McLaughlin: Moving On, But Not Waving Goodbye to Lacrosse
In the biggest of pictures, this is not a final goodbye. I am hoping it's more of a see ya later. But it is a change significant enough to me that I wanted to note it.
After six-plus years at Lacrosse Magazine and US Lacrosse, I am moving on from a full-time role here at the end of this week to take a managing editor position at The Agora in downtown Baltimore. I am excited about the opportunity, a new challenge in the finance realm and to see what it brings.
But I would be remiss if I didn't also take the time and room to acknowledge the lacrosse community — of which I still plan to be a part — many of the great people that I've come across along the way, and great things that I've been able to be a part of. Six years, after all, is a good run.
"It's really a clean slate," US Lacrosse director of communications Brian Logue told me about my role shortly after I started back in 2010 as a staff writer, which was nice to hear. It was a new position and brought with it new opportunities after nearly two years as a reporter at Newsday on Long Island. A clean slate. It's an approach I've tried to take ever since.
Here's the thing: I played other sports growing up, but not lacrosse, though my dad did — back in the wooden-stick days at West Islip (N.Y.) High, before the program was any good. I had a lot of friends on my native Long Island who played and did so into college. But me? Outside of gym class and an occasional toss with some friends' sticks, never.
I was attracted to the game more as a fan (and still am). Watching Navy's 2004 national title game appearance against Syracuse in my friend's basement, with Dave Ryan and Quint Kessenich on commentary, is a particular memory. Like a lot of people, I learned that once you see a game, you get that itch. The number of dramatic one-goal finishes and entertaining plays and sequences I've witnessed in person and on television and live streams is almost endless. Maybe I've been lucky that way, but I will continue to tell people lacrosse is my favorite sport to watch.
In college at Penn State, I at one point covered the women's lacrosse team for The Daily Collegian and later picked up my first lacrosse freelance assignment covering a Penn State-Denver game for LaxMagazine.com. Matt DaSilva, who would later become my boss, was looking for someone from the Collegian to write about it. Sure, I said, and it didn't take me long to learn about the influence Canadians were having on the sport, with Jamie Munro's bunch in Happy Valley. They used tennis balls in practice for soft hands. Seemed like a novel approach.
A summer internship at Inside Lacrosse followed and regular freelance work for them and Lacrosse Magazine while I worked at Newsday. I was the Major League Lacrosse beat guy for a bit, then — after a well below-average in-person interview, I have since learned — former LM editor Paul Krome eventually and thankfully offered a full-time position at US Lacrosse in Baltimore. I made the decision to move down, not knowing anyone in the city other than those involved in the lacrosse media.
I am happy I did it. New friends and significant other notwithstanding, the great people you come across in this sport, the connections you can make and the bond people share over the love of the game, is something that makes lacrosse incredibly special to be involved with.
I've talked to Jim Brown for over an hour. Met Bill Belichick. Drove Casey Powell around Baltimore. Listened to Paul Rabil's big-picture and incredibly smart takes and vision on where this game can go. Visited the Thompson family on the Onondaga Reservation more than once. Thanks for lunch! Spent almost two weeks each in Finland (for a history-making 2012 U19 world championship), Canada and Colorado for work, and visited plenty of other locales I never thought I'd go.
"This stick can take you places," Lyle Thompson told me more than once as I followed Albany and the Thompsons much like, I can only imagine, an national NBA writer followed Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. A travel budget in this day and age? Sign me up, and thank you US Lacrosse and those I've worked for and with for the opportunities.
I've talked to hundreds of coaches, players and people across all walks of life with lacrosse connections who have informed not only our magazine and website content, but my personal knowledge base and outlook.
“I’ve never heard of a story like it in college athletics," said one of Casey Carroll's teammates, defenseman Henry Lobb, in an LM story published in April 2014. (Peyton Williams)
"What's your why?!" motivational speaker Keith Wilford, who once nearly died competing in a CrossFit competition, boomed over the phone during an interview.
"Isn't this great?" a forever joyful Duke coach, John Danowski, said after I sat in on some team meetings in Durham few years ago.
I listened to Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni, just hours after delivering the eulogy for Connor Darcey, attempt to explain the unthinkable about losing a player to a tragic accident — twice, with George Boiardi at Cornell being the other.
