Welcome to another 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 Scott Ratliff, a Georgia native who plays midfield for his hometown Atlanta Blaze. Ratliff's career took him from a fledgling youth lacrosse scene in Georgia to setting the record for goals by a longstick middie at Loyola. He's now entering his fifth professional season in Major League Lacrosse.
I’ve got pictures of myself with a lacrosse stick before I could even walk.
My dad found the sport. He went to high school in Baltimore and went on to play at the University of Maryland. When I was born, they were handing me a lacrosse stick from the second they brought me home. It’s something that’s always been a part of my life.
For whatever reason, my first specific memory of playing is out in the backyard with my dad. I remember he was showing me how to do face-offs. I couldn’t catch or throw yet because I was probably four or three years old. I remember he hit me in the nose when we came up from the face-off. I started crying and I distinctly remember him saying, “Welcome to lacrosse, son.”
That was my first introduction to it.
I had moved from California to here in Atlanta, Georgia and there weren’t a whole lot of people here playing. But I had my dad, so I always had somebody to play catch with or go out in the backyard and play with.
|"I started crying and I distinctly remember him saying, 'Welcome to lacrosse, son.'"|
I entered my first organized league when I was in fourth grade. It was a league called Atlanta Youth Lacrosse with a guy named Lou Corsetti, who’s still heavily involved with US lacrosse and just with lacrosse down here in Atlanta in general. He had started this league and we had four teams at the time. You would just play the same three teams over and over again through the course of the season and they would do a little final four playoff at the end.
I’m really appreciative of my dad and my mom, because they would go out of their way to drive me 30 or 45 minutes through the Atlanta traffic downtown to practice.
That was really it in Atlanta at the time.
I still keep in touch with Lou and he definitely had a major impact, not just on my lacrosse career, but really on the growth of the sport here in Atlanta. He was kind of the first guy down here doing it, really a pioneer for the game. I have a lot of appreciation for him.
When I was playing youth league here in Atlanta and learning the game, the high schools were just starting to pick it up.
I can remember when I was in middle school, there were probably like ten or 15 high schools in the state that were playing sanctioned lacrosse. If I had grown up in Atlanta ten years earlier, I probably wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities. So, I think I came in just in time.
We had some really influential people start to move down to this area and grow the game when I got to high school. I had a coach named Tim Pritts, who had played at Rutgers and was living in Atlanta, and another coach named John Holthaus, who had played at Loyola. Again, people coming down to the South and bringing the game with them.
When I was young, I played every sport under the sun – cross country, swimming, basketball, football, and even baseball in there somewhere. I tried it all.
None of my friends knew what lacrosse was.
I can remember my dad would always put a lot of pressure on my friends. They would come over and he would just be all over them.
“Why aren’t you coming to play? Why aren’t you coming out?”
For whatever reason, it used to bother me when I was young.
“Stop pressuring them, dad! Don’t make them play!”
Now I look back and I’m like, “What was I doing?” We should have been convincing every single kid in my friend group to play. I got a couple of buddies out there with me and had them play a couple of seasons when we were young.
As I grew and was playing more sports into middle school, the thing that always really stood out to me about lacrosse was there would be days I would go to basketball practice or cross country practice or football practice and I was kind of dreading it.
There was never a time where I wasn’t looking forward to going to lacrosse practice or going to a lacrosse game.
I really loved basketball and there was a time in my life when I really loved running track and cross country, but the differentiator was always how much fun lacrosse practice was and not just the games.
I can’t think of a sport that I didn’t try for at least one year. That helped me to understand how much I loved lacrosse. I think it helped me to become a better lacrosse player.
You hear a lot of athletes talking about how kids should play multiple sports, and I agree with that. Especially at that youth level. When you’re in third, fourth, fifth grade, even up into middle school, that’s the time to really get out and explore a lot of different sports.
When you’re young, get out and do as much as you can.
Fall in love with sports. Figure out what the best fit for you is. Then as you get older, if it’s really something you’re looking to do at a high level or super competitively, then I think you can start looking into a little bit more specialization.
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