Editor’s Note: Malcolm Chase has left the gym long enough to catch up with another man that is no stranger to heavy weight, Jerry Ragonese. Malcolm checks in via Zoom to find out how Ragonese has pivoted training and work to adapt to COVID-19 shutdowns.
This year’s been challenging for everyone in the lacrosse community. Cancelled seasons, stay-at-home orders and empty fields will take a toll on anyone. Meanwhile, it seems we’ve all logged enough hours on Zoom and Google Hangouts for the year!
We all know the break in the clouds is near with the PLL getting their boots on the ground in Utah and geared up for the games starting this weekend.
With the PLL Championship Series just days away, Redwoods LC face-off athlete, co-founder of The Faceoff Academy and Pro Athletics, and Renaissance Man of the PLL Jerry Ragonese is ready to talk about everything from designing PPE to help fight COVID to his upcoming season with the ‘Woods.
Q+A with Jerry Ragonese, Redwoods LC
Malcolm Chase: What did you think about the PLL (Championship Series) news, do you think it’ll be different as a “fanless” event?
Jerry Ragonese: Yeah, I’m not stoked about maybe one of my last professional seasons not being a ‘normal’ lacrosse season.
Am I bummed out about not being able to be with my team for the whole summer? Absolutely. But if the other option is not having a season at all, working the whole offseason for nothing, no champions, no games, no nothing, and I’m going to have to wait until next June to play lacrosse? No.[The Championship Series] is a perfect scenario.
MC: It’s pretty amazing that lacrosse is going to have the spotlight, possibly to itself this summer, it could really take off.
JR: If you can give those guys [18-30 year old demographic] something to watch and to sink their fangs in to right now, they’re going to be fans for life because it’s not only an exciting sport, it’s something new, and they can gamble on it? That’s the trifecta.
MC: Yeah, and that shows at the events, too, right? The Fan Zone, the venues, restaurants, and vendors are open like any other event.
JR: When you want any of those demographics to do something, you need to be able to serve them alcohol, or let the gamble on whatever they’re watching. [Professional Lacrosse] didn’t have either one of those for a long time.
MC: Yeah that’s one of the things the PLL is very open about, right? I mean, all these guys have a base salary and equity, which is huge, especially for those young pros players just starting out.
Before the league launched, how did you know you’d be coming to the PLL, and how did that all come together?
JR: I remember having a lot of calls with some of the younger guys who weren’t sure- and rightfully so. It was a scary situation.
They were like “I have a pretty good offer from team x and I’m just going to go to this traveling, X-Game style thing? Jerry, what do you think about this?”
I’m like ‘I think you should do it, you’re crazy not to’. […] They were getting lucrative, multi-year deals which was not something they ever had the opportunity to have before.
For better or worse, on either side of the situation, it gave guys the bargaining chip no matter what league they play for.
MC: It’s good to see both pro field leagues changing the perception of pro lacrosse.
JR: “eah I mean it’s changing. For years I never mentioned a word about being a professional lacrosse player. There’s that old perception, ‘you can’t live off this,’
When you think of ‘typical’ pro athletes you think of Ferraris, beautiful women, New York City apartments, lacrosse has none of those – which is okay…
That’s what you think of when you think of pro sports being ‘up here’, and lacrosse is all the way ‘down here’, but we’re finally taking steps up.
MC: How are you, personally dealing with COVID, any lessons you can share?
JR: Scott Ratliff did a great speech at our National Showcase about something called ‘rapid rebounding’, and not necessarily giving yourself a second to sulk. Literally just bouncing off the ground and popping right back up saying ‘How do I fix this?’ ‘How do I get better?’ ‘Let me take this information and fix it’. If I can’t rapid rebound for myself, let me rapid rebound for my team.
MC: You did some rapid rebounding off the field recently with Pro Athletics.
Tell us a bit about Pro Athletics and some of the things you’ve done during COVID-19 and how you’ve pivoted?
JR: [Financially] we were good until we weren’t.
We’re all sitting there, payrolls coming up. […] We have a ton of employees who rely on us to get food on their table.
The three partners said we would hold off on taking any salary and that we would make sure everyone gets paid, and hopefully these loans come through so we can continue operating. Those loans did not come through. […].
We unfortunately had to furlough a few people. After a few days we said let’s take a look into this Defense Act and see if we can make some PPE. We have the machines, we have the materials so we can figure this out. A mask is a lot easier to make than a 20 pound football jersey […]. We just got to work, we ran some R&D and tested the product and said alright this is a pretty good product let’s put it online, make a couple hundred of them and see if anyone is interested.
We put them online, they started to sell, and then we sold out. […] We have a product that people need, and we are fortunate enough that everyone we furloughed we are able to hire back. I believe that half of them didn’t even apply for unemployment and when we asked why they said “we knew you guys would figure it out”.
We’re small enough that we can pivot pretty easily.
We’ve been working for a long time to partner with pro leagues, It’s amazing how many masks that guy’s been able to move for a good cause.
MC: What’s been your biggest change to training going into this year?
JR: This year I’ve made a hard, decisive effort to get better sleep. I was sleeping two, three, four hours a night […] it was affecting my training, I’d have to take naps during the day or be highly caffeinated, which is another thing that’s not super healthy. This year. my big New Years Resolution was to sleep eight hours a night. I’ve probably only missed 10 solid eight hours since January. Super ecstatic about that. […] I feel like I’m in my early twenties again.