Am I Really Crazy?
By Mark Glicini | Apr 24, 2020
I continue to be asked questions like these following the inaugural season of the Premier Lacrosse League: “Are you crazy?” “Why do you jump in front of 100 mph shots?” “Do you realize how badly you could get hurt?”
Many fans have come to know me as “the guy who blocks shots with his back,” “the madman who went face to face with The Milkman,” and “the instigator of the brawl in Chicago.” Well, there are always two sides to every story, and here’s mine...
I grew up surrounded by love. My father played ball with me every morning before the sun came up. My mom showed me how to act like a winner even when I lost. My sister taught me how to be a diligent student. Each, in their own way, guided me with unconditional love.
Brian Callanan, my first lacrosse coach, believed in me from day one. He served in the military as a Marine and demanded I believed in myself. He invested countless hours answering my questions, passing lacrosse balls for me to shoot, and teaching me lessons from the sport inside the lines. Even to this day, the thought of his presence makes me want to give more.
At prep school and in college, I found more coaches who pushed me toward my potential. They gave me a chance to prove myself, stuck with me when I performed below expectations and trusted me to lead. Each coach pulled me closer to my best by loving me without ever saying it.
A tree planted in the right soil and watered consistently will grow strong beneath the sun. In a similar way, I have emerged under the lights of the Premier Lacrosse League because of these mentors.
At the end of last season, I received the Jimmy Regan Teammate of the Year Award. It’s certainly the greatest honor I’ve ever been given and a responsibility I do not take for granted. With that said, the Premier Lacrosse League is full of awesome teammates who share a similar passion. What’s important for us is understanding that joy is doubled and pain is divided when shared with others.
During my acceptance speech, I said, "Leadership can be summarized in three words: Vision, Culture, Legacy. And I strongly believe that any human being will go further when it's for others. So all my goals have others in mind." I dedicated last season to my mom's late brother, Johnny Campana, who died of cancer at 26, my exact age. I wasn't just playing for myself.
In our society, we are taught to be selfish because many outside influences push us to obsess about our own well-being. The truth of the matter is when we are selfless it is easier to give a full effort. As psychiatrist Dr. David Viscott said, “The purpose of life is to discover your gifts. The meaning of life comes from giving your gifts away.”
Why do I jump in front of shots? Because as a defensive midfielder, my job is to prevent the opposition from scoring. I jump in front of shots because I know the pain of regret hurts more than a physical injury. I jump in front of shots because of love. Love of the sport, love of the game, and love of my team.
Here’s an important piece of the puzzle: jumping in front of a shot is not a decision I make. It’s an unconscious action I take. It’s habitual. We, as athletes, perform in the same manner that we train. There’s not enough time to think and act during competition. In lacrosse, the play is just too fast.
During our game against the Redwoods in Chicago, I jumped in front of a step-down shot from Kyle Harrison with seconds left in regulation. Have you ever seen K18 move, let alone shoot? If you think for just one second, a player like that will find the back of the net. The game went to overtime and we won on a feed from Jake Froccaro to Josh Byrne, who finished on the crease.
In Atlanta, when my stick broke and one of the best players in the game, Matt Danowski, was stepping into a shot from 12 yards out, there was no time to decide. For weeks afterward, I received memes from fans, family, and friends of Sgt. Elias from Platoon getting shot in the back. In hindsight, there's always an explanation of one's thought process. However, in real-time, a play is either made or it isn't.
In Hamilton, Ontario, I blocked a shot in overtime with my upper back from one of the world's greatest scorers, Ben McIntosh. Ben is a surgeon with a lacrosse stick and automatic inside 13 yards. If you wait for a split-second or give him an inch, he scores. I got in the way of his shot because if he scored, we lose. Period. Moments later, my good friend Josh Byrne scored another game-winner for us in overtime.
In order to play our best when it means the most, we react on instinct, not thought. I don’t practice blocking shots with my back, it just happens. All I do is react, lean into the discomfort during a game, and give everything I've got.
In Josh Waitzkin's book, The Art of Learning, he discusses two components to every craft: tactical and psychological. The former deals with skill and strategy; the latter focuses on mental preparation and fortitude. When the first whistle blows, there is little to no tactical advantage in the Premier Lacrosse League. Therefore, every team must rely upon focus, execution and mind mechanics. The rest is luck, play-calling and opportunity.
Being a great teammate is not a skill, it’s an attitude. It’s about loving someone or something more than ourselves. When we love something, we invest time, we prepare and we sacrifice. True joy is not found in “me,” but in “we.” It’s not about being the best player on the team; it’s about being the best player for the team.
People watch me play and call me “crazy.” Maybe they’re right! It’s a lot of fun to be crazy-in-love with the sport of lacrosse.
“Passion is what makes life interesting, what ignites our soul, fuels our love and carries our friendships, stimulates our intellect, and pushes our limits… To err on the side of passion is human and right and the only way I’ll live.” – Pat Tillman