New York Atlas midfielder Xander Dickson

The unknown 'superhero' who led Xander Dickson to the PLL

By Lauren Merola | May 31, 2024

He was an impressionable kid.

After watching the Harry Potter series as a child, Xander Dickson wanted to be a wizard. He would grab the broom from a closet in his home in Greenwich, Conn., go outside and jump off any ledge he could find with the broom between his legs, hoping to fly. 

Disappointment set in as he inevitably descended to the ground. Sprained ankles typically followed.

In following years he ditched the Sorting Hat of Hogwarts for that of a cowboy. He thought he found his calling as a “tough guy” like his favorite character Kayce Dutton from the TV show “Yellowstone,” Xander said. He asked his parents for a good pair of wood-chopping gloves for Christmas in 2020, when he applied online to work at a ranch in Montana.

Then the season of “Yellowstone” he was watching ended, and with it went his ranching resolve.

What Xander never grew tired of watching, however, was lacrosse. He regularly glued himself to the desktop computer in his dad’s office, frantically trying to find any working stream of Bucknell lacrosse games. Xander’s oldest brother David Jr. starred for the Bison before playing one year on the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse in 2015.

“David was a superhero in my eyes,” Xander said. “That’s who I really wanted to emulate.”

So while dreams of developing magic powers and riding horses subsided, mirroring the success of David Jr. and his two other older siblings Amie and Marshall – who both played Division I lacrosse at Cornell and Bucknell, respectively – intensified.

“I realized growing up that this was very important to us,” Xander said. “That was the glue for us, watching each other play sports and talking about it. That was really cool for me to have a path at a young age of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to replicate.”

He admired different attributes of different siblings: David Jr.’s humility, Amie’s fiery competitiveness, Marshall’s calmness. Each, Xander says, had a hand in “designing” their baby brother. They did well, helping mold the person David. Jr. said he looks up to “in a lot of ways,” especially for having great balance in his life.

(Photo of Xander and Marshall Dickson from David Dickson Sr.)

Xander’s dad, David Sr., played collegiate tennis at North Carolina and mom, Meline, played tennis at Lafayette. David Sr. said he didn’t know much about lacrosse before moving to Greenwich. The town, a prevalent lacrosse community, ultimately put a stick in David Jr.'s hand, and it trickled down until everyone had picked out their own colors of twine.

Often when David Sr. would get home from work, he’d grab his radar gun and a Coors light and meet David Jr., Amie, Marshall and Xander – who are all roughly two years apart – in their side yard by the two-story net he hung up. He’d sit behind it and watch his kids shoot, telling each how fast his or her shot was and budging the mileage to get a reaction. 

“I’d say, ‘Amie 82 miles per hour. David 68,’” David Sr. said. “They’d erupt, like ‘No! No! She can’t beat me!’”

“That happened pretty frequently and oftentimes it was, ‘David has the slowest shot,’ and I would believe him,” David Jr. said.

And they’re competitive about more than lacrosse. All four siblings also played hockey and soccer at some point in time growing up. As a sophomore in high school, Xander joined the Brunswick School squash team that won a U.S. Squash High School National Championship. Even now, the Dicksons regularly engage in tennis, squash, pickleball and paddle ball competitions, especially while all together at their family summer house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Xander said family conversations typically revolve around “who played better in the last match.”

“That really is the dynamic of our family,” David Jr. said. “We all play tons of sports together so I think that’s one of the natural things that’s brought us together. It definitely created a pretty strong bond.”

One that only intensifies on PLL gamedays, when David Jr.'s name pops up on Xander’s phone so frequently that Xander often puts it on “do not disturb.”

Xander (left) with his brothers Marshall (second to left), David Jr. (second to right) and close friend Will Swindell at David Jr.'s wedding in 2023 in Kennebunkport, Maine. (Photo from David Dickson Jr.)

The 11th pick by the Atlas in the 2023 College Draft, Xander recorded 14 goals and six assists en route to becoming an All-Star in his rookie season. He scrapped it out in his pro debut against the California Redwoods, scoring three goals on 75% shooting and landing in both the penalty box and on “SportsCenter.”

That competitiveness is not only an ode to his family, but also to Greenwich. “Soft,” “preppy” and “spoiled” were words Xander said he often heard growing up to describe the town’s lacrosse players. In the way he plays, he wants to prove “that’s not me and not how I was raised.” 

“I hated that and that people would assume that,” Xander said. “It gave me a chip and more motivation to prove that that’s not what the town is about. Instead it’s about just an elite, high level of lacrosse.”

So “when push comes to shove, we’re gonna shove back,” he said. Hence the penalty minutes in his PLL debut.

It’s a drive Xander wants the Atlas to embody in their first season tethered to New York – the city whose teams he grew up rooting for. A childhood fan of the Rangers and Knicks who had New York legend Mike Richter as his youth hockey coach, Xander was thrilled “to tie myself to New York” when regional affiliations were announced for each PLL club in November 2023.

“I feel New York has a mentality that I took to from a young age being from Greenwich,” he said. “I feel like [New Yorkers] have that chip on their shoulder in all their sports. It’s like the city: New York is like America’s city with that rugged, blue-collar, grinder mentality.”

“I think that would be a great way to come out and be a team people don’t want to mess around with.”

It’s a hometown mentality for his new hometown team.