Welcome to the first installment of Introduction to the Game on MLL Press Box, a first-person narrative by MLL players explaining how and why they started playing lacrosse. Everybody who plays the game has to start somewhere, and these are the stories of how the best players in the world picked up the sport.
This edition was written by Boston Cannons midfielder Josh Hawkins, a Massachusetts native and co-host of Tilt & Flow on the LAX Sports Network. Keep reading to find out how the former Loyola lacrosse star earned the nickname "Chubby" and who still calls him by that name today.
I was always an athletic kid growing up. My older sister – she’s three years older than me – was super athletic. She played basketball with the boys, played soccer and was just very fast and athletic. So, I was always into sports and playing sports with her.
I had played basketball, I had played soccer and I had played baseball – third grade was my last year with baseball.
I never hit a ball. Not once.
The last game of the season, I hit a pop fly to the pitcher and I made it to first base before he even caught it. And, not knowing the rules completely, I was ticked off that I was still out even though I made it to base before the pitcher even caught it.
And that was it. That was the end of the season.
I was just very distraught. I didn’t like the sport. I was out in left field – and at that age, kids didn’t even hit the ball that far – so I was just batting flies the whole time with my glove. So, I needed a change.
I was talking to my dad and I was like, “I’m not playing baseball anymore.” And then the following fall, we were watching my sister’s soccer game and on the adjacent field, Longmeadow High School was playing lacrosse.
I hadn’t really seen the sport up until that point, so I was like, “What is that?”
|"I never hit a ball. Not once."|
So we went over from my sister’s game and watched the rest of the game. I grabbed a ball that was in the woods nearby that someone had shot and I was just really intrigued by how fast it was. I just immediately was excited about it.
My dad was like, “Oh yeah, I played in college and I played in high school. I can get you a stick.” He works at Amherst College, so he went to the Amherst College lacrosse coach the next day and got me a stick.
And then I just started playing.
None of my friends had played. None of my friends even knew what it was. So, I started to show them on playdates and at school and stuff, and then they immediately got into it, as well.I wasn’t great at first, but it was just so much better than baseball.
Fourth grade was my first lacrosse season.
At that age, I would be on the wing and I would get the groundball off the face-off, I would sprint down the field, do three roll dodges through the defense, and be right in front of the cage and score. I just was very physical. I would get to the front of the cage and then just pop it in.
I guess I was a little bit bigger than the other kids. I wouldn’t say I was taller. I was probably more chubby than I should have been at that age.
My mom’s a really good baker, so I’ve always eaten pretty well in terms of desserts. Actually, she’s called me Chubby my entire life.
I had made a couple of friends through lacrosse and I got all my other friends to join – about four or five other kids the following year. So in fifth grade, I started playing football with them, basketball and then lacrosse every spring.
I was a runner. I had a motor that would always go. Lacrosse had that soccer aspect that I loved about running all over the place. I was a midfielder in soccer at that time. The speed, the catching and throwing, the shooting, the defending. All of it was really exciting to me.
So, it just kind of fit everything that I loved about sports.
I was over at Warrior Ice Arena the other day (the Boston Bruins practice facility), just walking around, and there was girls hockey going on and it was three-on-three. They divided the ice into thirds and it just looked like so much fun.
They all got a lot of touches and they were rotating down the ice so they were playing different opponents the entire time.
Look at baseball: your parents drive to get to the field. You watch your kid play. You might catch the ball once. You might hit the ball once. You might get to base. You might do something. But with lacrosse now, you throw your kid out there and you can see him go after a groundball. You can see him catch a ball, shoot and run around. It’s a lot more active.
I think when people start to implement that three-on-three style of play at a younger age, like no goalie and those types of things, I think the sport will pick up even more.
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