Drew Snider: Chasing Championships

On a wooden desk in Drew Snider’s office there’s enough hardware to fill an aisle at Home Depot. There’s three professional championship rings, two World Games medals, and an assortment of other accolades.

When asked, hypothetically, which award he’d save in an emergency, Snider does something you’ll rarely see him do on the field.

He hesitates.

He’d rather not choose.

“I’m grabbing them all,” Snider says.

It’s easy to understand why Snider doesn’t want to part with any symbols of his accomplishments. They’re proof of how the Seattle native whose high school didn’t even have a lacrosse team became a star at the sport’s highest level. Snider, 31, has played so many years as a pro that during an interview before this season he wondered whether he was about to embark on his eighth or ninth year. It’s his eighth.

“He is one of the greatest players that people don't really appreciate how well rounded and how much he does for a team,” says Jim Stagnitta, Head Coach of the Whipsnakes. “You build teams around that kind of character.”

Snider has built his life around lacrosse and is committed to growing the game in the Pacific Northwest. Snider helped bring lacrosse to his alma mater, O’Dea High School, in 2014, when he was 25. He’s coached there ever since. A year earlier, instead of staying in Baltimore after he graduated from the University of Maryland, he moved back to Washington and coached his younger brother, Will, at Nathan Hale High School.

“I kind of missed my brother growing up and I wanted to be around him,” Snider says.

Along with their father Kris--who was a three time All-American at the University of Virginia--on the sidelines, the Raiders won their first Division II State Championship that spring.

“So that’s another ring,” Snider remembers when he mentions the title.

In 2013 he also founded CitySideLax with his friend and former teammate Chris O’Dougherty. The organization, whose mission includes “creating life-long learners through the athletic classroom,” hosts camps, clinics, and lessons in addition to several boys and girls travel teams.

“I love the game, being around it, and spreading my knowledge of it,” Snider says. “It’s a very important piece of my life.”

He’s been just as busy during games this summer. If you’ve watched the Whipsnakes this season you might wonder if there are several players wearing the No. 23, since you’ll notice Snider all over the field. You’ll also see that he never appears fatigued.

That’s where Tim Manson comes in. The 1988 PAC-10 conference champion in the 800 meters, Manson, who describes himself as a “movement specialist,” and who Snider calls a “guru of working out” has trained a who’s who of athletes in the Pacific Northwest. He doesn’t like to name drop. Okay, maybe one. Former Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson. Do a quick search on Instagram, and you’ll see he also recently worked with Washington Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas and NBA veteran Jamal Crawford.

After talking with Manson for five minutes, you could probably bench an SUV. But if you watch one of Snider’s training sessions at Maximum Sports Conditioning in Bellevue, WA, you won’t see standard, monotonous exercises.

 “The human body and the mind is meant for a variety of activities,” Manson says. “You have to stress the systems in different ways to keep the body and the mind interested. We’re not just pushing and pulling weight all day.”

He’s drawn on experts in other fields like yoga, pilates, and gymnastics, and synthesized elements of those disciplines. The result is an approach that is anything but routine.

“No workout has ever been the same,” Snider says. “And I have been working out with [Manson] for over a year.”

While Snider often trains with a mix of basketball and football players, his Whipsnakes teammates tagged along the week after the All-Star game in Los Angeles.

“90 minutes, resistance bands, and 6lb free weights had us seeing stars,” Kyle Bernlohr, the starting goalie for the Whipsnakes, captioned a photo on Instagram of the group that included Joey Nardella and Connor Kelly.

“It’s starting to pay off,” Snider said about his regimen before Training Camp. “Honestly I am probably in the best shape of my life.”

While his game might not be as flashy as his Adidas wardrobe, it’s as precise as his haircut from Cam Meritinia at The Scotch Pine Barbershop in Seattle. When Snider first played for Stagnitta, his contributions were mainly as a defensive midfielder.

“He did it readily and without hesitation,” Stagnitta says about Snider’s willingness to accept a defensive role despite putting up 49 goals and 16 assists at Maryland. “He has been as good a two-way middie that there's been in the game in the last seven or eight years.”

