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2016 NLL Combine
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Nick Coyne Experience – 2016 NLL Combine

Editor’s Note: Nick Coyne and two friends are heading to the 2016 NLL Combine from Texas. This post is about the three guys, and WHY they are making the trip. We will have more from Nick and his experience in Toronto once the Combine wraps up!

My name is Nick Coyne, some of you may know me from ChilLAX Customs, but if you don’t know who I am let me just tell you that lacrosse has been in my life since before I can remember. To pursue my love a little further, I’ve decided to head up to the 2016 NLL Combine in Toronto, and test my mettle against a ton of other pro box hopefuls.

Thankfully, I’m not doing it alone! 3 amigos are traveling from Texas to Canada to try out for the NLL, and I’m one of them.

image13I’ll keep the scene-setting portion short and sweet – We’re all old and we have a rich history of lacrosse in Texas, so we like to shed light on how the scene used to be, since nowadays Texas is considered to be a “hotbed” area.

It all escalated very quickly.

Now for some quick intros:

Nick Coyne (that’s me!): I grew up playing lacrosse my whole life, likely due to my dad growing up on Long Island, and playing for Ward Melville under coach Joe Cuozzo. He passed the bug on to me, and I haven’t looked back since. I didn’t start playing organized/competitive lacrosse until my 9th grade year in 2004, where I played for Southlake, the closest organization to Keller (where I went to school) and where my father happened to coach.

image9I would continue to play D1 Texas HS ball for Southlake, and even help start the Keller Lacrosse Association in 2005. Unfortunately, I was then be sent to Military school, but would get to return to public school for the end of my senior year, where I would attend Colleyville Heritage in 2008. This is where I would meet Shawn Barabash, who helped coach on occasion, and go on to win a Div. 3 Tri-state championship my senior year.

image8At the time, I knew I wouldn’t be taking the “traditional” route, which typically would consist of going to college for 4 years and playing lacrosse. I might have used it as an excuse – that I wanted to play at the highest level of lacrosse, and being a kid from Texas – but it didn’t seem possible to make an east coast NCAA roster.

Like I said, I used it as an excuse. And being 17 at the time, I didn’t really have my priorities lined up. You live and learn though. I would then move from job to job, in search of myself, and my calling in life. It wasn’t until 4 years later, that I found myself coaching at the very place I last played, and graduated from.

I would coach 5/6 -7/8th grade boys lacrosse for 3 years, and when I started in 2013 the organization decided to send me to the US Lacrosse convention. There, I would attend my first ever box game, the last Philly Wings home opener (although, rumor has it that they’re coming back!), and that is ultimately where I was introduced to the box game. Shortly after, I met Travis Tunstall (around 2014), and we automatically clicked.

image11We had the same interests and ideas to grow the game down here. So, we decided to start the Dallas Box Lacrosse League (DBLL) and have been growing the box game here in North Texas ever since. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Travis would then spark the idea of attending the combine this year, which meant that all of my daydreams and time spent watching true box on the computer, could now become a reality. This is it! This is the highest level of competition I always told myself I wanted to play. Sure, I wish I would’ve grown up somewhere in the North, so I could have started playing at a younger age, but it is what it is. This is the best chance I have to prove to myself, and to prove to other people, that Texas does have talent… We’re kind of hard to miss, on the map, but in terms of searching for Lacrosse talent, we’re slowly emerging from the shadows. Plus, I’m tired of excuses!

image16Why do I want to go to the combine?

Well… why not?

You don’t need a formal invite, which makes it awesome for guys like me, who are virtually unheard of, to try and make a name for ourselves. This is the absolute highest level of competition and skill, so to surround yourself with that type of play is only benefiting YOU! Which also makes it a huge learning experience.

So, taking what I learn from this trip, I’m able to go back and implement these scenarios and techniques to the kids I coach, which will hopefully open up minds to the box game down here, and ultimately open the door for future Texas prospects to make a name for themselves. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and you only live once. Taking advantage of opportunities is one of the main life lessons I’ve learned throughout my years. So, here’s to the combine!

