Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi

“You rarely see him get rattled”: The story behind Matt Campbell’s calm demeanor

By Sarah Griffin | Jan 25, 2024

Matt Campbell’s day ends with a late night workout on a local field in preparation for the Championship Series.

“[Sixes] is like a basketball type of fitness. In terms of sprinting and resting, you could be on for the 30-second shot clock, then you could go back on defense, then you’re back on for another 30-second shot clock. Being in shape has been a big emphasis,” he tells me. 

Campbell and the rest of the Boston Cannons headed to D.C. next month have made certain they’ll be well-conditioned for the fastest version of the game. Captain Marcus Holman, the only member of Boston’s Championship Series roster who played in last year’s inaugural tournament, has been sending his teammates workouts geared towards that basketball-esque fitness needed to excel in sixes. 

But conditioning is just one of Campbell’s focuses. Like most of the guys on the roster, he’s never played sixes before. And while he anticipates the challenges of subbing and playing defense that comes for all new sixes players, he also keys in on shooting.

“Shooting percentages will be challenging. If you miss the goal, you’re not getting the ball back so I have to be more accurate. The good part is you’re getting a lot more opportunities to shoot, so there’s kind of a balance.” 

Of the players headed to the 2024 Championship Series, Campbell ranks number one in shooting percentage from 13+ yards out.

When I asked Marcus Holman who he thinks could be a dark horse for this year’s Golden Stick award, his mind immediately went to the young midfielder and his lethal shot from range.

“Matt hit like, six or seven pipes last year in the regular season,” he remarked. “I think if some of those shots went in, he would’ve won Rookie of the Year.”

Almost always cool and collected, Cannons head coach Brian Holman echoed Marcus’s praises for Campbell.

“He makes it look easy, but he’s extremely explosive.”

The Cannons coach said sometimes the team forgot he was a rookie because of how composed he was.

“You rarely see him get rattled - he has such a calm demeanor.”

When the Cannons took Campbell 9th overall in the draft last spring, looking at his résumé at Villanova, they knew they were getting a midfielder with do-it-all offensive starpower. But as Holman explained, that’s just one component of his game defenders have to worry about.

“He’s a really smart player. He’s got a lot of tricks in the bag, so to speak. You can look at a player and pick out one thing he’s really good at, but at some point defenders are going to figure out a way to contain them. But with Matt, when you look at his game, he’s good at so many things - even the little things people might not always notice,” explained Coach Holman.

“He’s got a great change of direction, a wonderful split dodge, and he protects his stick really well. You don’t see him having trouble with guys getting into his gloves because he can get separation.”

With the ability to shoot with either his left or right hand, we saw Campbell put defenders in a bind a few times in his rookie season this past summer. 

“I think an underrated part of Matt’s game I’ve always admired is he’s a wonderful passer,” said Holman. “He’s got great vision, so you know if you’re going to slide and double him early, he’s getting the stick out of his ball and to the guy that’s open. And if you’re not gonna slide, then odds are he’s always going to be able to get his hands free for a good shot. It’s going to be a tough cover.”

Certainly it’ll be even tougher to contain Campbell with strictly short sticks in sixes.

As Holman said, Campbell does it all with a sort of quiet confidence about him; something that could work in his favor now that opponents have seen firsthand what a force he is.

“He’s not going to sneak up on anybody this year. People know who he is, and they’re gonna plan for that.” 

Opponents will have to pick their poison when it comes to facing the Cannons. Do you focus on Campbell and let him pass the ball to the likes of a Marcus Holman, Asher Nolting, or Chris Aslanian? Or do you slide and run the risk of him ripping a two-pointer from the 13-yard line? 

“I think a strength of my game in college was shooting from the outside, so making sure I can capitalize on that as much as possible in the Champ Series is going to be important because there will definitely be more opportunities than in a normal field game,” said Campbell.

And with this Cannons team, don’t expect him to be the only one making the most of the shorter two-point line. 

“I think we have a really good roster in terms of two-point shooting,” he remarked. “Chris Aslanian and Marcus are two people I automatically think of. Marcus is an obvious one, but Chris flies under the radar sometimes. He’s a really strong shooter with range, on the run especially.” 

“I also think Pat Aslanian has probably the hardest shot on our team. He scored a two-pointer last season against Atlas and maybe a couple more. Him specifically I think could be huge for us in terms of his transition from defense to offense and being able to get to those two corners; he really can shoot the ball from a distance as well.”

Perhaps the scariest part about the Cannons for their opponents is no one’s ever playing hero ball. Maybe one game it’s Campbell who sinks the game winner from range, but the next day it could be Bubba Fairman with a clutch goal in transition. There’s no one person who’s the focal point of their team, and that’s exactly how they intend it to be. 

For Coach Holman, his hopes for Campbell in the upcoming tournament is the same for the rest of the team - continue to grow; not just as a player, but as one cohesive unit. 

For Campbell himself? His answer was the epitome of who he is and what Cannons culture means.

“The ultimate goal of course is winning it all, but whatever happens, happens. We’re getting better as a team.”