Snider has developed into a dynamic offensive threat at the pro level, scoring 77 goals over the past three seasons. He used to quiz John Grant Jr. about how he got his shot off so fast, and now boasts a hair-trigger release of his own that looks faintly Canadian. He added more physicality and awareness in tight spaces when he played on the US Indoor National team that won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in 2015.

A year earlier, Snider seemed poised to join the USA outdoor team after he made the final training team for the 2014 FIL World Championships. Two weeks before the tournament began in Denver, Snider received a call from Riche Meade, the US Head Coach, during a team breakfast before a pro game in Rochester. The exchange did not last long. Snider got cut.

 “I didn’t really have much to say,” Snider recalls. “I was pretty pissed off.”

That afternoon he scored a hat-trick. He left no doubt for John Danowski and the rest of the USA coaching staff four years later. Snider made the squad and scored six goals along with four assists during the team’s seven game march to take the Gold at the FIL World Championships in Netanya, Israel.

That ring is probably the most ornate in his collection.

Two months before the World Games, he added to his trove when he lead O’Dea to their first State Title in program history. Snider and the Fighting Irish went back-to-back this May.

He continued that hot streak early on with the Whipsnakes. He buried a bounce shot from 10 yards that clinched their Week 1 win against the Chaos in overtime at Gillette Stadium. It was Snider’s second goal of the game. But during the next six weeks, he didn’t find the back of the net apart from scoring the first goal for Team Rambo in the All-Star game. He only registered a single assist from Week 2 to Week 7. When you’re playing with the PLL points leader Matt Rambo, ‘Mr. Clutch’ Ryan Drenner, and two-point king Mike Chanenchuk, it’s easy to get eclipsed by their exploits. Throughout the scoring drought, though, Snider remained a steadying presence. He found other ways to help his club.

His most impressive play this summer was a caused turnover.

With just over four minutes to play in overtime during Week 3 against the Archers in Chicago, he made a Jordan-esque leap and intercepted a Matt McMahon pass near midfield. Snider then tip-toed the sideline. While falling out of bounds, he launched a dime over 20 yards that eventually found its way to Ryan Drenner for the game-winning goal.

Look close enough and you’ll see other examples of how Snider plays like the guy who was drafted 44th overall in 2012 and wasn’t guaranteed a spot.

Go to the 4th quarter of the Whipsnakes’ Week 7 rematch against the Chaos in Denver. After a Whips turnover with around nine minutes to play, the Chaos and their bomb squad broke out in transition. Jarrod Neumann ran into the offensive end--unguarded. Snider--who trailed Neumann by about five yards at the midline--caught him at the two-point arc, landed a trail check, and forced a turnover.

“That’s just an excellent job by Snider recognizing that transition opportunity and sprinting back,” NBC Sports analyst Ryan Boyle noted on the broadcast. “Those are winning plays. Those are plays Coach Stagnitta is going to point towards as to why Drew Snider is one of the best in the world. That won’t show up on any stat sheet, but that eliminated a Neumann two-point bomb.”

The Whipsnakes still fell to the Chaos 13-12. They dropped their next game to the Chrome 20-16, for their third loss in four games. That string of defeats now looks like a speed bump. They bounced back in Hamilton and routed the Redwoods 17-4. Snider notched a hat trick and added an assist against the Woods in his most prolific game this summer. The Whips train and Snider’s scoring touch look like they’re firmly back on track. Their timing couldn’t be better. Snider dropped another hat-trick in the first round of the playoffs, including one goal off a textbook question mark dodge. The Chaos were left searching for answers after the Whipsnakes suffocated their transition opportunities and dismissed them 15-7. The victory locked up a spot in the inaugural PLL Championship this Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. They’ll face the fourth seeded Redwoods who’ve won three games in a row and are also surging at the right time.

But if the Whipsnakes and Snider play like they did in Columbus, then he’s gonna need a bigger desk, or at least need to rearrange some of the hardware.

He’ll have to make room for a crown.

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