IMG_6694Along with Travis (more on him a little later), I’ll be heading up with Shawn Barabash as well, another good friend, and here’s his story:

My name is Shawn Barabash, born just north of Edmonton, Alberta in 1986. I moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area in July of 1994. Hockey was too expensive to play in TX, and I was one of the smallest kids around, so I picked up baseball in lieu of the Texas standard of football. In the first couple of weeks of the 2001-02 school year (my junior year of high school), a friend of mine approached me in the hallways during a passing period, and said “Hey, you’re Canadian, right? We’re starting a lacrosse team… you should probably play.” So I asked my folks, they agreed, and I even coerced my dad (who played when he was in grade school in Edmonton) to come help us out with passing/catching and other basics.

Fun fact: Shawn’s father is still a coach for Colleyville Lacrosse HS team, as well as the president for the Colleyville Lacrosse Association, which services both boys’ and girls’ teams from K-2 up to HS Varsity.

I played two years of high school lacrosse at Colleyville, earning All-District honors as a long-stick midfielder my junior (first) year, voted Team Captain senior year, and earned All-State honors as a short-stick midfielder. I had some recruitment opportunities, most prominently with Canisius, but due to a lack of interest in school at the time, those went to the wayside.

In January 2004, I enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, and played on their MCLA club team. I helped secure our conference championship (Lone Star Alliance) in the 2005 season and a trip to the MCLA National Championship in Blaine, MN, defeating Texas A&M and University of Texas. In the summer following this run, I would travel up to Calgary, Alberta after an invitation from Coach Mearns to try out for the 2006 Canadian National team. Although I was in the running, I was eventually cut.

After poor grades and a run of injuries, I left Texas Tech with 2 years of eligibility left. While I worked on recovering my grades, I stayed in the game, playing with several different men’s teams and helping coach at Colleyville (where I would eventually meet Nick Coyne).

image2In January 2011, I was admitted into the University of North Texas in Denton, TX, and hopped onto their club team as a 25yr. old “junior”. That season, despite a rather small bench and depth chart, we made the LSA playoffs, defeating Oklahoma University. We would make our exit in the next game versus the eventual conference champion, Texas. Although I ran mostly short-stick midfield, I earned an honorable mention at the LSM position for my work in key conference games and playoffs.

I switched to attack for my senior year after losing some key guys at the position, and finished the season with 23 points, 11g and 12a. After graduation from UNT, I took a job that moved me to Houston, TX in 2014. I quickly found a men’s club team to keep playing with, got involved in the summer box league, and became a JV Assistant Coach at Seven Lakes Lacrosse, a Division 1 Texas HS program. This is the team that Travis Tunstall played for, but the program at the time was under a different name, Cinco Ranch. In 2015, I was promoted to JV Head Coach, and at the beginning of this 2016-17 season, was given an additional responsibility as the Varsity Assistant Coach.

Although the majority of my experience is in the field game, it is the box game that entices me. The pace of play, goalies taking up 85% of the cage, the physicality… these are all things that make the indoor game so appealing. We do not have as much box lacrosse down in Houston, but it is just starting to take off.

image15When I tell people I’m headed to the NLL Combine I have been asked one questions frequently:

“Why? Do you really think that you have a chance?”

Well, I am attending the NLL Combine for a couple of reasons. The first is because, despite the slim odds, there is still a looming chance to make a lifelong dream a realization, which is to play lacrosse at the absolute highest level possible amongst some of the finest athletes in North America. For a lot of us in Texas and other not-so-noticed lacrosse states, these open drafts and combines are our best ticket to being noticed. More and more kids from Texas and other states are making their way onto many of the big-name NCAA DI rosters, showing the tremendous growth of the sport.

