The Player’s Lounge: Kyle Bernlohr

By Kyle Bernlohr

It’s simple. I’m obsessed.

We were on the road my senior year at Maryland and Head Coach John Tillman asked all of us to come to team breakfast the next morning with a sticky note with one word on it. Coach Tills asked us to write down that one word that best describes what you think is the most important characteristic to have in order to reach success, both on a personal level as well as an overall team vision. I remember writing down something cliché the night before. The morning of, as I began to listen to my teammates describe their word, all I could think about was how damn obsessed I am with this game and how much it really means to me. I quickly scribbled off my original word and wrote down the word that I knew I was looking for.

Obsessed.

I got up and quickly just said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m just obsessed with this game, man." Obsession is a strong word, but the reality is I don’t think I’ve gone a day, an hour, since third grade, where my mind hasn’t ended up back to the game of lacrosse. I’m no genius, but I have to imagine that would pass for being obsessed with something. In middle school, I just loved it more than anyone else. In high school, I just watched it more than anyone else. In college, I just studied shooters and their tendencies more than anyone else. And now in the PLL, the funniest thing happened. I looked around at Training Camp as Paul and Mike delivered their opening ceremony speech, and all I saw was the 150+ guys whose relationship with lacrosse is a carbon copy of mine.

News flash: There isn’t a “lax bro” culture in that room. Maybe in others, but not that room. I mean it when I say that, and I can’t stress it enough. They are elite at what they do. They train like crazy. They think about everything they put into their body. They have a plan of attack on how to make their body perform at the highest level on gameday. They care deeply about the game. They are passionate about the future of the sport. They care immensely about their teammates. And they are the most genuine people I’ve ever met. They are true professionals. It is more “real” than anyone knows. Thankfully, the PLL is here to prove it.

For me, this game is IT. Standing in that crease is IT. Making a clean save and seeing that ball is IT. Battling with my teammates is IT. Seeing raw emotion is IT. Being in that locker room is IT.  Listening to the most badass competitors give speeches is IT. Watching a complete mix of personalities mesh to become an elite unit is IT. Seeing how grown men handle adversity is IT. Nothing else in this world does it for me quite like this game.

Fast forward to Week 4. The culmination of Training Camp, a 3-0 start for the Whips, the word of the PLL spreading like wildfire; it felt like the perfect time for Whipsnakes vs. Atlas. Everyone knows the history there. As the day progressed, we were hearing that it was going to be a sold-out crowd. Man, I haven’t felt that energetic and fired up for a game in a long time. Listen, I’m a Terp, but damn I love playing at Homewood. The fans are right on top of you, it's loud, it's intimate, fans chirp you, and you just refuse to lose on that field. We knew it was going to be a battle. Walking out to that crease for the opening whistle, I just had to stop and look around. It’s just too cool. I’m playing the game at the highest level, with my best friends, at a historic venue, with a sold-out crowd. Are you kidding me? This is IT! This is where I’m supposed to be. This is where the professional game is supposed to be.

Now, it was time to slow down the emotional side of it and get back to the X’s and O’s. The first half was a feeling out process with both teams seeing what sets each other were in and what they were looking to attack. I don’t really think either side was pressing too hard out of their comfort zone. We all agreed on one thing at halftime; we felt fresh. Matt Rambo got up in typical Rambo fashion, “Man I’m not tired at all! I feel fresh boy! They’re getting tired. Let’s go! We’re getting this one for the Bernhardt's. Everyone needs to turn it up right now."

Before we knew it, Ryan Drenner was doing Ryan Drenner things, Ben Reeves was a silent assassin as always, Ty Warner continued to show he’s the best D-mid in the world, and every other guy on our roster made a play. The offense took over. They won us that game. We are on a team on a mission right now. We have a great locker room, coaching staff, and natural chemistry with all of the Terps on the roster. In our opinion, the only team that can beat us, is us.

I got back to the locker room after the game and checked my phone. I had a text from Kyle Harrison. A Hall of Famer. A legend. A champion. A creator of the PLL. And to me, the most influential person I’ve met in this game. “Best goalie in the world,” he said. Ten years ago I was gluing his poster on my wall in my bedroom and begging my dad to buy me new STX K18 gloves. Now he’s texting me that? Little things like that are things I cherish most about all of this. This game is different.

There isn’t a magic drill, stick, head, mesh, workout plan, or anything of that sort to play at this level. Sure, you need some God given talent, but all of us players just fell in love with it more than our peers. We are obsessed. This is IT for us. And that has made all the difference.

Atlanta, you’re next.

Kyle Bernlohr

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