MLL Press Box is collecting stories from some of the top players in Major League Lacrosse to learn how they started playing the game in our series titled: Introduction to the Game. These first-person narratives offer glimpses into how the top players in the world made it to the pinnacle of their sport and how they fell in love with the game.
This installment was penned by Ned Crotty from the Rochester Rattlers. Crotty faced a fork in the road as a teenager when deciding between pursuing athletic careers in lacrosse and hockey, but since then he has won the Tewaaraton Award and been named to multiple MLL All-Star Games.
I started playing in fourth grade.
The town that I grew up in, New Vernon – in Harding Township, New Jersey – was so small that we played a lot of our town sports with the neighboring town, Madison. So, I started playing as a Madison Dodger.
Growing up, I didn’t really know what lacrosse was. I was born in Albany, and then moved to Minnesota, and then New Jersey in second grade. I saw people carrying around sticks and I would go up to watch the Delbarton high school lacrosse games. That’s how I really started getting into it.
I think it was in fourth or fifth grade you were finally able to play organized lacrosse, so I went over and played there and just kind of fell in love with it. I was really a hockey player growing up – really all the way up until college. So, it was something that seemed like a natural fit.
My mom always tells stories of when it would rain on days that we would practice, I would go to the principal’s office and call home to make sure practice wasn’t cancelled. I would call like three or four times a day, because I just wanted to go play.
Neither of my parents played. My older brother played a little bit, but he was definitely a hockey player. They did not have lacrosse in Minnesota. It wasn’t even an option.
|"There are just so many different things from hockey that I was able to translate and bring over to lacrosse that I think definitely have made me the player that I am."|
I was watching the older kids in my school run around and whack each other. It was what everybody did. Come springtime, they played baseball and lacrosse, so that was kind of how it happened. There wasn’t anybody who put a stick in my hands and said, “You’d be great at this!”
Growing up I played as much as I could, but it was a little different than it is now. I really only played lacrosse four months out of the year. That was pretty much how I did it all the way up until I went to college. I played hockey eight months out of the year and lacrosse for four. For the four months I played lacrosse, that’s what I did. And then the eight months I played hockey, that’s what I did.
I didn’t play fall lacrosse or indoor lacrosse or anything like that.
I think whatever it is that makes me good at lacrosse, I learned from hockey 100 percent.
In hockey, people talk about the fastest sport on two feet. Hockey is by far and away the fastest game there is and it affects the decisions you have to make. You’re not holding the puck, the puck is out in front of you. So, you have to have good hands and be able to make decisions without looking down. You have to have your head up at all times.
There are just so many different things from hockey that I was able to translate and bring over to lacrosse that I think definitely have made me the player that I am.
One of the things that people would say is I’m a feeder. I think one of the best compliments you can be given is “you make the players around you better” and I know in hockey, I certainly honed that skill.
I played defense in hockey, which people always find funny, but I was at the point when we played regular five-on-five and I also played the point on the power play. So, I constantly had to have my eyes up and read where defenders were.
I loved hockey and I was good at that. I loved lacrosse and I was good at that. Some guys are three-sport athletes. For me, it came down to two sports that I loved and was good at.
My brother is five years older than I am and he was a really good hockey player. He got his sixth major concussion in an NHL scout game and then lost peripheral vision for a couple of months. After that, he kept playing in junior hockey. He took a year off between high school and college and hurt his knee. So, that also influenced my decision to play lacrosse, because I would have had to do the same thing and go play juniors.
So, when it came time for that decision, it was do that or sign with a college and play lacrosse…and here I am.
Everybody talks about the sport exploding and growing in the Midwest and the West, which is definitely true, but in New Jersey, how much it has grown is unbelievable.
Now there are teams where when I was in high school, we would play them in the first round of the state tournament and would absolutely blow their doors off. Now, those teams are beating Delbarton.
So, the growth in New Jersey is pretty unbelievable. Not only are programs getting better, but new programs are popping up, which I think is awesome. It was great when I was there at Delbarton because we were able to be pretty successful. Because there are so many more players playing, it’s not just one or two private schools who are good. Every private school now is very good. All the public schools are very good.
I just think people are seeing how great of a game it is and where it can take you. It’s pretty awesome to see how far New Jersey has come.
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