The second reason is to bring back with me to Texas as much new knowledge as possible! There are few opportunities such as this to be surrounded by some of the best lacrosse players in North America as well as some of the top coaching minds in the game! I firmly believe that there is always new knowledge to be learned, and that I do not know everything about this game. I preach to my kids that they need to be coachable to have success. I hold myself to the same; if someone has some advice for me as to what I should be doing or looking for in a given situation, I am listening. Their perspective may notice something that I never would have even thought to look at!

So while being grounded in the reality that there may not be much of a chance, us boys from Texas have absolutely nothing to lose from laying out everything that we have. You can bet that we will not stop giving 110% until the final whistle of the combine.

And here is some more info on Travis Tunstall, from the man himself:

In 2005 the NLL All Star game was broadcast on NBC, and although I had never heard of box before this, I was excited to see some lacrosse on TV.

After watching a quarter, I was hooked, and I wanted to know everything I could about box, but it was non-existent in Texas. It would take me almost a year until I would see any box lacrosse again but this time I would be extremely lucky. During winter break I went to visit my parents in Colorado, and my Dad had got us tickets from work for the Mammoth – Knighthawks game.

I really had no idea what to expect, lacrosse wasn’t popular down south and all I had seen before was an All Star game. That evening I joined 16,849 other lacrosse fans and watched the Mammoth beat the Knighthawks 12-11. Later that summer I moved to Colorado for college, where my focus moved more towards field lacrosse. There was only a small men’s league in Denver at the time that was just starting up, and goalie gear wasn’t provided. I was fortunate enough to play in games while in Denver either subbing last second, or when our college team was able to play during halftime at Pepsi Center.

I went to almost every home game from ‘06-’12 wanting to find a way to play box. It would take until the summer of 2013 for me to play my first season – yes, that’s eight years after when I saw box I would finally be able to play! I happened to see a post on Facebook from a former Mammoth goalie “Gear for sale”.

image17I quickly picked it up, not really knowing what to do with it. Start a league? Just get shot on? I had no clear direction. I had moved to Texas the year before and started coaching high school and thought it would be a good way to help our goalies get over fear, so I started a summer pickup box games for my high school players.

Well, no sooner than the gear arrived another post on Facebook appeared, OKC Men’s Box Lacrosse League, yes Oklahoma City, so I spent the summer taking off Thursdays and making the six hour trip each week just to play box. I loved it! The guys who run the league up there, Tim and Dave, both have a passion to grow the game. Later that year I would decide to start a men’s league, that’s when I would meet Nick at Lacrosse Unlimited, and the Dallas Box Lacrosse League would begin.

Moments after our recent season came to an end, I sat down with Nick and vaguely mentioned going to Canada with the same ol’ wouldn’t-it-be-interesting-to-see-where-we-sit-with-the-rest-of-the-box-world rhetoric. Given we had only played recently in Dallas, Texas, it would seem completely insane to think we could keep up with these Canadians.

Well one week later I would do something that would set the wheels in motion to do just that. I was going to go to the 2017 NLL combine.

Do I have what it takes to be a NLL goalie? I’ve been asked this a bunch since signing up, and I tell everyone it’s why I’m going up North, to find out. The reality is that I do, and I’m not the only one. There are a ton of players that just haven’t gotten a chance to prove themselves yet, and I’m hoping I can open the doors for those players. If I can do this at 28, so can you.

Well, There you have it… Hopefully, you’ve gotten to know more about Texas lacrosse, as well as the 3 amigos who will be traveling North of the border to test out their skills. If you’re a younger player, or even the “average joe” like these guys, there’s a few things to take away from this: Never give up on your passion, take advantage of the opportunities that life gives you, and always believe in yourself.

It’s never too late.

The last thing you want, is to be watching an NLL game in 5 years and saying to yourself, “man I wish I would’ve tried out”… You’ll never know the answer until you try, and even if you fail, let failure be your guide. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read about us, we appreciate all the positive wishes from our families and friends!