Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Kiel Matisz of the Georgia Swarm is in the PLPA Player Spotlight. by Teddy Jenner
It hasn't been easy the past few seasons for members of the Swarm lacrosse club. You have to feel for the guys that have been with the club during the Arlotta years. With constant player movement and never knowing if the owner was going to up and move the club at the drop of a hat, there must have been some little voices in the back of the players' minds questioning what was going on. All of those doubts and questions came to a head just before the NLL Finals began when the Arlotta family announced that they would be taking all of their talents to Hot-Lanta and the Gwinnett Arena. Does this create more questions? Or put it all to rest?
Well according to fourth year pro, Kiel Matisz this past year "was a lot easier to stay focused as a team" allowing them to overcome many of the challenges that the Swarm were faced with.
"I believe it comes with maturity," Matisz continued. "Our core of the team has played at least three years in this league and played together, whereas in my previous two years that could not be said- so we could have been more shaky." The challenges the Swarm faced weren't anything they hadn't seen before nor were the Swarm the only team to face challenges this year. To be a pro you have to act like a pro and through it all, the Swarm players should be commended for how they held themselves amidst all the off floor chaos.
So what did the 26 year old form Stoney Creek, Ontario think when he heard the news of the team heading south? "First thought? Not sure I had one... More of a jaw dropper reaction that a thought." That was pretty much the consensus of most people when they got wind of the move. The relocation just added more questions to the already building list but the move was made for obvious reasons. We all have to accept it and see how it plays out.
Matisz, who's a Territory Rep in the Niagara region for Gatorade, Tropicana and Quaker is a numbers guy by choice and he wanted to see the logistics and statistics for the move but he's now since been convinced. "I feel like this will be a great move for our team and the stability of the league- now that I'm convinced, I just hope I'm correct."
We all do.
In the meantime, Matisz will not only keep himself busy making sure everyone in the Niagara region is hydrated and full of energy, he'll be working on moulding the future of the game.
Like so many guys now, and kudos to everyone who's putting in time with youth all over the world, Matisz is not only coaching but also running camps this summer. Along with Mike McNamara and Jeff Dowling he's helping coach the Hamilton Bantam 1 Bengal team. "It's a fantastic age," adds Matisz who has also joined forces with Eddie Comeau to run lacrosse clinics in the Hamilton school system. Generally they'd see between 90-200 kids but with school done for the summer he'll have to point his focus towards Thrive Lacrosse. (Side Note- if your not snap chatting your school visits like Dickson and MacRae then are you really doing it right?)
Along with McNamara, Matisz has partnered up with Kevin Brownell and Kyle Buchanan to orchestrate Thrive Lacrosse in the Hamilton Golden Horseshoe area. The camp is still fairly new but in reality the more lacrosse camps available the better for everyone involved in the game. Check em out- www.thrivelacrosse.com "My shameless promoting plug," no worries Kiel, that's why we're here. Just be careful though as Buchanan, Brownell and Matisz are pretty big wrestling fans and if you're not careful you may find yourself in a three-way tornado match that will have you in tears from laughter. Can't you just picture Matisz in a black and yellow polka-dot singlet ala the late great American Dream Dusty Rhodes?
There are so many valuable lessons professional lacrosse players can pass on to the next generation and everyone has their own driving force to keep kids involved and evolving. For Matisz it's putting players in unfamiliar territory. "You have to learn to practice in uncomfortable situations, push your boundaries," says Matisz who credits his former Burlington Jr A coach Shawn Cardy with much of his development. "Nothing comes easy and adversity will come your way at some point in your life, but if you can learn to put yourself through as much adversity on your own terms, challenges outside of your control will be easier to overcome."
Safe to say, in his short NLL career, Matisz has seen his fair share of adversity and challenges. "You'll learn a lot about yourself."
When people talk about the late Terry Sanderson, one of the first things they'll say is that he was always curious of your life away from the game of lacrosse and was keenly interested in your family. Matisz likes to take the same approach with his teammates who have become friends both on and off the floor. "It's easy to have a blast with your teammates when you have a shared passion during the week but I try to do my best to ask and get involved with the guys lives away from lacrosse. I'm always interested to hear about their careers and family life."
It makes a lot of sense when you think about. The more you know a teammate and what makes them tick, the more fun it is to show up to the rink every weekend.