I listened to a mother who lost a child that inspired the creation of the Hampton men's lacrosse program. Listened to Courtney Tamasitis as she explained how she planned to get Seton Hill's women's program back up and running after a bus accident claimed the life of its former coach and her unborn child. I wrote through the night about a wild Tufts-Stevenson game.
I also worked long hours, and did less glamorous work like manually punching in scores to our system after midnight, or posting stories at the crack of dawn. Or, while monitoring and working LM social media on a busy game day or night, told my girlfriend that "it will just take a second" too many times.
I long lost track of the number of Team USA members and pro players, who put together crazy schedules in the name of the love of lacrosse, that I've interacted with. Most recently, the U.S. under-19 men's team chanted my first name over and over again in the post-game locker room after a semifinal win in Coquitlam, British Columbia, which made me uncomfortable more than anything.
So many coaches and programs have been so open with "behind-the-scenes" access and forthright conversations that many of my journalism friends working in other sports and fields could work a full career without having the chance to experience. Like players and coaches say when a season or career ends, those regular interactions, and seeing what they see, I will miss.
I've had the chance to write about Casey Carroll and his incredible story, going seven years and four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger between stints playing lacrosse at Duke.
I had a feeling he was hesistant about having a story written about him, partly for the attention and perhaps, though I never asked, because he was also part of the 2006 Duke team that went through media hell as part of the "Duke lacrosse scandal." Why should he talk to anyone, even years later? So when he sent me a note after reading the story, thanking me for taking care to make it "entirely accurate and very personal," it meant a lot. I won't share it all, but the note ended with "I hope it is one of many stories that show all the good that is in our sport." Great guy.
And for the same thing to happen after I wrote about the late Chris Sanderson and his memory with Canada's 2014 world championship team. Brogann, the widow of the former Canadian national team goalie who fought a long battle with cancer, told me she printed out copies of the article to put in their daughter's memory boxes. I tear up thinking about it now.
"Thank you for doing the story justice," she wrote, which to me is the ultimate compliment. That has been my goal at all times, and a responsibility I have carried as a publisher of other people's stories.
Thank me? Thank you. (And especially if you made it this far reading this.) They don't know it, but it's stuff like that that keeps you going.
Then there are all the staff and contributors to Lacrosse Magazine and US Lacrosse that I've had the pleasure to work with over the years, some that I've already mentioned, once I took over as LaxMagazine.com editor in 2011 and later jumped to LM deputy editor. In a nutshell, that has meant planning editorial and managing digital, print, social media and video projects, trying to provide the best content possible, and making sure it was distributed widely as possible.
US Lacrosse membership, to which the magazine goes, is north of 400,000. Website traffic is always on the up and up. What started as 1,000 @LacrosseMag Twitter followers in 2011 is now more than 58,000, and more than 150,000 combined across multiple social media channels, some that did not exist when I started. Kudos to current .com editor Sean Burns and many other contributors for pushing that growth, as well as a few viral posts along the way that grabbed the lacrosse Internet's attention.
A clean slate. We produce video now. How else would you know Belichick envisions Tom Brady in goal? I like to think it all advanced the sport just a tad, and inspired others to create their own stories.
It's been fun getting to work with the guys you see on TV every week, ESPN's Paul Carcaterra and Eamon McAnaney and CBS' Evan Washburn. Those are three true, talented professionals that love the game and only want the best for it. The list of writers and photographers is too long to mention. Sorry for not getting to them all, but know that nothing worth doing is possible without relationships with good, dedicated people. I'm proud of the work we and you have done and will continue to do.
Like I said at the top, this isn't a final goodbye. (Though in hindsight editing this, it may sound like one.) I plan to contribute to the lacrosse world, writing, editing and producing or in some other ways, but this change is important enough to me to mark down — and thankfully I have a place to do it, like I have for the last six-plus years.
Change can be good — a spring weekend off? — and I'm excited to see what the future holds, in the lacrosse world and beyond. You'll see my byline less frequently, and maybe fewer tweets @Corey_McL (which is probably a healthy thing), but I am always going to be a fan and won't be a stranger. That same person who thinks lacrosse has the potential to be this country's biggest sport.
Stay in touch.
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