t the greatest, but I am sure glad it wasn’t my last.
Fast forward to 2019, I had been a lacrosse goalie coach for many years already, warming up high school to college goalies, knowing how to move with a ball, aim, and shoot was in my repertoire. Another thing came easy to me after 20 years of goaltending: how to coordinate and play defensive fundamentals and how to think like an offensive attacker. The IBLA had established three teams in Orange County, California, that year and I knew I wanted to try my hand at box again, this time on the floor. So I joined the Irvine Skyfire for their open weekly pickup games at the Irvine roller rinks.
My first box pickup game, I ran everything from defense and forward to transition and faceoff. I’ll never forget my first run. I took the opening faceoff from “down-set-whistle” all the way to the net for a goal. I knew I would have some success. I found my niche, however, playing defense and leading quick transition the other way. Though I found early success, I knew I still had much to learn. Unfortunately, my box debut lasted about four weeks before I made my move to Maryland not long before the season would start, so my time on the floor was short lived.
One pandemic later and a year with a short stick in my hand, I was ready to get back at it in Maryland and play. I made the conscious decision to approach playing box again. I reached out to some teams to get a crack at it, but seasons had not started yet. Until one day, out of the blue, I was messaged on Instagram by the GM of the Rochester Bats, asking me if I considered playing, to which I replied, “When we runnin!”
My first true box competition was fierce as it was a tournament in Philadelphia with a bunch of guys who had played together for a long time. I was the odd man out, but they knew my background and helped me along the way. Playing on the floor felt like the most natural thing. With the physicality and intensity of the game, I was not sure why I hadn’t started sooner. By no means was I the best guy out there, but I sure was trusted to move around and fly. We ended up losing in the finals in overtime. Three weeks later, we were back at it playing again. The Rochester Bats went 5-0, this time winning the ‘ship.
My experience transitioning from field goalie to box was ideal, seamless, and extraordinary. Seeing guys like Blaze Riorden do it had me pumped in my success with the transition. As a matter of fact, in my second tournament, I got to run alongside Blaze and lay some lumber. My first run in the second tourney was straight into the D-side goal from the box and fired out for a cross check that laid an attacker on the floor. It put the ball on the ground and sent it moving the other direction for a goal. I’m a big guy. I crave physicality. I knew what to expect and how to do the essentials. Better yet, I knew how to draw in the energy and center myself with the medicine game that is lacrosse.
To be honest, with the transition, I did not know what to expect from myself, only what to expect from the game and from others playing it. Knowing that, I could set myself up for success. Being a goalie may be one of the biggest benefits I have when I step onto that box floor, and when I do … it feels like home.