Ah the weekend- when the "weekend warriors" come to play and put it all on the line for the "love of the sport". We've all described the NLL as such and while it's a fairly accurate description Matisz doesn't feel it's a "good justification of our sport and what we do as players; our commitment and passion is not just on weekends.
"I hope in my life-time and for the next generation, lacrosse can be a full time pro league." Don't we all.
You can't just show up anymore and expect to compete at the NLL level if you aren't dedicating yourself away from the one practice a week. That commitment is constant and "fitness is the key to unlocking longevity in the NLL," feels the former Robert Morris Colonial. "I know I'm not an older guy yet but the older guys in the league stay around because they still their skill but continued to stay fit." Or in the case of JT have the fountain of youth as a shower in your house.
Young and old, new and fresh, up and down- the NLL is always riding the rollercoaster in terms of stability. With "the decline in the teams in the last ten years, the movement of teams recently, scares me a little bit," says Matisz who's optimistic that the NLL is in a good place. " I've been assured that the governors in this league are here to stay and will do whatever it takes to make this league work.
Well what if making it work was up to him? Even just for one day? After some careful consideration Matisz's answer was definitive and probably similar from many other players. "I'd get rid of the 10-minute overtime game in the playoffs." Having never played for a Minto or Mann Matisz is still searching for that elusive trophy but what he misses is "the grind." I'd do anything to experience seven games in nine nights." Have all series be best two out of three and play the first two games on the first weekend."
With all the speculation around the Swarm's impending relocation, Matisz had plenty of time to think about where he'd like to see the team end up or even where a new NLL team would survive. "I'd personally love to put a team in Nashville," which has been a potential NLL locale for a few years now with the growing popularity of the Predators, it would be a great NLL city.
"With lacrosse not really being a hot sport in that area it may take off," just like it did in Colorado and who knows, maybe that's exactly what will happen when the Swarm invade Atlanta.
He wasn't happy with just one new city though, as he'd like to see the league take a "stab in the dark" and go to Dallas which has seen a boom of lacrosse participation in the past few years. "Also Pittsburgh. Most passionate following of ALL their sports, why not add a lacrosse team into the mix." Somebody tell Crosby and Lemieux to get off their wallets.
'When one door closes, open it back up; that's how doors work,' Captain Obvious. Well the door has closed on the Minnesota Swarm but the door for the Georgia Swarm swung right back open and for everybody's sanity, let's hope the new Hive will be as vibrant as the original and who knows, maybe when a fresh faced rookie shows up for his first NLL game they'll have a similar memory to Matisz.
Everyone has that one first memory of the NLL and most often it's of dreams coming true and for Matisz it was no different who can still recall the goosebumps on his arm during his first road game in Bandit-Land. "Hearing the crowd while we were in the dressing room for out pre-game talk, I was nervous as hell. That's what I finally dreamed of coming true."
He probably never dreamed of playing pro lacrosse in Georgia but that's the beauty of the game. You just never know where it's going to take you. Add it to your bucket-list.
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before." Matisz has put in the work and not just as player. As PLPA Player-Rep he wants to help "try to improve the well-being of the players around the league."
It's not easy being a professional lacrosse player and for the past few seasons it hasn't been easy to be a member of the Swarm. However with a new home, a new coaching staff and a new year on the horizon things just might get a little easier and the Swarm can get back to focusing on being a true contender in the East.
"With the influx of players every year via the draft, trades etc, and with this core group maturing, I think we're not far off." Matisz continues, "all the players in this league are here because they want to compete to their full potential and all teams are exceptional!
"One of the things the NLL should promote is the parity this league has and that any given night any team has a shot to win. I think this will be a BIG year for the Swarm starting fresh in Georgia!"
For everyone involved, let's hope parity brings stability and the Georgia Swarm can thrive in the south, cross that Florida-Georgia line and just cruise.
Teddy Jenner is a life long lacrosse addict. He started playing at 3yrs old growing up in the shadow of the Gait brothers. After six years in the NLL with four teams (aka a suitcase) he moved from the floor to the media booth and has been covering the NLL extensively every since. Working with IL Indoor as one of their lead writers and work with TSN, Jenner has become one of the most well respected people in lacrosse and continues to give back to game in as many ways as possible.